Mastering proper freeStyle technique takes lots of practise, especially for late comers to swimming, but identifying form issues early in your swimming career will only help you get faster.
“One of the biggest problems swimmers have is rotating past 45 degrees,” says Jonathan Cain, a coach at SwimLabs (Swimlabs.com), a swim school that offers state-of-the-art video analysis in an Endless Pool. “When this happens, it tends to unbalance the swimmer, leading to general inefficiency.” Cain says the best angle of rotation is somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees, which allows for the best application of power during the underwater phase of the stroke.
If possible, have a coach or friend take video of you underwater to see if you are over-rotating. It’s most obvious while taking a breath—if you rotate past 45 degrees, your body has to work hard to regain a balanced position and stroking power.
When swimmers have a rotational problem in non-breathing strokes, the effects are a little more subtle and difficult to see (and feel, for the swimmer). “This usually causes the swimmers to compensate for the poor rotation by moving their arms quicker through the water, resulting in a loss of efficiency, power and overall stamina,” Cain says.
Tips to Stop Over-rotation
• Think of “kissing the shoulder and looking back at your hips,” says SwimLabs owner and coach Michael Mann.
• Keep one goggle in the water, one out while breathing.
• Visualise “smelling your armpit” (weird but helpful).
• Keep toes pointed and start your kick from your hips and thighs. “Kicking like you’re riding a bike makes it easy to over-rotate,” Mann says.
• Don’t wait to exhale until you tilt your head to breathe. Let out about 30–40 per cent while your face is in the water.
• Make sure you’re proficient at breathing on one side before tackling bilateral breathing.
Drills To Help Over-Rotation
1. Swim 200 metres with a snorkel and pull buoy using no rotation. Then do a 200 with the same feeling of zero rotation but 2without a snorkel.
2. Do a catch-up stroke, starting with both hands in front in a Superman flying position. Alternate strokes with a quick breath, concentrating on “kissing your shoulder” and breathing out before you turn your head.
3. Put on a pair of fins. Extend your right arm in front of your head and keep your left arm at your side. Roll your left shoulder slightly up and turn your neck so that only your left goggle is out of the water. Think about lifting your chin, keeping your mouth out of the water and allowing a clean inhalation. Kick the length of the pool while breathing to your left side, switch arms at the wall and repeat on the right side.