Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Improving Rotation

Coach Deniz gives exercises on how to improve rotation in freestyle and backstroke.

Contributed by Deniz Hekmati – Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Sport Scientist 

The rotation can be tricky in the backstroke and freestyle. Although the coach wants the swimmer to rotate more, the stiff swimmer will have more restrictions to make it happen. Here are three movements that will aid and mobilize the thoracic spine for an improved rotation. For all of the following movements, be sure to draw the belly button in towards the spine to keep stabilizing muscles in the abs engaged throughout the movements.

Watch video


Thread The Needle: Set up on one knee and opposite leg extended to the side with the toe in line with the knee and the whole foot on the ground. With the spine and arms straight, move the opposing arm to the straight leg to slide towards it. Let the shoulder blades separate here. Then rotate with thumbs up. At the end range, engage the back little more to facilitate the rotation.

Open Book: Set up on the side by placing the leg bent on a foam roll. This ensures pelvic stability and control through movement. Arms are stacked on top of each other and pressure stays on the bottom shoulder. Rotate the trunk to reach the elbow back as far as the natural range allows you – pressure stays on the bottom shoulder and never on the back. Again, at the end range, push it little further. To add a variation here, extend the arm out and press the hand down to the ground before neutralizing.

Thoracic Windmill: In the same setup as the open book, now we are rolling the arm over and around the top while pressing the arm down to the ground. As you can tell, I am unable to stay on the ground on the first few reps. After 15-20 focused repetitions, the muscles and joints are synching up to work better together.

The key is to minimize compensation with these movements, especially form the pelvis. If we have a stiff trunk, do 10-20 reps each day, and a few extra before each swim practice and you’ll start slicing through the water more.

Tag someone that needs to improve their rotation and let us know your thoughts – See you next week!

See more videos from Swimmer Strength Coach Deniz Hekmati:

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Age to Start Dryland Training or Strength Training

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: When to Add Weight to Strength Training

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: McGill 3 Core Exercises

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Shoulder Pain

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Yoga and Swimming

Swimmer Strength Tech Tip: Foam Rolling for Swimmers

About Coach Deniz Hekmati, MS, CSCS

Deniz Hekmati is a strength & conditioning specialist and sport scientist. A Sweden-native, he was a breaststroker at Arizona State University and a silver medalist at the Swedish National Championships. In his coaching career, he has worked with age-groupers, high schoolers, collegiate teams, and elite level post graduate athletes. Deniz’s philosophy is to learn each athlete’s individual stage of physical and mental readiness, and then design the most appropriate training protocol in a way that resonates with the individual and team.  He offers in-person or online training.  Try his 10-day free online training.

Note: All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.