When we learned to swim freestyle as children, most of us swim flat
in the water, with little or no hip rotation as our arms are doing
the majority of the work. Many triathletes and open water swimmers
have found it necessary to change their stroke and swim more on
their sides in order to conserve energy, swim faster, and get
through potential rough water conditions with greater ease.
Rotating from side to side as you swim is a method that has been
around for over 30 years. When Mark Spitz was gaining national
recognition in the early 70’s, many critics said his only problem
is that he does this side-to-side action as he swims! Little did
they realize just how revolutionary that stroke was. Science has
now backed up this style of swimming, and great swim coaches like
Howard Furby and Ernie Maglischo have popularized swimming on your
side with many successful swimmers over the years.
Good swimming is about using the core of your body– hips, stomach,
lower back, and chest. Top swimmers rotate the core of the body
from one side to the other, while keeping the head fixed. When you
rotate in this way, you move through the water more like a fish, or
a boat, reaching further forward on each stroke, and maximizing
Here is a drill to begin practicing (you may use fins if
you have them):
Kick on your side with your left hand extended out and your right hand
by your side. Keep your head down and locked to your shoulder. On the
second length, switch sides and extend your right hand, with your left hand
by your side. When looking down, you should be at about a 90-degree
angle in the water.
When you need air, roll all the way up into more of a 45-degree angle,
take a few breaths, and repeat. Continue to practice this kicking drill
and add in arm strokes as your side balance improves.
With consistent practice, you will be able to swim more
efficiently, resulting in faster swim times and greater energy
conservation. Remember in open water our stroke is faster