In freestyle rotation is a required element of your stroke. But too much of it kills your speed, power and can slow your stroke rate to below your ideal cadence.

At our freestyle clinics we provide in-depth video analysis of your stroke. One of the key aspects we look at is the shoulder rotation. When viewing a swimmer from the front we look for a maximum rotation of 32-40 degrees during a non-breathing stroke and a maximum rotation of 32-45 degrees during a breathing stroke. This is the angle taken from the surface of the water to the shoulder below the surface doing the pull.

Clayton Fettell Underwater
Professional triathlete Clayton Fettell showing ideal shoulder rotation, keeping within the 32-40 degree range.

A swimmer who over-rotates will typically drop their shoulder deep which doesn’t allow them to engage the bigger, stronger muscles around their back and shoulder. You can see in the picture below the swimmer has very little connection through shoulder and body with their catch and press. This is a result of over rotation and dropping the shoulder deep during the catch phase.

Over rotation causing the shoulder to go deep and lose power
Over rotation causing the shoulder to go deep and lose power

There’s a three step process we have our athletes follow to develop the right amount of rotation.

  1. Posture – Strength and connection begins with posture. We have our athletes ‘swim tall’ with a chest out, shoulders back posture or a ‘superhero’ posture as swim coach Eney Jones calls it.
  2. Front kick with side breathing drill – This is our favourite drill for avoiding over rotation in freestyle and it’s a useful drill for improving the breathing of swimmers who ‘look to the sky’ to breath.
  3. Check your entry width – Your hand should enter in line with your shoulder or ear and extend straight forward. The most common error for beginners is to enter across the head which can lead to over rotation through the shoulders.

If you’re frustrated with lack of improvement in your swimming, let me help you swim faster with the Effortless Swimming membership. An online community for swimmers and triathletes that will take you from a ‘middle of the pack’ swimmer to a confident, fast and smooth swimmer.