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Everything YOU need to know about Freestyle Rotation

Body rotation is key to great freestyle swimming. We explain what freestyle rotation is about, why it's crucial, and tips and drills to improve it.

swimmer freestyle rotation

Rotating while swimming freestyle has been around for a long time. A good body rotation is key to an excellent freestyle swimming technique. This article will tell you what freestyle rotation is all about, why it is so crucial to your freestyle technique, and how you can improve your rotation with just a few tips and drills.

What is Freestyle Rotation?

Freestyle rotation is the rotation of your hips, torso and shoulders along the long axis of your body during your freestyle stroke. For a proper and efficient freestyle technique, your hips, torso and shoulders should all rotate together in a single motion during each stroke you take.

  • As you rotate along your long axis, your legs will rotate with your hips, so your kick will be on your side during this rotation phase.
  • During your rotation, your head stays stationary, pointed forward at a 45 degrees angle unless you take a breath.
  • If you are taking a breath, rotate your head along with your body, take a quick breath and rotate your head back with your body.
  • Always exhale while your head is underwater to enable you to take breaths quicker.

We recommend rotating without losing your rhythm while swimming. There should be no strokes you take that are followed by a pause or a dead spot because you are turning too much. Check out this video below to understand how far you should rotate. 


Why is body rotation important for an effective freestyle stroke?

It is scarce to find swimmers with too much body rotation in freestyle. In most cases, swimmers need to rotate more or have a lousy rotation on one side. But body rotation is essential to a proper freestyle stroke technique. It is considered fundamental to good freestyle swimming. The three main reasons why the freestyle rotation is so important are:

1. Injury prevention and an easier arm recovery

Lying in a flat position in the water and recovering your arms puts stress on your shoulder, especially your rotator cuff muscles. You can quickly try this on land with a simple exercise.

  • Lay down flat on the floor and try to recover your arm as you would with a freestyle stroke – it's not possible because of the restrictions of your rotator cuff muscle. A flat body position leads to an internally rotating shoulder and increases the risk of injury.
  • Now you can try to do the same movement while lying on your side on the floor. Directly your elbow can lead your hand while your shoulder is operating in neutral without any restrictions. This relaxed state of your shoulder reduces the chance of injury and makes the recovery phase of your arm much easier.

2. Swim with a longer, more efficient stroke

With great rotation comes excellent reach. As you rotate from side to side, you can further extend your reach and generate more power with every stroke you take. By beginning your catch phase earlier and with an extended arm, you will travel further with every stroke and require fewer strokes per lap.

3. Use your core and back muscles for power

As you rotate from one side to the other while swimming freestyle, you transfer power between your arms and shoulders through your core, back and chest muscles. Because these muscles are considered some of the strongest in the body, especially for swimmers, you can generate more power.

If you swim in a flat position, you generate the full power for your stroke solely from your shoulders and arms. These muscles are much weaker than your core, back and chest muscles, and swimming longer distances puts much stress on them, increasing the chance of suffering from an injury.

Unleash your speed.

How to Improve your Freestyle Rotation?

Here are two of our favourite drills you can use to improve your freestyle rotation:

  1. Streamline kicking with one arm extended
  2. The whole body rotation drill while kicking

Drill #1 – Streamline kicking with one arm extended

This is one of the best, if not the best, drills for swimmers of all levels to improve their rotation and body position while swimming freestyle. This drill teaches you how to rotate your body without compromising your form. Also, this drill helps you time your breathing while rotating and staying streamlined – which can be pretty challenging.

  • To practice this drill, for beginners, we recommend adding fins and a small floatation device (kickboard or pull buoy) you hold with your extended arm while doing the exercise.
  • The opposite arm (not extended) remains still by your side.
  • After you push off the wall, start with a constant kicking motion, roll your body to your side and take a breath.
  • Then roll your body back into a flat position. Maintain a constant kick during the whole process.
  • The most important part of this drill is to keep your body in a horizontal position when you are taking a breath.
  • As you rotate back to the mid-line after taking your breath, ensure your head turns back to the center point at a 45-degree angle.

Drill #2 – The Full body rotation drill while kicking

Like the first drill, the full-body rotation drill while kicking helps you develop a controlled rotation while teaching you how to create a proper breathing cycle on both sides of your body. However, this drill is a bit more challenging and requires a strong kick since momentum and stability come only from your legs.

  • To practice this drill, again, push off the wall with a constant kick and, this time, keep both arms by your side while keeping your body in a flat position.
  • To take a breath, slowly rotate your body to one side along the central axis while maintaining a solid kick.
  • Breathe in and then slowly roll back to your mid-line.
  • Exhale and repeat the same process with your other side.

If this drill is challenging for you, improve your body tension. Flex your abs and buttocks while maintaining a streamlined position. Try not to lose the body tension when rotating to take a breath.


What's next?

Now it's time to take the guesswork out of swimming freestyle faster! You can start thinking about your freestyle rotation and ask a friend or coach to take a closer look at how you rotate in the water. The best way to practice a proper rotation while maintaining a good rhythm and an efficient breathing pattern is by doing the recommended drills.


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Alexandra Petala

Alexandra Petala is the Content Marketing Manager at TritonWear. Before joining TritonWear, Alexandra had created her own company delivering freelance services for lead generation. She also served as the Growth Manager at Just' Geter Done. A former swimming coach and Greek National Champion herself with over 20 years of experience in competitive swimming. Alexandra graduated from the Empire State University with a degree in Business Economics and Marketing.

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