In swim “speak,” body roll is the rotation around your long axis. Huh? Yup, what she says. Translated into regular English, body roll is the rotation of your shoulders, torso and hips. The terms “body roll” and “rotation” mean the same thing. Well, why didn’t you say so? I think I ate too many donuts………my brain is foggy.

To swim efficiently, the shoulders, torso and hips should roll together as one.  You also will kick slightly on your side as you rotate.  In freestyle, it is quite rare to see someone with too much body roll, but it is very common to see people swimming flat.

Here is a (big) tip: Your head remains stationary and does not roll side-to-side with your body unless you are taking a breath. Think neck tall, chin back. This flattens your upper spine and keeps your head firmly connected to your core. Except when breathing, keep your head facing straight down at the bottom.

Freestyle is quite demanding, and by keeping your head stationary (except when breathing) and rotating your body, your stroke will be as smooth as possible.  Even if you are not breathing bilaterally (breathing on both sides), you need to rotate your shoulders, torso and hips to swim smoothly.

BodyRoll (560x1500)

When you rotate your body, it is much easier to get a high elbow. Your elbow will look like a shark fin out of the water (or for you physicists, your elbow should be at about 90 degrees) and you will not be swinging wide.  A high elbow is preferred by most swimmers because it prevents “swimmer’s shoulder.” Swinging wide in a windmill fashion can lead to swimmer’s shoulder or a shoulder injury. This is just my opinion. Some people can swing wide well, but it takes a lot of time and practice.  When you rotate well, you are able to reach further. Practice “leading with your elbow until your arm passes your shoulder.”

Several things will happen when you develop a good body roll:

1. Your breathing becomes easier (yay). You barely will have to turn your head to breathe.

2. Your stroke length increases, and you will take fewer strokes per length of the pool.  A high elbow will allow your hand and forearm to slide or slip into the water just above your head. If your hand and forearm swing high or wide, you will “slap” or slice the water, which is very inefficient.  I hear lots of swimmers slapping the water. Aye-yi-yi.

3. Your arm recovery (arm/elbow out of the water) feels much easier with good clearance over the top of the water.

A good body roll takes time and practice. Enjoy your time in the pool.  One of my favorite swim coaches always told me “swim slowly to swim fast.”  Good advice.