Freestyle Swim Technique – Body Position

Body Rotation is one of the key ingredients to a fast freestyle swim technique. At The Race Club, we believe a swimmer should rotate the shoulders maximally during most races. One of the most important drills we have found in teaching swimmers how to rotate their body for freestyle swim technique is the body rotation swim drill. In this swim drill we use fins and a snorkel to allow the swimmer to focus on the act of rotating. The swimmer rotates their body aggressively so that the shoulder is vertical after 6 kicks. Turn the body slightly or slowly and you won’t feel much increase in power, turn the body quickly and aggressively and the increase in speed will be dramatic. You can also try this drill with 12 kicks or for a real challenge try every 3.

We use many dryland exercises at the Race Club to improve our body rotation in the pool . Bicycle Sit Ups are a great exercise we regularly incorporate into our dryland as well as Roundhouse Boxing. By using the core for these exercises one can feel a stronger connection in the pool and lead to a faster freestyle swim technique. Learn the secret to improving your rotation by learning this drill and these dryland exercises in this #swimisodes

15 Responses to Freestyle Swim Technique – Body Position

  1. Peter Bennetto (South Africa)

    Hi Gary – so good to get this refresher on body rotation. We have the South African Masters National Champs coming up in Durban in two weeks. Need to remember all that you taught me in Islamorada back in November last year. I try to apply what you taught me every day !!! 1.) swim with the head further down(face down) 2.) arm stroke needs to be long and must not cross my body 3.)kick needs to be neat and not excessively deep 4.) rotate the torso quickly to get the coupling advantage. Appreciated Gary !!!

  2. frank

    Thank you for the advice and drills in this video. What is the brand and model of the fins the men are using?

  3. Oliver K

    Dear Gary,

    I assume that it is important here that the shoulders rotate quite a bit more than the hips, right?

    I have the following problems with the rotation (which seem somewhat typical for late beginners at masters level; all for front crawl):

    On the one hand my rotation somewhat takes the whole upper body as one unit, hips, torso and head. So the hips rotate to the same degree as the shoulders. And the head only rolls back with the torso (and hips).

    Furthermore, especially when breathing (I only breathe to the right, when going fast) I rotate a lot, so that often the upper body is nearly 90 degrees. Then the body kind of “falls down to the bottom of the pool”, the left hand tries to stop that, going straight down, and then there the pull is severely hampered. Moreover, to counteract the rotation a (very quick) scissor kick is done.

    I get some energy out of it (that’s a kind of a problem, it’s a kind of “local optimum” not so easy to escape), but I stagnate especially when I want to go faster over 50m (since perhaps for nearly two years I’m stuck with 34s (at age 51)).

    I am currently trying to really, finally address this problem, the key seems to be to get a really tight kick, avoiding the scissor at all cost. I had to see myself quite a few times on video, each time I thought I would have improved it, but the scissor is really fast, so it kind of escaped me — but finally I think I feel it, when the left hand stretches out, then I have to counteract the over-rotation with scissor kick, feeling the tension in my core, and to initiate the rotation back.

    And I have to stop my hand falling down, but having a high elbow.

    It seems for triathletes this kind of pattern is pretty common.

    Any thoughts on that? Perhaps some special exercises?

    Thanks a lot for all your work!


    • Gary Hall Sr.


      Try breathing with one goggle in the water and one out. Sounds like you may be over-rotating to the breath side, slowing your stroke rate and causing you to lose the high elbow with the left arm. Use fins to get rid of the scissor kick and maintain a steady but soft 6 beat kick. The amount of shoulder vs hip rotation depends on the stroke rate..the faster the more shoulder and less hip. Hope this helps.

  4. Tom Meade

    The shoulders do rotate but swimmers get caught up in focusing on that and sometimes initiate the movement from the shoulders rather than the hips(core). The other problem is the word rotation. To often people rotate their hips slowly. I like to use the word hip thrust. In other words it is a quick movement up, while the foot on that side kicks down putting the core into the Lats which powers the shoulder, high elbow catch. I find a minimum 3/4 catch up is necessary otherwise the core never initiates till the end of the stroke, no core power.

    • Gary Hall Sr.


      You are right in that it is not easy to think about body rotation when swimming. I prefer to think about recovering the arm with a high elbow…which requires a lot of body rotation.
      A hip driven freestyler with a slower stroke rate (as you describe it) enables a swimmer to rotate the hips more than a higher stroke rate swimmer. In such a case, more mass means more kinetic energy and more coupling for the pull. The trade off is the higher stroke rate swimmers that rotate more from the shoulder with less mass turning take a lot more strokes. In sprinting…stroke rate reigns supreme.

  5. Wesley

    What is the music at the end of this video?

    • Richard Hall

      The music is by Kyle Pittman. He’s done most of the music for the Race Club DVDs and a lot of the webisodes! Hope you enjoy.

  6. dwayne Colston

    This video hit home. So clear in its message. Gives opportunities for improvement which is left up to the individual for their increase in performance. #howbaddoyouwantit”….#”hungrierthanmost”

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  9. Lee Burkin

    Dear Gary Sr.

    Thank you very much for your informative postings on swimming.

    I have two question areas:
    1. Ernest Maglischo in his book Swimming Faster had a very comprehensive vector analysis of strokes. For freestyle, he advocated the hand coming to the midline of the body in the pull (basically the thumb tracing the center of the chest). Mark Schubert in his book Competitive Swimming basically advocates the same technique for the freestyle. This is the way I used to do freestyle. Now I don’t see this technique being used. What happened? Which technique is better?

    2. My master’s coach recommends for me the kayak technique for freestyle. It looks like Katie Ledecky and Vladimir Morozov are using this from what I see on youtube. Is that correct? I can’t find anything definitive on the internet for this technique. What do you think? Is this the same technique that you call shoulder driven freestyle?

    Thank you!

    • garyhallsr

      Hi Lee,

      The only two forces that help the swimmer are lift (downward force) and propulsion (backward force). Both the in sweep (hand coming under the body) and out sweep (hand moving outside the elbow) create forces to the side..which aren’t helpful.
      At one time my coach, Doc Counsilman, advocated an S shaped pull (out sweep and in sweep) because he thought the Bernoulli effect was more important than the Newtonian effect for lift and propulsion. Turns out, that is not true, so most elite swimmers of today pull freestyle by pushing down and straight back, with the hand just inside the elbow.
      The notion of finding ‘clean water’ is a myth, as the water in front of the pulling hand is relatively still…not so with the feet on the kick.
      Not sure what you mean by Kayak technique, but when I visualize a kayaker or one swimming like one, I see very little body rotation. Both Vlad and Katie use a tremendous amount of body rotation when they swim…so not sure I see the comparison. Vlad uses shoulder driven and Katie uses a hybrid freestyle (loping) technique.

  10. Sreya

    Dear Gary,
    All your videos are extremely helpful I have watched them all. My son is 8 and he goes 25m fast but gets slow at the turn for 50m and 100m. He tried some of your drills for body rotation they are very helpful.
    Thank you so much for all the videos.


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