How to build a more powerful front crawl swim stroke

Practise these rotation drills to improve both your stroke efficiency and power


Positive, ‘whole body’ rotation helps to improve streamlining and alignment, an effective extension at entry, high-elbow catch, and more power through the whole of the stroke. Investing time in practising rotational drills contributes significantly to improved stroke efficiency and power, with greater distance per stroke and reduced stroke counts.   


Whole body rotation should originate from the hips, linking to the shoulder rotations of the arm stroke, shoulders, hips and ankles all in alignment. The body should rotate side to side approximately 45°, requiring good core strength
to maintain correct alignment and streamlining.

The side-kick and rotisserie drills in this session really help the swimmer feel where the rotation from the hips and core begins, while the unco drill allows you to focus on the benefits of rotation to achieve good extension at the front and back of the stroke and increased power from a high-elbow catch.    

Richard Smith’s top 3 essential drills

Rotisserie kick 

Focus on initiating whole body rotation through both your shoulders and hips while maintaining a continuous leg kick
and breathing. Inhale while on your back!

Unco single-arm 

Wearing your fins, practise swimming with one arm while holding the non-stroking arm by your side. Keep the rotation as if you were swimming normally, breathe to the non-stroking arm side. 

Float tap 

Place a kick board between your upper thighs, push through the stroke tapping the board as you go, feel the rotation. Imagine your hand pushing your hips away.  

The session


3 x 100m swim stroke; reducing stroke count each 100m

3 x 50m as: 8 strokes front crawl; 8 strokes back

6 x 25m streamline kick as: 8 kicks front; 8 kicks back

Rest 15-20secs after each set


4 x 50m as: 25m rotisserie kick; 25m swim

4 x 50m as: 25m torpedo (both hands by side) kick; 25m swim

3 x 100m swim stroke count; reducing stroke count each 100m

4 x 50m side kick 6-1-6 drill (6 leg kicks on one side; 1 full stroke; 6 leg kicks on the other side); side kick 636 drill (as 6-1-6 but with 3 full strokes)

Rest 15-20secs after each set


4 x 50m single-arm drill holding float in extended non-stroking arm 

4 x 50m Unco drill with fins breathing to non-stroking arm 

3 x 100m swim stroke count; reducing stroke count each 100m

4 x 50m T drill with fins (side kick holding arm vertically extended)

Rest 15-20secs after each set


6 x 50m float tap drill, pushing through the rotation at the finish of the stroke 


Adapt for beginners

Reduce the drill swims to 15m drill; 10m swim, wear fins initially to aid leg kick and propulsion but don’t be reliant on them. Aim to reduce stroke count by 1-2 strokes per 25m. 

Adapt for Ironman 


Aim to reduce stroke count by 1-2 strokes per 50m through good rotation, making sure that you extend into the catch rather than overglide.