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 032012

You ever feel like the top half of your body is disconnected from the lower half? Well, perhaps not. But as a swim coach, I can tell you that a whole bunch of you seem to suffer that fate. 🙂

It’s true. One of the biggest flaws easiest to spot from deck is the swimmer who seems to have an odd ability to separate their torso from their legs. The two body areas seemingly work against each other instead of in sync. We try not to snicker too loudly. Truth is, we all remember feeling like that at one time in the water. Well, if you’ve been told you might suffer this  fate, then this drill is for you. For those of you who think you are oh-so-fine-and mighty…give this drill a whirl. Just may surprise yourself.

Ok, the drill is called the Sailboat Drill. Actually, I’ve seen this in all kinds of postings, but this particular posting refers to it as the Sailboat Drill. Pretty simple to explain. Maybe not so simple to do.

Hold a kickboard between your thighs. Make sure half the kickboard is sticking below your body when you swim freestyle. Use your core muscles to control your hip rotation. Beware, the board works against your efforts! Ah yes, one more tip. Have the board oriented vertically, not horizontally.

Now if you are a freestyler and can handle this drill with ease, flip over and do the same thing with backstroke. Aha! Gotcha.

Now go back and master the Sailboat Drill. Share it with your gutter buddies. Have fun laughing at each other as you work to hold those boards in place.

May 272012

As with breaststroke, butterfly is considered a “short-axis” stroke where you use your hips in a forward-backward motion to generate rhythm and kick. Most people try to power through fly, relying predominately on their arms and upper body and a kick that is just too hard with too much knee bend.

Butterfly is often seen as one of the more difficult. Yet, done properly, it is rhythmical and beautiful and the good flyers make it look effortless. They’ve learned how to minimize resistance and finesse the water. That is what we are trying to do with butterfly drills.

The foundation to a relaxed and fluid butterfly is the ability to undulate your body. Instead of relying too much on your arms or legs, you really want to rely on pressing your torso. Minimize the bend in your knee – try to keep it well under 90 degrees – maybe 45-60 degrees at the most. Work to keep yourself from diving down at the front end of your stroke. Keep your arms low and skimming right over the surface of the water.

One way to set muscle memory for your arms in fly is this dryland exercise. Stand in front of a mirror with your hands by your side. Raise your hands straight out from your sides as if you were going to make the letter “T”. Now continue to raise them up to your head. Do this now in one slow movement? Feel how easy and smooth that movement is? That is the same movement you will do in the water.

For the drills this week, I have a few that focus on awakening your torso to the role it plays in swimming quality butterfly.

Chest Press

This drill is designed to help you feel the press and release in fly.

Go face down in the water (no fins) with your hands at your side, and undulate through the water. Press with your head and chest as you undulate lightly through the water. Think of pressing your lungs down into the water. This is not about speed and you are not kicking – simply pressing the water.

A more advanced version is to try this face down in the water (no fins) but this time you will have your arms out in front of you, just outside your shoulders and with your pinkie finger up at the surface (thumb down) while you press your chest between your shoulders. This requires some flexibility, which is a key component to good butterfly. Remember, this is not about kicking, but about working your torso. Done properly, you will feel the shimmy travel down your torso into your legs. If you struggle, try this with fins. If you still struggle, return to the first version above.

Hands Down Dolphin Kick

This drill is also designed to help you feel the press and release in fly. 

Wearing a snorkel (a GREAT training tool), kick dolphin kick face down in the water with hands down by your hips. Keep your shoulders and head flat on the surface with very little up and down. Keep your neck long. Kick from your hips. This differs from the above drill in that you are kicking on this drill. But remember to continue pressing your lungs into the water and establish undulation of your body with your kick. Feel the shimmy!

Single-arm Butterfly

This drill helps develop timing and emphasizes soft hands. Key to all progressions of this drill is to remember that fly is not “up and down”. It is now swum low and flat across the water with just a little undulation of your body and not big dives down–because you just have to crawl back up to the surface!

In this drill, focus on staying as relaxed as possible, keeping your shoulders and head on the surface and your feet in the water. On your first run through of this drill,  you will keep one arm down by your side and you breathe to the side of the stroking arm. Keep your shoulders up and hands down on the front end of your stroke. Make your entry soft with your hands. Skim your stroking arm across the top of the water, keeping palms “to the sky” and dropping the thumb in first up front on your entry.

Do this again and pick up the tempo. This is now more like a racing drill. With the increase in speed, you should be even flatter. Remember, keep your recovery low, right across the top of the water instead of trying to power through it. Try to find rhythm in this drill.

For the second version of this drill, leave one arm stationary up front and stroke with one arm. To find your rhythm, you should have a kick on entry and a kick on exit. Both kicks are soft – what you really feel is that chest press and slight undulation in your body.

The next progression is to leave one hand stationary out in front. This will keep your line a little longer and prepares you more for racing. This progression allows for a bit more rhythm, and a more shallow entry. Concentrate on relaxed recovery and rhythmic kicking. You continue to breathe to the side as your stroking arm is back behind you. Get your face back down and eyes looking at the pool bottom before your hand strikes up front. Remember to stay low across the water with your stroking arm. Here’s a link to an example of this approach at GoSwim. 

An advanced technique progression is to incorporate front-end breathing. Leaving one arm out front, swim one arm fly and, using proper timing and your shoulders, lift up just enough to sneak a breath in front of you. Don’t use your head to lift for the breath (slide your chin forward across the water) and get your head down before your hands enter up front.