Swim Magazine

How do I avoid over-rotation while freestyle swimming?

One of the maxims in the Swim Smooth coaching team is: if something’s going to go wrong in your stroke, it will go wrong when you breathe. And over-rotation is a common example of that – so common, in fact, it’s very likely to be present in your own stroke to a greater or lesser extent. Chances are that when you swim you rotate too far when you come up for air. The team at Swim Smooth explain why it’s a problem and how to fix it.

PICTURE: Shutterstock

CATEGORY: Technique

What is the correct amount of rotation while doing the freestyle stroke?

The correct amount of rotation in the freestyle stroke is 45 to 60 degrees through the shoulders and hips. Unless you’ve been focusing on developing a lot of rotation in your stroke (more on that later), it’s unlikely that you’ll be rotating much more than 45 degrees, at least on a normal stroke. Over-rotation is caused by the strong desire to stretch and inhale a clear breath of air, which can be enough to start to lose balance in the water.

Why does over-rotation negatively affect the quality of your swimming?

One problem with this over-rotation is that it causes you to unconsciously part your legs to stop yourself flipping onto your back, creating a large scissor kick at the rear of the stroke.

Another is that since it takes slightly longer to rotate further into this position, it also adds a delay into your stroke timing, harming your rhythm. You probably won’t appreciate this loss of timing, but you will feel the improvement once you reduce your breathing rotation.

Why you should try rotating less while swimming

Through the 1980s and 90s, swim coaches put a lot of emphasis on increasing the rotation in freestyle, on every single stroke. If you swam through this era (or studied any swimming books from that era) you may already be over-rotating on every stroke, not just breathing strokes. That’s clearly a bad thing for your swimming – in modern swim coaching we teach you to rotate enough (45 to 60 degrees), but no further.

The next time you swim, try a small experiment and focus on rotating slightly less than normal when you go to breathe. Become aware of what your shoulders and hips are doing on breathing and non-breathing strokes and try to keep the amount of roll about the same.

How becoming a bilateral breather can address your over-rotation issue when swimming

If you only ever breathe to one side when you swim – known as unilateral breathing – then over-rotation is extremely likely to have developed in your stroke. If you feel the benefits from reducing your rotation when breathing then you know you’re onto something good, so make introducing bilateral breathing a priority to help balance out your stroke. It may not be a simple change, but over time it will pay big dividends.

Why you should embrace ‘sneaky breathing’ when swimming

You may notice that rotating less on a breathing stroke means you have less time to inhale. In fact, you might only have time for a ‘sneaky’ breath between strokes. Embrace this – it’s how good breathing technique should feel: a long smooth exhalation into the water and then a sneaky inhalation to the side.

You can find out more about rotation and other aspects of swimming technique at swimsmooth.guru

Read more about honing your swimming abilities in the latest issue of Swim magazine.