Head Rotation When Swimming Freestyle

I teach adults to swim, and am having problems with head rotation when swimming freestyle with a class of middle-aged men. 3 of the 4 are having trouble with the head rotation.


I've tried numerous different techniques with their kicking and body positions to correct the rotation for breathing, but still find they take in quite a bit of water! Have worked on side kicking drills, standing drills in getting head position correct etc, but very little improvement.

Have you any other suggestions?


This is a common occurrence that I have come across myself teaching swimming over the years. And, just like you I recall it was with middle-aged men.

The cause of the problem I found was not with their lack of ability or understanding of the technique but with a lack of flexibility in their neck and shoulders.

When they swim face down in a straight line, everything looks great. Smooth arm technique, streamline body position and steady leg kick. The moment they need to roll the head to the side to breathe, the lack of flexibility in the shoulder joint and neck prevents a complete head movement and results in an inhalation of water instead of air!

My solution was to over exaggerate the movement required. In other words teach them to almost look at sky when they need to breathe. You and I both know that technically this is incorrect and the over exaggerated movement will cause a disturbance in their body position.

However, after explaining to them about this ‘deliberate error’, they were able to understand and eventually, with practice, find a happy medium with a suitable head position to breathe.

Over time, some degree of flexibility can be achieved in the shoulders and neck from persistent practice, but in the mean time I found it was pointless trying to get their body to perform something it was unable to do at the time.

With this slightly adjusted breathing technique they were able to swim longer distances without taking in water, which meant they were achieving more from their swimming in terms of fitness and stamina.

We then worked at changing their freestyle technique slowly over time to make their breathing more efficient or as efficient as it could be within their comfortable range of movement.

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