In long axis strokes like freestyle and backstroke, rotation is key to swimming fast. If you don’t rotate enough, you’re leaving tons of potential speed on the table.

Ready to fix your rotation? Read on for our favorite drills for freestyle rotation, plus a short drill set to add to your next swim workout.

Why Rotation Matters in Freestyle

As you rotate from side to side, you are essentially transferring power between your arms and your shoulders using your core and back muscles. When you don’t rotate, these muscles (especially the lats) have a tougher time engaging to produce the speed and power you need to swim fast. 

Related: Fix These 5 Mistakes to Swim Faster Freestyle

Swimmers who can find a balance between fast rotation and optimal muscle mass will swim faster.

So, the moral of the story is: Don’t swim flat! Let’s take a look at two drills you can use to improve your rotation when swimming freestyle.

Drills to Improve Your Freestyle Rotation

Try our two favorite drills to work on freestyle rotation! A few pro tips before we dive in:

  • Add a Snorkel: A snorkel is a great addition to drill work because it eliminates the need to turn the head to breathe. It’s not required, but if you have one, we recommend using it for these drills!
  • Keep Your Kick Strong: A strong kick will make these drills easier (especially the single arm freestyle). Try adding fins to boost your momentum and keep your hips in proper position, so you can focus on rotating.

Single Arm Freestyle

This drill is great for rotation and can help you refine your catch. When swimming single arm freestyle, keep the arm that’s not moving pinned to your side. Make sure to rotate to both sides as you swim, and do your best to keep your rotation symmetrical.

We recommend using fins for this drill to help keep your hips up.

3 Strokes & 6 Kicks

This classic drill is a mainstay for a reason…it’s a great way to find balance and get comfortable rotating in freestyle. Take three freestyle strokes, and on the third stroke, keep your arm extended and balance on your side for six kicks. After completing the kicks, take three more strokes and repeat the six kicks on the other side. 

Focus on keeping your head looking down at the bottom of the pool throughout this drill.

Drill Set for Rotation

Add this set to your next workout to incorporate these drills into your routine! We recommend working on drills in every workout, either before your main set to set up good technique, or after the main set to reinforce good technique when you’re tired.

6×50 Drill @ 1:10

  • Odds: 3 Strokes & 6 Kicks
  • Evens: Single Arm Freestyle (25 right arm, 25 left arm)

Want more drills just like these? Download the MySwimPro app and unlock daily, personalized swim workouts, custom Training Plans, an extensive Technique Video Library and detailed analytics for every swim.



  1. Fantastic teaching! I have saved these video’s want to do drills with my freestyle! Learning something new is exciting and makes swimming so much more fun!

  2. How can I help a 7-year-old boy who has been taught snake swimming and extremely over-rotates his body while keeping his arm straight? I am teaching him swim lessons, and I need to unteach this technique.

    • Taylor Holmes on

      Hi Mary, to fix over rotation and straight arm pulling, you’ll need to spend time re-training his stroke technique with drills. 3 strokes & 6 kicks and single arm freestyle are great for rotation – you’ll just have to make sure you’re giving him real-time feedback on rotation to make sure he learns to stop over-rotating. For straight arm pull, you can start teaching him about Early Vertical Forearm and begin to incorporate drills that teach a high elbow catch, such as fist drill. You can learn more about EVF here:

    • Obviously Taylor’s advice is good. I have also had success with the Finis Ankle Buoy with my high schoolers. This thing really makes them rotate their hips with their shoulders, which in my experience, has always been the cause of the snake. I will say our buoys didn’t stay together very long. It’s nothing some contact cement couldn’t fix though.

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