If you speak the language of swimming, you are familiar with the terms ‘body roll’ or ‘rotation’ and what they mean. For those who do not, this is the pivotal motion on the ‘long axis’ during a swim stroke, or the rotation of your shoulders, torso, and hips simultaneously. The terms mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably. Here, I will refer to it as rotation.
Proper rotation is pertinent to creating an efficient swim stroke. Although it is rare to see a stroke with too much rotation, it is not at all uncommon to see too little or single-sided rotation (rolling well to one side, usually the breathing side, and not the other).
When talking about rotation, it is important to also discuss head position; the head should remain stationary rather than roll with the body unless you are breathing. A neutral and proper head position is one that looks at the bottom of the pool. Often times you find the head position angled forward looking toward the wall and slightly turned to the side. Cranking the neck to keep the head overly lifted places excess stress on your neck and back and causes your hips to begin to sink making strokes more difficult and less efficient.
Proper rotation will result in:
1. Easier Arm Recovery and Injury Prevention.
2. Using Your Larger Muscles and Core For Power
3. A Longer Stroke
4. Reduced Drag
This weeks video will be part one of a two part progression highlighting drills to help develop proper head position and rotation.
Drill 1: Side Kick
Focus: Head Position
Side-kicking is a foundational skill of efficient freestyle and combines three basic swimming skills: balancing (rotation), kicking, and breathing (head position). If you’re still not comfortable balancing and breathing to the side, this is a great drill to practice.
Start in a front-float, face down in the water. Take your right arm and extend it above your head at the surface of the water; your palm should be facing the bottom of the pool. Rest your head against that shoulder. Then, take your left arm and relax it down along your left side, resting your hand on your thigh. Start kicking, using small rapid movements and lift your left shoulder and hip to rotate onto your ride side; you should be entirely on your side with one shoulder pointing towards the bottom of the pool and the other towards the ceiling. Notice my head position in the video; your face should be in the water, and you should be looking at the bottom of the pool. When you need a breath, turn your head to the side. If you are on your right side, turn your head to the left. Try not to roll onto your back. In fact, the goal is to eventually be able to turn your head—and ONLY your head—when you need to breathe. Kick the entire length of the pool on one side and switch to the other side to come back.
Drill 2: 6-Kick Switch
Focus: Rotation + Head Position
This drill is a progressive variation of the side kick drill. Start as though you are side kicking. After you have completed 6 kicks, take one stroke to rotate yourself to the other side. To isolate this drill to focus on rotating from the core and moving the entire body simultaneously, kick with both hands at your side for 6 kicks and use your core to rotate to the other side rather than using your arm to rotate. Notice the head position is still in the neutral position looking at the bottom of the pool except when breathing. Kick the entire length of the pool switching back and forth between sides every 6 kicks.
Drill 3: 3-6-3 Swimming
Focus: Rotation + Head Position
This drill is a progressive variation of the 6-kick switch drill. Start as though you are doing the 6-kick switch drill. Rather than taking one stroke to rotate to the opposing side after 6 kicks, take 3 strokes and stop on the opposing side for 6 kicks. Notice the head position is still in the neutral position looking at the bottom of the pool except when breathing during the initiation of the first swim stroke. Continue the entire length of the pool switching back and forth between sides every 6 kicks taking 3 strokes between each.