Experiment With Rotating *Less* When You Breathe

The correct amount of rotation in the freestyle stroke is 45-60 degrees through the shoulders and hips:

Here's Brad, doing just that:


Unless you have been focusing heavily on rotation in your stroke (e.g. trying to “swim on your side like a fish”) it’s unlikely you’ll be rotating much more than 45 degrees, at least on a normal stroke.

However, breathing tends to drive more rotation into that stroke making it much more likely you’ll be over-rotating (to beyond 60 degrees) when breathing. Here's Brad again, rotating out to 75 degrees as he takes a breath:


The problem with rotating this far is that it causes you to lose balance such that the legs scissor apart, creating a lot of drag:


You can also see this scissoring action in the underwater shots above - when breathing (2) and to a lesser extent on a non-breathing stroke (1). Since Brad breathes predominantly to his right (more on this below) the scissoring habit is still in place on a non-breathing stroke, albeit to a lesser extent.

Over-rotating also harms your stroke rhythm and is likely to cause the arm to swoop across the centre line under your body which will have you snaking down the pool.

Try Rotating Less

So the next time you swim run 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 and keep the amount of roll about the same.

Since rotating further takes longer you might notice your breathing stroke takes less time and that your stroke rhythm becomes more consistent on breathing and non-breathing strokes. That’s a sign
that over-rotation when breathing is an issue for you and is something to address in your stroke.

Unilateral Breathers

If you only ever breathe to one side when you swim (unilateral breathing) then over-rotation is even more likely to have developed in your stroke. If you feel the benefits from reducing your rotation when breathing then make introducing bilateral breathing every 3 strokes a priority to help balance out your stroke.

"Sneaky" Breathing

As we outlined in our previous blog post here, you may notice that rotating less far on a breathing stroke means you have less time to inhale. In fact you might only have time for a "sneaky" breath between strokes. That's how good breathing technique should feel: a long smooth exhalation into the water and then a sneaky breath in.


Here’s wishing you a very Smooth Christmas from everyone at Swim Smooth. Enjoy a well deserved break over the holiday season, don't eat too much Christmas pudding and come back refreshed in 2017!

Swim Smooth!


SwimmerStop said...

wow really great in-depth researched article , you just blow my mind by providing facts and demo pictures how a small mistake while swimming can decrease or increase the overall swimming performance. nice article , i am considering it as a Xmas gift :)

Tony said...

Really enjoyed reading your latest article. I guess I am rotating more than 60°, too. Thanks to your well made pictures one can clearly understand why rotating too much does not increase swimming efficiency.

Pool Done said...

This is great post!!!
Thank you so much.

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