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How to Spin in Synchronized Swimming

Spinning is a fun skill that all  synchro swimmers are eager to learn. Two things make it tricky though: You have to stay vertical while you spin; and you have to stay up long enough to complete more than one or two 180-degree turns.

Here's a guide on the mechanics of spinning. Keep in mind that spins almost always turn left shoulder back, so the directions are explained accordingly.

What Your Arms Should Do

When you're spinning, each arm has a separate job.

The Left Arm

The left arm's job is to turn you by pushing the water to your right as you spin, moving the left shoulder back.

The placement of your left hand, high or low, depends on the specific goals of the spin you're doing. When you need to maintain height longer, keep it up closer to your right hand and use it to help press up. When you don't have as much height to sustain or want to spin faster, you can keep it lower in front of your chest or face and push yourself around faster.

Your arm should be bent with your hand out in front, anywhere between your chest or just above your head. Keep your hand in as close to your body as you can while still having enough room to scull.

Make your sculls small and fast, and move your arms as little as possible. This will keep the spinning at a consistent speed instead of in big bursts from big pushing sculls.

Right Arm

The right arm sculls over your head to keep you up; your palm should face the bottom and your elbow should be bent the entire time, whether you're doing the in or out-scull.

Once you get to a point where you don't have to fight against sinking as much on the descent, you can use your right hand to assist in the turn by making very small breaststroke-like sculls with your wrist.

Once you reach your floating point, use your right arm to pull you underwater to finish your spin.

Your Body

When you spin, your body doesn't get to go for a free ride—it has to help too!

Physically Use It

Some coaches claim that your body should actually be able spin (slowly) on its own without the help of your arms. And whether that's true or not, trying to spin imagining that your body can spin without your arms' help will make you a better spinner.

There are a couple of ways to do that, but mostly you have to use your imagination.

  1. To begin turning, imagine that the right side of your body is folding over onto the left side.
  2. Picture yourself on a rotisserie, as if you are spinning around a post or “spit (just vertically instead of horizontally).


Your body should help your spin, not slow you down or tip you over.

The straighter your body is, the less drag it will have in the water: Picture the difference between twirling a normal straw vertically in the water versus one of those silly draws (with all the loops sticking out to the sides).

You also have to worry about getting twisted—as you spin, some parts seem to rush ahead while others get left behind.

A quick way to fix that problem is to check your positioning every half or full turn when you're facing a wall. Make sure your eyes, nose, shoulders, hips, and feet are all facing that wall, regardless of where you are in the spin.

Hot Tip: Practice Low

If you're having trouble learning to spin, forget about staying high—one of the most difficult elements—and focus instead on technique.

Hang upside-down in your vertical position at your floating level so you can concentrate on your alignment and sculling.

Faster Is Better

The faster you are able to spin without tipping over, the better. First, because it just looks better and second, because, like riding a bicycle, it's easier to stay up and keep from wobbling when you get up some speed.

Put Your Own Spin on It

Knowing how to spin is useful in figures and technical routines, but will also open up a world of creative options for future choreography sessions. Moving beyond the straight forward vertical spin is fun and a nice reward for having mastered the basics.

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