How to Improve Your Rotation

One of the most common weaknesses in swimmers' freestyle and backstroke is doing little-to-no rotation.  Getting on your side is critical in free and back as it greatly improves efficiency by allowing you to cut through the water rather than plow through it.  In fact, going from no rotation to strong, hip-driven rotation can cut 5 strokes or more off per 25 yards, saving you a lot of energy and cutting a lot of time off.  It also saves your shoulders from discomfort and potential injury.  

So how do you improve rotation?

The hips should be at the core of the stroke controlling the rest of the body.  Rotation drill is an awesome way to test whether your shoulders or your hips are in control, and it's a great workout that will improve your core muscles.  Push off the wall at the surface with your hands at your side and your head neutral (ie looking down and in line with your spine).  Rotate your body to 90 degrees such that your belly button points to the side wall and then rotate onto the other side.  Be careful not to jerk your body- your motion should be slow and constant so you can focus on which part of your body is doing the rotating.  What about breathing?  The head is independent of the body looking straight down, except when you need to breath.  When you need to breath your head catches a ride with the body and comes back with the body, all moving as one unit (try not to let your head move ahead of or behind the rotation, it's wasted energy).  

How do you apply rotation drill?

A great way to work on any weakness is to go a set of 50s (two lengths of a 25 yard pool) where you go drill one length and swim one length.  In this case, go rotation drill down and swim back, focusing entirely on a hip-driven stroke that emphasizes 90 degree rotation.  And count your strokes so you can gauge improvement (remember Russian Number drill?).  Good luck!