Tri Surrey coach Martin Loxton-Beed explains the importance of core engagement and mastering body rotation while in the water.

As the saying goes: you cannot win a race through a strong swim, but it can certainly be lost. At Tri Surrey, we regularly focus on body position in the water during our sessions because it’s a key factor in swimming efficiency.

If you’re at the wrong angle, with your feet dropping in the water or you find yourself kicking air, the chances are you’re not going to be properly streamlined in the water. By engaging your core and mastering body rotation, you can maximise your streamlining which will reduce drag and improve speed.

A simple main set

Getting in the water and doing hundreds of lengths may make you feel good, but it’s unlikely to make you any faster. We find the most simple formula to increase your stamina is to do sets of 50m, 100m (sprint), 200m (Olympic) or 400m (Ironman) swims with a rest interval of about 30secs. These should always be done at critical swim speed, which is the fast pace you can swim consistently for the given distance.

Core Engagement swim exercise 1

Swimming is not much different to cycling and running in that engaging your core provides a strong foundation for the work going on at your extremities, therefore delivering faster split times. A strong core will also reduce the chances of injury.

This drill is deceptively simple, but if you can work it into a main set it will help you become more streamlined in the water.

6 x 25m front crawl with a push-off at each end that takes you past the flags with no kicking.

Focus on:

  • Placing one hand over the other, with your head directly between your shoulders looking down or slightly ahead.
  • Elongating your body at push-off. You should feel a stretch between your rib cage and pelvis.
  • Pulling shoulder blades together.

Body Rotation

It used to be that swimmers were taught to be as flat as a pancake in the water, to be as streamlined as possible. However, swimming flat only restricts your shoulder movements, resulting in a weaker stroke and possible shoulder injury. It also means your arms recover around to the side, away from the strong centre line, increasing your profile in the water.

The best swimmers rotate their whole body at about 45 degrees with each stroke, engaging their much stronger chest and back muscles. In simple terms, this means you’re using larger muscle groups to power you through the water.

Here are three drills that will help you improve your body alignment awareness:

swim exercise 2

2 x 25m kicking on side

  • Your lower arm should be extended with palm facing downwards, wrist slightly bent. Upper arm by your side.
  • Turn to side to breathe.
  • Swap sides each 25m.

swim exercise 3

4 x 50m; 25m kick, 25m swim

  • Kick on side with a single stroke to rotate to other side about half way down the pool.
  • Swim back for the last 25m.
  • 20secs rest intervals.

swim exercise 4

2 x 25m six kick drill

• After six kicks take a single stroke, rotating your shoulders.

• Remember to bring your rear hand forwards first then take a stroke as it passes your head.

• Take a breath on a bilateral basis every three strokes.