Sep 032015

flip-turnLearning a flip turn can be intimidating but definitely worth your while to learn. I’ve done some previous posts here on our website and those posts are listed at the end of this posting. I stumbled on two new videos on freestyle flip turns. One is a drill to learn the initial “flip” technique and the other walks you through the full flip turn sequence with some excellent tips. Both are great!

Many open water swimmers and triathletes ask why they should bother learning flip turns since they don’t use them out in the open water. There are three compelling reasons to learn flip turns if you practice in a pool!

  1. Don’t you get frustrated watching everyone get by you on those walls? 🙂 Of course you do! Why not level the playing field?
  2. Flip turns are really good for learning airway management which you most definitely need in an open water swim. Once you master the steps to the flip turn, then learn to manage your air as you go into the turn and then come out of the turn. Always exhale through the turn and, optimally, don’t breathe that very first stroke off the wall. Why? You create your own wave action coming off the wall and you create resistance by going for air through that wave. Ride the wave out a little bit with a few strokes and that will lead to a more efficient start to your next lap. 
  3. Save energy by learning to maximize your wall action with an efficient flip turn. The very fastest you will be when you swim is off the starting block and off the walls. An open turn can be efficient, but a flip turn executed properly is really efficient.

Ok, here’s the first video and it has a very easy drill to set you up for learning the action of the initial flip. All you need is some lane space and a kick board.

This second video take you through the actual turn on the wall with some terrific pointers on how to refine the flip turn.

If you want more information on flip turns and the other turns we use in swimming, here are some of our other postings available on our Swymnuts website:

The Importance of Turns

Open Turns

Individual Medley Turns

Back to Breast Crossover Turn

Freestyle Flip Turn Drill

Speed Up Your Turn!

Apr 172015

While it might look a little goofy, here is a land based drill to learn the mechanics of the Back-to-Breast Crossover Turn. Courtesy of Swimming World Magazine.

On our website you’ll find other postings to articles and videos on how to do the Crossover turn. Check ’em out!

Apr 172015

I really like Gary Hall Sr and his methodology. We’ve all seen or done breaststroke pull with flutter kick. He tells you the WHY behind HOW to do it correctly. This is a terrific drill for those of you who have knees or hips that do not allow you to do breaststroke. Put some fins on and you can really get motoring down the pool!

You’ll need to click the video to jump over to Vimeo where you will be able to watch it.

Swimisodes – Freestyle Kick Breaststroke Drill from The Race Club on Vimeo.

Feb 242013

This week’s video drill is for the backstrokers out there. From GoSwim, this video helps develop hand speed on the exit. To speed up your arm stroke tempo, you need to develop fast hands as you pull underwater to your hip. Check out the video for complete instructions.

Dec 022012

Click pic for a terrific article on Dana Vollmer!

Today I want to share with you  some great drills to improve your dolphin kick. The dolphin kick is an incredible tool. Not only does it aid in butterfly, but it can also help you rocket off the wall in backstroke in freestyle. And for our breaststrokers out there, the single dolphin kick allowed on the pull down is a proven speed boost.  Like any stroke or kick, you need to perfect how you perform your dolphin kick. Many swimmers try to initiate the kick from the knees. Where you really want to initiate from is your abs and hips. Check this SwimTechnique video out for what good dolphin kicking looks like.

As you watch the video, note the things that make this swimmer’s kick so effective.

  1. He is perfectly still in his upper body from the shoulder blades and on up.
  2. He initiates his kick from high up in his abs and it travels in whip like fashion down his body.
  3. His knees never bend to 90 degrees.


This first drill, AbBusters, is from Coach Stu Kahn, Davis Aquatic Masters. This particular drill will help you get the feel of driving the kick from your abdominal region.


The second drill is from GoSwim. I like the idea of combining breaststroke kick with dolphin kick for those who struggle with getting enough oomph out of that dolphin kick.


One of my favorites is vertical dolphin kicking. This sequence from GoSwim shows how to go from beginner level to mastering that tight compact dolphin kick. Here’s a key element to watch for. When you are doing vertical dolphin kicking in the deep end, look at the water around you. If you are throwing splashes in front and behind you, then you are not kicking correctly. Remember, we want to hold a tight core and keep the upper body locked down. Do so, and you will see rings of water around you. Keep that kick small, tight and fast!


This Caterpillar Drill by SwimLabs is a great way to feel the torso press in fly along with the hip action. You can read about the importance of your torso in fly on one of our previous postings here.


Lastly, I think kicking dolphin kick on your side is also a very good way to improve your feel for both the “up kick” and “down kick” in fly. Too often, when we kick with a board, we only emphasize the down kick (or feeling the top of your foot kick down on the water). When we kick dolphin on our back, same thing happens, we tend to feel the top of our foot kicking up and not feel the sole of our feet pressing down. Kicking on your side allows you to feel both sides of your feet press the water. This particular GoSwim drill has you doing a 360 rotation while dolphin kicking. If you find it too tough initially, try it with hands down by your side and then advance to the streamline position shown in the video.

Dolphin kick takes some work. Don’t try to tackle it all in one day. Take your time, do a mixture of these drills, and your dolphin kick will become one of your best allies!

Aug 182012

Here’s a great drill for mastering flip turns. It comes from our friends over at GoSwim. This drill uses the concept of a waterfall to teach the move where you drive your head to your knees. Pretty cool, and definitely something you can do on your own.

Step by step instructions that go with the video are:

Why do it:

Making sure the set up for your turn is direct, helps improve the speed into and out of the wall. Using the water as a substance, and your momentum to help you through the turn also saves energy and eliminates extraneous movements.

How to do it:

1) Push off the wall underrwater with your hands held down to your sides.

2) Very soon after your push, tuck your chin so the water hits you on the back of the head (like standing under a waterfall and leaning forward).

3) Allow the water to push you around without using your legs or arms. If you donapos;t make it all the way around, thatapos;s fine, this is just to teach you the initial sensation.

4) Move to directly on the surface, pushing off the same way, and tucking your chin to allow the body to flip around.

5) Finally, swim into the wall to gain some momentum, stop swimming a bit sooner than normal to allow both arms to be behind you, tuck your chin and roll into a flip turn.

How to do it really well (the fine points):

Make sure you never pop up prior to the turn, but submerge into the wall on each turn. Make sure you are not lifting your head as you approach the wall, but practice looking at the bottom to start building an awareness of turning without seeing the end. Most of all, when learning this, donapos;t muscle the first couple of steps, stay soft and slow, and feel the water pushing you around.

Coach Cokie’s note:

I would add one more “fine point”. When you flip, be sure and flip straight over, not off to one hip. On  the video, most of the swimmers do flip straight over onto the wall. However, a few flip slightly to one side and come out on one hip. When really trying to master flip turns, get yourself to flip straight over. You’ll use your dolphin kicks (or flutter kicks) to corkscrew you onto one hip and your first breakout stroke finishes straightening out your body. That comes in a future lesson!

Jul 012012

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been brushing up on dryland training for core stability. As we all know by now, our core is vitally important in almost everything we do in life, and critical in all of our sporting adventures. Swimming is no exception. You want to master body line and balance in your strokes? Want to have quicker turns, better speed, and more endurance? One terrific start is to get working on your core.

I’ve got a few books on my bookshelf covering strength training and core stabilization. One that I really like is pictured below, Complete Conditioning for Swimming – a combination book with a DVD that contains all the exercises in the book. Why do I like this particular book? It is authored by famed swim coach Dave Salo (sprint coach extraordinaire) and Scott Riewald. Dave Salo has coached several olympic medalists such as Aaron Peirsol, Amanda Beard, Rebecca Soni, Jason Lezak, Eric Shanteau and Lenny Krayzelburg. He’s also the head coach of the USC Trojan’s Men’s & Women’s Swim Team.

Dr. Scott Riewald works with the United States Olympic Committee in its performance services division where he provides performance technology and biomechanics support for Olympic-level endurance athletes. Ok, we have some pretty impressive resumes on these two! The book is well written, easy to follow, and the DVD is wonderful. I’ve been able to burn the video to my computer, and now I have the exercises on my iPhone or iPad to use at the gym, or even just here at the house.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve found some terrific exercise videos on the DVD. Right now I’m concentrating on three categories on the DVD: Core Stability Exercises, Dynamic Warmups (land based), Flexibility Exercises, and Injury-Prevention Exercises. This week I’d like to a pool-based core stability exercise with you. This involves balancing on a kickboard.

Core Back Balance Drill in Water – Wi-Fi

Jun 172012

Ok, so we’ve been posting some drills to improve your timing on breaststroke. I’m doing some research for the USMS High Performance Camp that I’ll be coaching at in August (Greensboro, NC). I’m always on the hunt for new thoughts and ideas. While researching, I stumbled on this very challenging breaststroke drill for advanced level breaststrokers. I found this on SwimmingWorld. While it is dated 2004, it is still worthy of attempting!

Here’s a photo of Ed Moses doing the drill.

Here’s the write up from SwimmingWorld:

This is an advanced breaststroke drill, performed with only one arm and one leg. The drill will force you to use the proper timing of “Pull-Breathe-Kick-Stretch”. If you are not using the correct stroke timing – for example, you are not stretching long enough — you will receive immediate feedback from the stroke and go nowhere.

Begin the drill by holding your left foot with your right hand (or vice versa). Always begin a new stroke cycle in a streamline position, with your left arm extended out in front of you and your right leg straight. Pull as close to your normal pull pattern as possible. As you begin the insweep phase of the stroke, lift your head to breathe. During the breath, bend your kicking leg, bringing the heel of your foot toward your hip. During the power phase of the kick, place your head back down into the water, and straighten your leg into your “streamline”.

The timing of the stroke is a fundamental skill common of all successful breaststrokers. You will find this drill to be almost impossible to perform without proper timing.

Let me know how you fare. I’ve given it a go and can’t begin to master this – yet. My knee surgery has my right knee a bit challenged by that much bending back.

By the way, I had the pleasure of watching Ed Moses swim (and win) the 200 yard breaststroke at the USMS Nationals in Arizona May of 2011. He went out in a 24 on his first 50. Ahem, a 24?!?!?

Jun 102012

On May 20th, I wrote a post on a drill for breaststroke timing. You can read that here. That post also gave a link to an article by Swimming World on breaststroke timing. This week I show another application of the drill I call “Pull Stop – Kick Stop”. (If you need a review of what the Pull Stop, Kick Stop drill is, you’ll see that at the bottom of this post.)

This drill is relatively simple. Apply the Pull Stop Kick Stop drill to a 100 yard breaststroke. The idea is that you start with a big separation between the pull and kick on lap one, and then reduce that separation on lap two, further reduce it on lap 3, and then lap 4 is done as normal breaststroke. Try a series of 100 breaststrokes in this fasion.

Here are the specifics:

  1. On lap 1, count “1-2-3” after the pull, before you execute the kick. Make sure you are in full streamline before you start your count.
  2. On lap 2, count “1-2” after the pull (in full streamline) before you execute the kick.
  3. On lap 3, count “1” after the pull, before the kick
  4. On lap 4, swim normal breaststroke. It is important that you allow your body to fully extend after each stroke. Finish your kick quickly and firmly, bringing your feet AND your legs together, and pointing your toes at the end of that kick. Get those arms fully extended and finish them close together up front (but not overlapping).

Some key points:

  • Work your streamline each and every stroke! You want to achieve that same type of streamline that your coaches ask you to do when coming off the wall. Arms full extended (although not stacked on top of each other), and touch your biceps to your ears. Eyes should be looking at the pool bottom.
  • Get your hips to come up by pressing your chest down when you are fully extended. Be careful not to point your hands or head down – just press your chest down. Pressing your chest down helps your hips to rise. Getting your hips up sets you up for a more powerful kick.
  • Start each pull with your thumbs down and palms facing the sides of the pool.
  • Keep your knees fairly narrow on your kick. Your first action of the kick is to bring both heels up to the side of your buttocks. Your feet should separate slightly on the draw up (of feet to butt) in order to prevent your knees from going wide.


Drill: Pull Stop, Kick Stop

This is a drill that can help in establishing timing between the pull and the kick. It also promotes “riding the glide” in breaststroke, driving the head down between outstretched arms, and finishing the feet before starting the pull.  

• This is a breaststroke separation drill where we separate the pull from the kick. Do a single pull of breaststroke with no kick at all (legs just hang out). At the end of the pull, dive your head down between your biceps into a tight streamline and stop or freeze in this position for just a moment. Without lifting your head or taking a breath now execute a single breaststroke kick with arms remaining in the streamline position. Finish your feet firmly and glide in this streamline position for a moment. Repeat the cycle through the lap.
•It is important to make a distinct stop after each pull and each kick. After you practice this for awhile, it should feel quite rhythmical. Once you have this drill down, begin to narrow the gap between the stops and eventually work it into a regular breaststroke. An accomplished breaststroker actually has a slight separation between the pull and when the kick starts. You’ll see that they initiate the arm pull first and about the time they are turning the corner to the insweep (from the outsweep) they begin to draw their heels up to start the kick. This requires a compact and speedy kick with a very quick heel draw.