Serape Swimming: The Role of Core Strength in Freestyle Swimming Speed, Part I

In her book Swim Speed Workouts, 4-time Olympian Sheila Taormina describes a key concept for developing your fastest freestyle, the Serape Core Drive.

Here’s an overview of serape swimming, which is explained fully in Swim Speed Workouts, a swim training program that develops the world’s fastest freestyle swimming technique.

From Swim Speed Workouts:

If you’re unfamiliar with the terms core drive or hip drive, it’s probably because you know this concept as “rotation.” The more I coach, the more I realize that semantics are very important. I’ve seen the concept of rotation misinterpreted many ways by swimmers, including tipping the entire body on its side or rotating the shoulders as one unit.

A close study of swimming rotation reveals a coordinated, athletic movement that I refer to as core drive or hip drive, and even more specifically as serape. A serape is a shawl worn in Mexico and South America that is placed over the shoulder and draped diagonally across the body. The diagonal aspect of the way a serape is worn is where the term serape effect originated; it was coined by authors Gene A. Logan and Wayne C. McKinney in their book Kinesiology.

Logan and McKinney studied the connection between the trunk of the body and the limbs while observing ballistic activities (e.g., kicking a ball) and overhead activities (e.g., throwing). Their study of the throwing movement revealed an interaction between the pelvic girdle (the hips) on one side of the body and the upper core and throwing limb on the other side of the body. The ribs on the side of the throwing limb rotated one direction and the hips the other direction. McKinney and Logan discovered that this diagonal rotation prestretched or “loaded” the core with tension that could then be released and transferred to the throwing limb, increasing the overall power of the throw. They concluded that the diagonal/transverse movement noted in the thrower held true in all overhead activities and that the core should be trained and strengthened on diagonal planes and in rotational directions so as to take full advantage of the benefits it can deliver.

How does this relate to swimming? It relates because swimming is an overhead activity. We’re on a horizontal plane when we swim, so it’s not so obvious, but take that horizontal plane and make it vertical, and you’ll see that swimming is an overhead activity.

VIDEO: See two drills from Swim Speed Workouts that help develop serape swimming:

Sheila Taormina’s Swim Speed Series reveals the world’s fastest way to swim.