SWIMVICE | How To Execute Proper Freestyle Rotation

Rotation in freestyle swimming is better understood by defining what type of swimming stroke freestyle is classified as.

You may have heard a couple of familiar terms in the swimming community called “long axis” strokes and “short” axis strokes. Long axis (i.e. freestyle, front crawl, and backstroke) is defined by movement connecting through rotation (side to side) whereas short axis strokes drive the body forward in a more hinge-like motion (i.e. breaststroke and butterfly, streamline). It is important to understand these two types of movement patterns to maximize the most power and efficiency within each stroke. Learn how to execute proper freestyle rotation for optimal performance.

Since freestyle swimming technique is defined as a long axis stroke, the connection of the entire movement begins and ends through body rotation. But how do you know whether you are rotating too much or too little? In this post, I will highlight the importance of rotation, how your body moves naturally based on your profile, and key practice points to help you improve your freestyle technique.

Now let’s get started!


It is critical to understand how your body naturally rests in water. To do this, you must determine what your aquatic profile is.


You can find your aquatic profile by a simple assessment you can do at your local pool. It is performed by placing yourself face down on the surface of the water while extending your body in a plank-like position. Your body will naturally position itself at a specific angle which determines your aquatic profile. It is important to try this a few times while gently holding your air back avoiding exhaling. When you need to stand up, bring both knees to your chest, and slowly extend your legs.

Two swimmers side by side rotating in freestyle swimming laps

Below are the two different types of body positions or profiles:  


Body naturally floats high in the water in a linear position or “flat”.


Body line is tilted back with the legs below the surface of the water. Commonly as low as 90 degrees.

Profiles often differ between men and women. I often notice men typically have a very low profile in the water. However, most women typically have higher profiles on the surface of the water.

It is important to understand that every aquatic profile is unique to the individual. I often hear swimmers laugh when their legs immediately fall to the bottom of the pool during this exercise. However, regardless of whether you are a high or low profile, there is a solution for you. This is simply part of the process as every swimmer must be aware of their natural body line.


Correcting rotation is dependent on understanding your natural profile. For example:

Male swimmer rotating in freestyle


The entire body is in a straight line from feet, hips, and shoulders rotating as one unit initiated from the hips. This is how a flutter kick can naturally turn into a four or six beat kick without realization due to the fact that both kick patterns originate from the core and hips. One of the most common tendencies with the freestyle stroke is swimming flat as well as swimming over-rotated (shown above). Over-rotation occurs when a swimmers shoulder line (i.e shoulder to shoulder) creates a 90 degree angle with the pool floor. In extreme cases, rotation can go beyond 90 degrees. Typically this happens when a swimmer struggles to try to get a breath. If you try turning your head too far to get a breath, you will most likely break your form and inhale water. This can cause instability making breathing a difficult process. 

SWIMVICE INFOGRAPHIC | Comparing two types of swimmer profiles


Yes absolutely! Even though each profile has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, there is a solution as long as you are working towards improving your form. The key to maintaining proper rotation are balance and control.

Below I have included some key practice points on how to rotate your body moving forward:

  • Focus on hip drive for each arm stroke

  • Maintain core stability (eliminates the arch in your lower back)

  • High elbow will help open up for more shoulder mobility.

  • Hand enters the water closer to the body to prevent overreaching.

  • Relax your neck

  • Head aligned with the spine

  • Press and lean your body forward.

  • Arm extends forward (helps with the feeling of swimming “downhill”). 

  • Refrain from the motion to lift your head.

The current world record holder for the 1500-meter freestyle, Kate Ledecky, executes perfect body rotation consistently throughout her entire race at the TYR Pro Swim Series. I have included a couple snap shots of her technique below:


Now that you have a clearer understanding of the importance of rotation, you can start to practice some of these key points the next time you go to the pool. Remember, freestyle form is never flat, you are consistently rotating from one side to the next.

Once you start to incorporate these points into your practice, you will feel significant improvement. It is a feeling of complete uninterrupted motion, rhythm, flow, power, and external forces all wrapped into one. Now that is a feeling to look forward to!