Success secret: Rotate your torso
“Most swimmers propel themselves with their arms and legs as if they were a surfboard with four appendages,” says Gary Hall, M.D., a three-time Olympian and director of stroke technique for The Race Club in Islamorada, FL. By remaining relatively flat in the water, you miss out on a major source of power, he adds. Rotating your body side to side can add speed by getting your core and latissimus dorsi (the largest and broadest back muscle) into your stroke, increasing your arms' pulling strength. Plus as the pull begins in front of your shoulder, your body is counter-rotating, creating a force or anchor for your hand to pull against.
Make it work for you: Hall suggests starting your swim with this body rotation drill, using a pair of fins and the Finis snorkel, if available: Look straight down at the bottom of the pool, keep your head still, and quickly rotate your body to one side, stacking shoulders and hips vertically, and opening up your hips and chest. After about six kicks, quickly rotate your body to the other side for six more kicks, repeating all the way to the other side of the pool.
Once you’ve mastered that, try this one-stroke, six-kick drill using fins: With right arm in front and left arm at your hip, kick on your right side while looking down at the bottom of the pool. Imagine you have a string going from your left shoulder out of the water to the sky above. Bring your left hand and arm up until your hand is directly over your shoulder and touching the imaginary string (elbow can be straight or bent slightly). Stop and shake your wrist loosely to relax it, then continue with the stroke coming from above the shoulder. Before your left hand enters the water, begin pulling with your right hand and rotate completely to the other side. Kick six more times, then repeat the drill on your left side. Do this as many times as needed to feel comfortable with the rotational movement, working up to 50 meters or yards. Hall suggests incorporating this drill in your warm-up, in between sets, or in your cool-down.