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!

Sep 022015

Great article on Backstroke Starts appeared recently in SwimSwam featuring The Race Club’s Gary Hall Sr. and World Champion Backstroker Junya Koga. Key take away points:

  • Foot placement is key – shoulder width apart to get the most power
  • Hips should be above the water when in the ready to launch position
  • Head snaps back like you are looking for the other end of the pool upside down
  • Arms go up over the top (not out to the side)
  • Thrust the hips to the sky to help your back get the arch it needs
  • Start should be quiet – you slip through the water not crash onto the water
  • We need a backstroke ledge! Good news, we are in the process of getting one to fit the IVC blocks

Click here for the SwimSwam article that goes with this video below:

Apr 202015

This past week British Swimmer Adam Peaty absolutely smashed the world record in 100M long course breaststroke at the British Championships in London in an amazing 57.92. Below is the video of his race and his interview after the race.

A few things in his technique stand out:

  1. He ALWAYS returns to the line out front. Even with a very quick tempo to his stroke, he does not sacrifice getting completely horizontal after each stroke. Note how his head and chest drop below his shoulders.
  2. His hip slide is phenomenal! Watch how far forward his hips slide on the insweep of the stroke. Note how dry his back is and how the wave behind him stays low on his back.
  3. His undulation is mild with hips always at or near the surface.
  4. The timing between his pull and his kick is perfection. Slow the video down and you will see that he is almost in streamline out front as his ankles quickly draw up behind him kicking him into a beautiful streamline.
  5. On the pull his elbows remain high and his hand strike forward is in very shallow water.

Adam is only 20 years old. Wow!

In this version you get a little better look at him close up, but it is missing the turn. Adam is in the lime green suit in Lane 4.

In the next video here, you get to see the turn (along with the crowd’s reaction).

Jan 142015

I have been using USRPT since June 2014 as have a few swimmers on our Swymnut Masters team. To help my swimmers, I created this written guide that has undergone several revisions. Each time I update this guide, I will post a copy of it here. You can obtain a copy by clicking the image below.

Feel free to contact me about your own experiences with USRPT. We all learn from each other!

Ultra Short Race Pace Training Guide v3.5

Apr 092014

taper-timeYahoo! Swimmers are practically doing back flips because we have reached Taper Time. Beginning Sunday, April 13th, we start the 3-week taper for the Nationals held May 1-4 in Santa Clara.

A taper can be anywhere from 2-3 weeks long. I start our taper 3 weeks out in concept more than in design. For those on the team, you will have received our Swymnut Taper Guide by email (if not, drop me an email). The Taper workouts are constructed to work for both those actually tapering and the rest of the team not heading to the meet. As we progress through the taper weeks, you’ll notice those on taper exiting the pool earlier than the rest of you. Dang, don’t you wish you were going to the meet now? Either way, our non meet goers will not be forgotten. We’ll take good care of all ya all!

The first week of taper keeps our yardage totals pretty close to our normal 1-hour practices where we usually see total yardage (including warm up and warm down) in the 2800-3200 range. In fact, the whole idea of a taper is to cut volume incrementally to about 60% of pre-taper values just before the big meet. The first week of taper is about sharpening our focus on race strategy and stroke technique. We have some longer rest periods in that week, but need to maintain our aerobic base. We begin to bring down yardage week two and reach that 60% mark in the third and final week.

We need to maintain intensity of training, which is why you see a lot of sprint work or speed work indicated. The good news is that we allow much more rest in our sprint sets. Intensity also comes in the form of focus, so there is a lot of emphasis on good push offs, quality stroke technique, race finishes, and lots of time to work starts and turns.

It is important to swim frequently the weeks before and during taper. While we do want you to listen to your body and rest it as needed, we also need you to maintain your feel for the water. Come to practice and we will work together to analyze what you need that day. Just stay in the water to maintain your connection to it!

Distance swimmers (doing 500 or more) can add a little more yardage to the taper workouts. Remember, the key is “what is your 60%” yardage value?

And don’t forget, this whole Masters Swimming is all about having fun and staying fit. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Don’t analyze things to death. Don’t worry. Go, enjoy, and swim the very best you can that day, that event. Relish in what you are able to do not in what you didn’t do. Your well being and happiness are not dependent on the outcome of your race, so don’t beat the crap out of yourself when you stumble in an event or even at an entire meet. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from your experience, and know that there will be many more swim meets down the road. It took me years to realize this and it is one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn. Meets are now much more enjoyable than ever before and I hope they are for you as well!

Soreness often comes into play during taper. To understand why, check out this article from the Swim Sci folks:

Why am I Sore During Taper?

Nov 022013

Erica Sutherland has made the centerfold of the November-December 2013 issue of SWIMMER Magazine! The center of the magazine has the technique article, and this issue was on Backstroke Starts. When I was asked to write an article on this topic for USMS, it didn’t take but a second to realize who I wanted to do the modeling. Erica has one of the most amazing starts that we all want to emulate. Incredibly graceful and flexible, Erica launches like someone half her age.

Along with the article, we were privileged to have USMS film a segment on Backstroke Starts. That video is embedded here. Enjoy!

This was our second Swymnut taking centerfold status this year, with Jimmy Nam appearing in the July-August issue. That article was on 5 Missteps in Breaststroke Arms and the accompanying video to that article appears here.

Thank you to both our swimmers for doing such a great job and representing Swymnut Masters in THE magazine for U.S. Masters Swimming.

Mar 312013

I focused on a previous post last week about the importance of Turns. Here is a pretty cool clip from Swim Technique covering turns for a 100 IM.

In the video, you will see that the swimmer shows two different back to breast turns. The first such turn is a Back-to-Breast Bucket Turn where you go straight over. The second turn is a traditional Back-to-Breast – touch the wall, spin the knees up, and get off the wall on your stomach. Which, I might add, he does very well. If you watch this movie in QuickTime, use your arrow keys to proceed through the video frame by frame. That is a great way to slow it down so you can see every nuance.

The Bucket Turn is an older version that can be fast. I have a variation of that style turn where I make my flip go over one shoulder instead of straight over. For some reason this is definitely faster for me. The Bucket Turn and the Crossover Turn below are ways to significantly speed up your Back-to-Breast turn once you master the technique. However, you need to make sure you set up with a good breath going into the wall as it takes some explosive energy to execute. I’ve got this mastered for a 100 IM, but for a 200 IM, I feel a bit more winded and therefore do a standard Back-to-Breast open turn.

Here is a clip of Ryan Lochte doing the Back-to-Breast Crossover Turn – also known as the Suicide Turn. Click Turn Back To Breast Crossover Locthe. A GREAT turn and now THE common turn among elite swimmers. But it is also known as the Suicide Turn. Why? Because there is a high risk of getting disqualified. When swimming backstroke, you must finish the lap and your touch on your back. The touch on this turn is driving the lead arm up and over across your body on that final touch. The danger is that it is incredibly easy to wind up touching on your side. As you can see on Ryan’s clip, Ryan dives his left arm over across his body lifting his left hip to air. He then tucks his chin, folds at his waist, spins his knees to his chest, drives his head to his knees (getting incredibly compact),  and leaves the wall at a slight angle on his right hip.

Here is Eric Shanteau with the same turn.

For a step-by-step guide to the Crossover Turn, this is one of my favorites.

For a more detailed look at a Fly to Back turn check out this clip.

For a Breast to Free turn, check out this clip.

And finally, this clip from GoSwim has some very sage advice about how to work turns into your practice. Some solid technique is shown in this one.

That should keep you all busy and out of trouble. Now go practice those turns!

Mar 232013

Having had a chance to watch and compete in a masters swim meet today, I was again struck by the importance of turns. This meet was a sprint meet – the USF March Madness Meet that consisted of 50s and 100s. Starts and turns are a HUGE part of races that short and you want to make sure you are absolutely solid on your turns.

In practice – attack those walls and do so at race pace. Set aside a couple of 25s at the end of practice that you do from mid pool. Build yourself up to an all out sprint into and out of the turn. You’ve got to practice them at speed so that you are on auto-pilot on race day. Be aggressive! You’ve got to take momentum into the wall to get momentum off the wall.

On open turns (fly, breast, fly to back, back to breast) the first bit of speed comes from staying low and compact going into the wall. The second bit of speed comes from spinning your knees up hard and fast to get those feet planted on the wall. The third bit of speed comes from getting into (and quickly) the most efficient streamline you can establish. The fastest you will ever be is off the dive. The second fastest you will ever be is coming off the wall on your turns. It is worth every bit of time you have to “sweat the small stuff” and practice, practice, practice.

For specifics on turns, see my post on Open Turns from February 3, 2013. You can find that article here. There is also a freestyle flip turn drill from August 2012 here.




Feb 032013

dog_flipturnTime to brush up on those open turns we do so many of in practice.  “Why coach, why?!?”  Hmm, well because “I told you so” just isn’t going to fly with you masters swimmers, let’s give you a few “whys” behind how open turns can be your best friend, just like Fido here.

It is really easy to get sloppy in doing your turns. Sometimes it is fatigue, sometimes it is laziness, sometimes it is inattention or sometimes it is even because you just don’t know how. Whatever the reason, it is the simplest thing to stick with once you nail down the mechanics. Here are some benefits of fine tuning those open turns.

  1. Save energy
  2. Save time
  3. Be faster than the lane next to you! :-)
  4. Feel and look like a pro! We know what that means to you…
  5. Prep yourself for competition – you know you want to :-)
  6. Spare an injured body party – say your back – from the load it takes from flip turns and do so without sacrificing too much efficiency!

This post at Swimming World has a pictorial step-by-step guide for freestyle open turns.

This post, also at Swimming World, has a pictorial approach to breast and fly open turns. Now you can see the similarities once you have touched the wall.

And for a video on this, check out GoSwim’s Freestyle Open Turn Sequence which is done in a 4-part series.

Freestyle Open Turns Step #1

Freestyle Open Turns Step #2

Freestyle Open Turns Step #3

Freestyle Open Turns Step #4

Go out there and make us coaches proud of those super efficient and speedy turns!

Oct 282012

Kaity and Susie with her sleek kayak

The idea for today’s post comes from a presentation on freestyle that I attended at the 2012 USMS High Performance Camp in Greensboro, NC. It was given by Coach Stu Kahn, Davis Aquatic Masters and 2012 USMS Coach of the Year. Not only is Stu one heck of a coach, he is also one great friend! 

Did you know that water is roughly 800 times more dense than air? Yup! What does that mean to us swimmers? Our speed in the water is dependent on two forces that act simultaneously. Those forces are resistance and propulsion. According to Coach Stu, up to 91% of a person’s energy is lost through drag. Whoa! Ok then, drag equals resistance. That means to be efficient in the water we need to really work on minimizing our drag, because resistance is the force that holds us back. Propulsion is the force that pushes us forward.

Think of propulsion as a bigger engine. Think of resistance as the hull on a boat. A long sleek hull moves faster through the water. I know this well because one day I went kayaking with fellow coach Susie Powell. She has an incredibly sleek kayak (in the photo for this article), and I had a rental kayak. My body is bigger than Susie’s and stronger. Yet, for every stroke she took, I took 3-4 strokes. Hmmm, I quickly had kayak envy! I had propulsion, but she had minimal resistance and that made her faster in the water.

As Coach Stu says, “Increasing propulsion is building bigger motors. It is time consuming.” Decreasing resistance is your best and fastest way to gain speed in the water. It is about reshaping your vessel. Susie’s kayak was long, narrow and very light. My kayak was short, wide and heavy. We need to learn how to make our bodies long, sleek and narrow in the water. This can be done, no matter what shape you have. So no excuses!

The way to do this is to work technique over training yards. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you keep your focus on your technique, and work to minimize resistance in all phases of your stroke. You can still get some decent and even extreme yardage in, but at every practice you should “sweat the small stuff” and find ways to combat resistance.

One way to reshape ‘your vessel’ is to minimize the surface area of your body as it travels through water. Take a look at this drag coefficient chart of different shapes.

You definitely don’t want to be the cube! Maybe that’s why we all liked those high tech suits. They, uh, reshaped our vessel! Seriously though, if I work to smooth out my torso by drawing in my ribs (or pulling in my belly button), I flatten the back and trim resistance in that one spot – and it works for any stroke, start or turn. If I reach long in my stroke and enter straight out from my shoulders (free, back and fly), I help the water draft around my body with less drag. If I keep my legs kicking inside my hip line (flutter or dolphin) instead of splaying that can happen on freestyle and backstroke, or bending my knees too much on butterfly, I’ve found another way of lengthening and reshaping my hull.

Head to the pool and become hyper aware of how you line up and move your body through the water. Think about the concept of the cylinder that I brought up in a previous post. Work to minimize resistance first, then build a bigger engine and find that propulsion.