Freestyle rotation – How to do it

In ideal freestyle, you should go from streamline rotated on one side to streamline rotated on the other side in a smooth and fluid motion. At the same time, you should be using your body rotation to help with your arm pull propulsion. This may sound all a bit complicated so let’s break it down and explain why rotation is so important and what happens if you do not rotate enough when swimming freestyle.


Why rotate?


When swimming freestyle it is best to swim IN the water – not trying to swim on top of the water. The reason we want to swim in the water is that this is where we are more neutrally buoyant. If you try to swim on top of the water you will waste lots of energy and effort trying to keep yourself up instead of using that energy to drive yourself forward through the water.


The best and easiest way to swim in the water going forward, as opposed to swimming on top of the water going up and forward is to be rotated on your side each stroke. This is why rotation is so important.


If you are someone who thinks of swimming freestyle on top of the water you will likely be a flat swimmer with little rotation. However to understand and get the feel of rotating when swimming freestyle you need to first change the way you think. Start visualizing your freestyle as swimming in the water and going through the water like a fish, not flapping around on the surface trying to stay afloat at the same time as swimming freestyle.


How do I rotate?


If you are not used to rotating your body during freestyle then it may seem awkward when you first try to rotate more.


Use the drive of your arm pulling back to rotate your body to the other side while your other arm reaches toward the end of the pool. Try to maintain a streamlined body during your rotation.


male swimming freestyle with lots of rotation


Pause and glide on this side until you have reached as far as you can out in front.


male swimming freestyle in a pool demonstrating rotation


Once you get used to this and become more fluid your pause and glide will morph into your reach which will not look much like a pause but instead a continuous side to side freestyle.


How can I practice rotating?


Start by developing a good feel and getting used to being on your side. You can practice this by kicking on your side with fins like in the photo below.


kicking on side in a pool


Once you are used to being on your side you can progress to practice changing sides. You can use a drill called 6 kicks and change. Check out our video below of how to do this.



When you are familiar with being on your side and have practiced rotating from side to side, implement this into your freestyle. Practice as much as you can and build the feel and the habit of rotating to swim faster and easier freestyle.



For more on freestyle rotation check out our video here:


Carl is head coach at Swim360 Coach, a former Olympian and national champion freestyler. Carl now uses his skills and passion for coaching and competing in the open water.