If anyone who’s not a realtor knows anything about real estate, what is it that they say are the top three most important things? Come on, I know you know this one. Location, location, location. And they’re right (says the wife of a swim coach who likes to think she has knowledge about everything). Which made me think, what’s the equivalent of that for swimming?
Rotation, rotation, rotation.
Cute, right? You like what I did there. And even if you don’t you can at least roll your eyes, sigh, and appreciate the .78 seconds of thought that went into that. But in all seriousness, rotation is the key to efficient swimming and correct technique. Why, you ask? Proper rotation is the leading factor behind: proper hand entry for a good catch position, proper finish and setup for your recovery, and proper timing of the breath. You want the rotation of your hip to be the driving force behind when you start your catch, when you take a breath, and when you place your hand in the water.
If you think any part of what I’ve written so far is wrong I implore you to go jump in the water and try swimming a few laps without rotating your hips. You won’t like it, trust me. Rotation can seem like such a small part of your stroke that you probably forget you’re even doing it. I was working on a new drill the other day and was so focused on making the first movement of the drill that I completely forgot to rotate my torso.
And let me tell you, it was bad.
My stroke fell apart, I couldn’t move my arms properly, and when I went to take a breath I had to stop completely because my body was just not cooperating. It’s sort of like what happens when you start thinking about your breathing or your blinking. You don’t even realize you’re doing those things 99.9% of the time, but when you think about them you realize how important they are to your well being (especially breathing, please don’t stop breathing guys).
Next time you get in the water try swimming without rotating your hips and see how it feels. If you don’t notice a difference then it’s definitely time to start focusing on it more, as it’s the foundation of a proper and efficient freestyle. And if you do notice a difference maybe have someone there to watch you as you start to flail about in the water, because I’m sure it’s going to be pretty entertaining.
Rotation drills should be included in your swim workouts at least 2-3 times a week, as they’ll help you in so many other aspects of your stroke, and the slightest improvement in your rotation will come over tenfold as a whole. A great one to try is Windmill Drill, which forces an exaggerated rotation of 90 degrees to help you understand the movement you're looking for. However when swimming regularly you only want to rotate to 45 degrees, as rotating a full 90 not in drill form can easily throw you off balance and drastically decrease the efficiency of your stroke.