Swim Bits: Turns, Turns, Turns


In recollection I have always felt that Michael Phelps had two swims in the 2008 Olympics that were beyond compare.  First was the 400 IM in 4:03.84, which still stands and probably will for quite awhile.

The second was the 200 free where Phelps obliterated the field by more than two seconds in 1:42.96.  That time would have won the Mens’ 200 free in both of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

Phelps won so convincingly with the new (in that time) technique of kicking many dolphin kicks off every turn.  It was both amazing and fun to watch him stay underwater for four to six kicks before he used his arms.  We should do the same.

Instead of continuing to use Phelps as the one we should copy, however, I will recommend you watch the video of Dana Vollmer at http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/17045502/dana-vollmer-power-flip-turn.

We Masters swimmers don’t have the power or technique of Michael Phelps, except, perhaps, Denny Baker, so Vollmer is more fitting for us to emulate.  Let me make some comments on the video.

  1. Notice how far away from the wall Vollmer is as she is starting the turn. Her swimming momentum and that arm under her body will pull her into the wall.  Many Masters swimmers start the turn too close to the wall, tucking their knees into their chest to get around.
  2. Dana is going straight over in a pike somersault. I can not emphasize this enough: you do NOT tuck on a flip turn.  Do not pull your knees into your chest.  Bring your chest to almost straight legs and stay on your back.
  3. Dana is pushing off on her back, not on her stomach, with her hands already over her head in the direction she will be going. Do NOT let your hands go out to the side for balance as you do the pike somersault on to your back.  Blow air out of your nose or wear a nose clip but stay on your back.  Pull your hands together under your body and keep your hands together as you do the pike somersault.  You can push water straight up or down with your hands for balance when your hands are over your head.
  4. Dana’s feet are off the wall, and she is still mainly on her back, preparing to dolphin kick several times before she starts her arms. She is already a yard off the wall and is not yet ready to use her arms.  Stay underwater for two or three seconds before starting your arms.  You should be able to see the backstroke flags on your first stroke of every freestyle turn.

Now for some ideas that are not in the video.  Which hand do you pull with first after your dolphin kicks?  If you pull with the hand that is opposite the side you normally breathe on, you will pull with both arms before taking your first breath.  Don’t pull and immediately take a breath.

How do you get used to staying under longer?  Start now in the fall and do every turn emphasizing holding your breath and staying under longer.  It will take a while to get used to.

After your feet leave the wall, keep your head between your arms, arms on your ears, and count ‘One – Two –  Three” or more as you dolphin kick and then come up to the surface, pulling with your opposite hand in free.  Stay under even longer if you kick with fins.  Get use to being down there underwater off every turn.  Nuclear submarines are a lot faster than aircraft carriers because they can be totally underwater.

Last, you should do the same thing for backstroke and butterfly on every turn.  Breaststroke, of course, is a different matter.  Stay underwater on turns like Phelps and Vollmer.

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