By Nenad Rodic
posted 04/05


1Freestyle is a sidestroke, meaning that over 80 % of the time is spent on one of the sides. The hips and legs are within the shoulder line. A swimmer should roll from side to side, around the axis that extends from the middle finger of the gliding arm to the top of the toes (not the center of head to the tip of the toes). This reduces drag, and keeps the overall body position very high. Good freestyle swimmers will roll about 45 degrees toward the non-breathing side and up to 60 to the breathing side.
A common misconception regarding the lateral nature of the freestyle seems to stem from swimmers hearing that they should roll their hips more. For example, swimmers who have trouble balancing tend to use their kick or arms improperly in order to roll (we’ll talk about this and the remedy for this in the arm-stroke section). I think this causes more damage than benefit. A swimmer who hears this instinctively starts the roll from their hips and rolls them more than they roll their shoulders. The unfortunate results include sinking, bending the trunk, and dropping the elbow, among other things. The proper way to understand the roll is to think of your gliding arm as an axis around which you will roll (lift your other arm shoulder). The hips will follow in a smaller degree (50 degrees upper body, 30 degrees hips for example) and legs are always better off if they kick straight downward. Long distance swimmers tend to kick more to the side (legs follow hips and shoulders) while a good sprinter will have tremendous shoulder rotation and a straight down six beat kick. As a triathlete, you fall into the distance category, unlikely to kick with a six beat timing pattern, so you will have some lateral kicking.

BOTTOM LINE: I’ve read articles with coaches and experts suggesting that you should try to swim like
Alex Popov or Grant Hackett. You are welcome to try, but I think you should respect their talent and dedication and not fool yourself into thinking that it’s possible to achieve such perfection with less than 25 hours of swimming a week. The bottom line is that you need to find the optimal stroke for you. This depends on many factors: kick, body size, feel for the water, etc. Many aspects can be developed and improved but there’s always a limit, a fine line when you need to say: “That’s good enough; I can do well with what I have; no need to waste more time on something that will not yield results". That is your optimal stroke and for a triathlete this is a fairly fast, energy efficient and relaxed stroke, with proper horizontal and lateral positioning.

By Nenad Rodic, founder of