View Full Version : Up-to-date freestyle turn technique for left-breathers

Fred Munson
November 28th, 2008, 12:15 PM
This is my first post on this Forum. I have been a master swimmer competitively active at the national level most years since my national debut meets in 1987. I presently compete in the 50-54 age group.

I would like to know if there is any consensus on this forum as to the best way a left-breathing freestyle swimmer can execute the most current flip turn technique.

I am on a quest to improve my flip turn technique. Earlier this year I took some lessons on turns from my personal coach. I also read with great interest Beth Baker's article on turn technique in the July-August 2008 USMS SWIMMER. The technique illustrated in this article was exactly what my coach instructed me to do. I also watched carefully the turn technique of the freestyle swimmers in the 2008 Olympics and the 2008 U.S. Trials, and concluded they too, including Michael Phelps, do the turn technique my coach instructed.

The problem is that if I do the freestyle turn exactly as my coach prescribes (and I can do the motions), I finish the turn excessively taxed physically, because this technique keeps me underwater and without breathing longer. At my present abilibty level, I can't repeatedly do this turn in a hard set or a distance event.

My normal flip turn technique has been to push off the wall with my body in a side position; once on my stomach I take the first stroke with my right hand and breathe at the end of the first left-hand stroke that follows. Instead, with the up-to-date turn, you are supposed to push off on your back and rotate 180 degrees in a streamlined position as you are coming off the wall. Once I am on my stomach, my coach told me that I am to take the first stroke with the left hand. Therefore I do not end up breathing until I take the next stroke with the left hand. When I eventually take a breath, I see that I am farther past the flags than with any other turn technique, but I am really tired!

Now, most of the great US Olympic swimmers whose turn technique I observed, including Michael Phelps, breathe to the right. My obsevations on Michael Phelps's turns is that once he takes his first stroke with the left hand, he then takes a breath when he strokes with his right hand. Since the right side is not my natural breathing side, it would be awkward for me to take a breath on the right in this manner, and the end result is that a right-breating swimmer would come out of this turn taking a breath a half a cycle sooner than I end up doing executing the turn as my coach prescribed. This is an advantage for the right-breathing swimmer.

Now, my questions is, considering that I am not Michael Phelps and never will be, and that I breathe to the left and need to breathe frequently to effectively swim a long distance event, is there a way I execute the modern turn technique so I reap the advantages of it without getting winded? Should I take the first stroke with the right arm instead? (I have tried this, but I get the feeling this significantly reduces the effectiveness of the technique.)

Any thoughts?


Fred Munson

That Guy
November 28th, 2008, 04:59 PM
I breathe to the left, and typically take at least 6 streamlined dolphin kicks off each wall. As a result I get winded and don't worry about breathing on my first stroke. Do whatever works best for you, even if that means doing open turns instead of flip turns. "The clock does not lie."

November 29th, 2008, 08:32 AM
I'm in the same situation, real old, left side breather, trying to master that back down push off on the flip turn and trying to get 1 full stroke in before breathing. I've come to the conclusion it can't be done with 60 year old lungs, so I just use 3 dolfin kicks, right arm stroke, then breathe on the subquent left arm stroke.

Typhoons Coach
November 29th, 2008, 05:53 PM
Fred, in my coaching opinion I would say to try to learn it as best as possible, but if it doesn't "click" then go for what is more comfortable. Or, try to shorten up the dolphin kicks to make them more efficient (if possible) and less of a strain on you/your lungs. I can't really give criticism without seeing the turn, foot position, fly kick, streamline, etc. But, I can say that (based on the information you posted) it would be hard to nit-pick little things.

When are you breathing prior to the beginning of the turn (flags, 1 stroke before, etc)? Also, I'm sure you already do this, but do you consistently work breathing sets?

November 29th, 2008, 06:58 PM
Fred and Can't Wait
I agree with Andy on the virtues of avoiding strain. Turn so you can continue swimming -- and turning -- well on successive laps.
The distance you're aiming to swim should figure into the answer to this question. I seldom swim any distance of 200 or under and often swim 1000 or 1650, so my emphasis on the turn is to turn as quickly as I can, but as "lazily" as possible. I breathe to both sides, but more often to my left. I think about the following to get the fastest, least-turn.
1) Time my approach strokes to somersault seamlessly out of my final stroke -- i.e. minimize gliding.
2) If possible, time my breaths to take two in a row -- i.e. right/left or left/right -- right before the turn.
3) Tuck as tight as possible (chin to chest, heels barely clearing the water) to minimize resistance to my somersault.
4) "Throw water past my ears" at exactly the right moment in my somersault (as my heels are leaving the water).
5) Feet strike the wall quietly but solidly. If I'm swimming the 500, my feet strike level with the line of my pushoff. If I'm swimming the mile they strike a bit lower -- which will result in a pushoff line that will take me to the surface a bit sooner.
6) I focus more on streamline than kicking coming off -- another energy saving measure. In fact I often do no-kick pushoffs in training to force me to improve my streamline and balance on pushoff. You can see more details on this in a blog I wrote (http://www.totalimmersion.net/blog/a-Voodoo-Speeda-a-Training-to-make-speed-a-happena-.html) earlier this week.

As I said above, my priority is saving energy. Even so, by working on these details I usually "win the turns" against peers in my races.

November 30th, 2008, 09:42 AM
thanks for the tips!! will try them out.

December 2nd, 2008, 09:35 PM
I seem to recall reading that after the pushoff (or start) your first stroke (pull) should be done with your stronger arm so as to keep the momentum.
Odds are if you're a left-side breather that your right wing is stronger (that does NOT mean that right-side breathers are mostly southpaws.....)

December 9th, 2008, 09:19 AM
I breathe to the left and I have found it to be much easier when coming into the wall to breathe just before taking your second-to-last stroke into the wall and as I stroke the last time I have a hard dolphin kick to initiate the turn as well as my leading atm pulling down to my side preparing for streamline.

It was tough to get this down but it works, the turn is quite quick and gets me off the wall with enough force that I can accelerate.