View RSS Feed

Recent Blogs Posts

  1. Question: Backstroke Turns

    by , March 31st, 2019 at 01:17 PM (Rules Committee Blog)

    What is permissible in doing a backstroke turn?


    In backstroke, the requirement is for some part of the body to touch the wall at the turn. Prior to the turn, you are permitted to leave your back and turn over onto the breast in order to execute the turn. If you leave the back, only one single or double arm pull is permitted and you must initiate the turn before the conclusion of the arm pull. Any other kicking, pulling, or gliding motion that is separate from this continuous turning motion is not permitted.

    Note that swimmers are not required to perform what some people call a backstroke flip turn. You can also touch the wall with your hand or arm at the turn and do an ďopen turnĒ. Or, if you turn over on to the breast, you can touch the wall with your hand, as long as you donít take another pull, kick into the wall, or glide into the wall without initiating the turn.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair
  2. Changes to FINA Rules

    by , September 6th, 2017 at 08:01 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is a member federation of FINA - Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur - the international governing body for aquatic sports. Both USMS and USA Swimming follow the rules of FINA so world records and world top 10 performances can be recognized and so we can have consistency in the rules within the sport.

    FINA typically considers rule changes during the first year of the quadrennial (the year after the Olympics) when the FINA Congress meets at the World Championships. This is a long process that begins almost a year prior to the Congress when member federations have an opportunity to propose changes.

    The FINA Congress met on July 21, 2017 at the World Championships in Budapest. There were two changes approved to the swimming rules (those affect USA Swimming and USMS) and one change specifically approved for masters.

    The first change to the swimming rules is not really a substantive change at all, just a clarification in wording. FINA deleted a sentence from the rule that said "underwater kicking on the side is permitted". That does not mean that underwater kicking on the side is suddenly illegal in butterfly. FINA simply thought that the sentence was redundant and decided to take it out of the rule. The USMS rule does not have this language and since there is no change in how the butterfly will be judged, we donít need to change the USMS rules. Keep those underwater kicks!

    The second change affects the freestyle leg of individual medley and medley relay events. You might recall that in 2015, FINA issued an interpretation of the current rule that said swimmers cannot be in a position on (or towards) the back when swimming freestyle in an IM or medley relay event. This is because being in a position on the back constitutes a legal backstroke and swimmers are not permitted to repeat a stroke previously swum on the freestyle leg of an IM or medley relay (butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke). This interpretation had the unintended consequence of making it illegal to execute a freestyle turn and leave the wall on your back, even if only for a short time followed by a correction to a position on the breast.

    The rule change would still prohibit swimming in a position on (or towards) the back for most of the freestyle leg of an IM or MR event. But, swimmers will now be permitted to leave the wall on the back, as long as you return to a position on (or towards) the breast before any stroke or kick.

    The third change affects the timing systems required to set a world masters record. Previously, FINA accepted world records when timed with an automatic timing system (touchpads), a semiautomatic primary timing system (automatic start with a button finish), and hand-held watches. Less than 5% of world records in recent years were set with any timing system other than automatic (touchpads). FINA will no longer accept world record applications unless timed with an automatic primary system (touchpads). In the event of a touchpad malfunction, FINA will accept record applications from a one, two, or three button semiautomatic backup system. Buttons may only be used as backup in case of touchpad failure, they may not be used as the primary system for records.

    These changes are effective September 21, 2017. Since USMS automatically adopts changes from FINA, the IM rule will also take effect in USMS sanctioned meets on this date. With our upcoming USMS National Convention, we will be distributing the rule changes to LMSC officials at convention and prior to September 21 to ensure that everyone is informed of the changes.
  3. Butterfly Stroke Disqualifications

    by , July 4th, 2017 at 04:12 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    "Why was I disqualified in my butterfly event"? Most swimmers agree that butterfly is one of the most difficult strokes to swim, so it is not surprising that we get lots of questions about the rules. Here we break down the rules for the butterfly stroke and some of the common reasons for disqualifications.

    Beginning with body position, the rules say that after the start and after each turn, the swimmer's shoulders must be at our past the vertical toward the breast. (In one location, it says that the body must be "on the breast", but this is one of the confusing points in how the rules are worded. We use this language because it matches the FINA wording, but if you look closely "on the breast" in this context means the same thing as "towards the breast".) The swimmer is permitted one or more butterfly kicks underwater (but only one breaststroke kick), but only one arm pull, which must bring the swimmer to the surface. At the start of the first pull, the body must be on the breast.

    Does that mean that I can leave the wall on my side or without being perfectly on the breast? Yes, it does. Does that mean I can kick butterfly on my side underwater before I take the first pull? Yes, that is also permissible, as long as the body is on the breast at the first pull.

    Can I kick underwater as long as I want? No, because the rules also say that the head must break the surface of the water by the 15-meter mark after the start and after each turn.

    The arms must recover over the surface of the water. The glossary defines "arm" as the part of the body from the wrist to the elbow. Therefore, some part of the arm from the wrist to the elbow must clear the water surface during each stroke.

    A common infraction is when swimmers are attempting to recover the arms by moving them forward, but the body position is such that the arms donít break the surface the water before beginning the recovery. It is not sufficient for only the hands to break the surface, some part of the arm from the wrist to elbow must break the surface while the arms are moving forward during the recovery phase of the stroke. This does not mean that the entire arm must clear the surface of the water or that there needs to be a space between the bottom of the arm and the water surface. Typically, the officials will see this infraction clearly when standing behind the swimmer, but it can be called from the sides as well.

    Another common infraction occurs when swimmers take a partial stroke, then move the arms forward underwater from the breast before finishing the propulsive phase of the stroke. Sometimes this happens prior to a touch at the wall before the turn or finish. It most commonly occurs with incorrect body position or breathing and results from not being able to complete the propulsive part of the stroke without an adjustment.

    All movements of the arms must be simultaneous. That means that arms must consistently move together during all phases of the stroke, backward during the propulsive part and forwards during the recovery. Does that mean that they must be perfectly symmetrical? Not necessarily, but if the official observes one arm clearly ahead of or behind the other arm, that may constitute an infraction. A one arm pull, freestyle stroke, or other type of stroke would be a more obvious non-simultaneous arm pull.

    Reaching up to adjust the goggles? Also a non-simultaneous action. Stopping in the middle of the pool to catch a breath or wave to a friend? Definitely non-simultaneous movements of the arms.

    At the wall, a legal touch may be made at, above, or below the surface of the water, but must be made with two hands simultaneously. A one hand touch is not only a common infraction, but it is also one of the easiest things for an official to spot. The hands must be separated when the touch is made. In other words, the hands cannot be stacked on top of each other.

    Once a legal touch is made, the swimmer may turn in any manner desired. Stopping momentarily after the touch to hang on the wall and catch your breath? Thankfully, that is legal! As long as the body is toward the breast when the feet the leave the wall after the turn. However, walking on the bottom of the pool or leaving the pool is not legal in any stroke.

    What if I make a legal touch, stand on the bottom of the pool for a moment, and then push off the wall? You might be surprised to learn that this is legal. Although the rules say that it is not legal to stand on the bottom of the pool during the stroke in any stroke other than freestyle, the action described here occurs during the turn, not the stroke. And, the rules say that a swimmer may turn in any manner desired once a legal touch is made. Standing on the bottom before or after the turn is illegal, but during the turn is OK.
  4. Back to the Basics - Breaststroke

    by , February 10th, 2017 at 07:28 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    In our back to basics series, we are up to breaststroke. Breaststroke is the stroke with the most rules. I think it is also the stroke where the rules have evolved the most in the last couple of decades. When I started swimming summer league at age 8, I got disqualified most every time. But, by the time I was a teenager, I was a breaststroker and have been ever since. Maybe there is some kind of correlation between being an official and swimming the stroke with the most rules?

    Rather than cover everything comprehensively, let's break it down with a Q&A format on the different aspects of the stroke.

    The Stroke Cycle

    A cycle of breaststroke is one stroke and one kick, in that order. The definition of the cycle raises up a couple of frequently asked questions.

    What if a swimmer starts by taking a kick as the first action after a start or after a turn? Since the rules define the cycle as one stroke and one kick, in that order, starting with a kick is not in compliance with the rules. You must start each cycle with a pull.

    Can you swim breaststroke just by pulling and not moving the legs? No, both a stroke and kick is required for each cycle.

    Can you take a pull that is not followed by a kick before a turn or a finish? Yes, by rule, it is permitted to take an incomplete stroke cycle prior to a legal touch before each turn and at the finish.

    Can the head go below the surface of the water? Yes, the only requirement is that the head must break the surface of the water at least once during each complete stroke cycle.

    Can I take two pulls in a row without a kick? No, a cycle is defined as one stroke - only one stroke - and one kick in that order.

    Can I take two kicks in a row without a pull? What part of "A cycle is defined as one stroke and one kick in that order" is not clear?

    The rules say that the body shall be kept "on the breast". This is a trick because the rules use the language "on the breast" but in the glossary we define "on the breast" as "at or past the vertical towards the breast". So, the body and the shoulders do not have to be perfectly aligned, but the arms must move the same horizontal plane. If the officials judge that one arm is substantially lower than the other, then you could be disqualified, but the official should be looking at the arms, not the position of the shoulders.

    Does this mean I can have a shoulder that is slightly dropped during the stroke or at the touch? Yes, as long as the arms move in the same horizontal plane.

    The Underwater Cycle

    The rules say that swimmers are permitted to take one stroke and one kick while completely submerged after the start and after each turn. This is the only time when the hands may go past the hipline.

    Do you have to take an underwater cycle? No, an underwater cycle is permitted, not required.

    When must the head break the surface of the water? The head must break the surface by the time the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke. So, you can take one complete stroke, kick, and then the hands can drift apart, but then the head must break the surface before you start to pull at the second stroke.

    Swimmers are permitted one downward butterfly kick (use it wisely) at any time prior to the first breaststroke kick. Does that mean that the butterfly kick can come before the pull? Yes, or it can come during the first pull. Does that mean that a downward butterfly kick is permitted at the end of the first kick? No, the butterfly kick must be taken before the first breaststroke kick. Do you have to do a butterfly kick? No, it is permitted, not required.

    The Arms

    The rules say that the arms must be pushed forward together from the breast on, under, or over the water. Does this mean that the arms can break the surface of the water? Yes, as long as the arms move together, but the elbows must be kept under the water. The only exception is on the final stroke before the turn or the finish when it is permissible for the elbows to break the surface of the water.

    What if I reach up to adjust my goggles while swimming breaststroke? Since all movements of the arms must be simultaneous and the arms shall be pushed forward together, this action would be an infraction.

    What if I reach up to wave to my friend on deck while swimming breaststroke? Seriously? No, you cannot do that.

    The Legs

    The rules say that all movements of the legs must be simultaneous, in the same horizontal plan, and without alternating movement. The feet must be turned outward during the propulsive part of the kick.

    Can I do a scissor kick? No
    Can I do a butterfly kick? No
    Can I do a flutter or freestyle kick? No. (Are you getting the point here?)

    What if one foot is turned inward and one is turned outward during the kick? That is called a scissor kick - see above.

    Can my feet break the surface of the water? Yes! As long as this action is not followed by a downward butterfly kick.

    Turns and Finishes

    The touch shall be with both hands, simultaneous, and shall be at, above, or below the surface of the water. Once a legal touch has been made, swimmers may turn in any manner desired.

    Does that mean I can do a flip turn? Yes! As long you make a legal touch (two hands, simultaneously) and as long as the body is towards the breast when the feet leave the wall. Between the legal touch and the feet leaving the wall, you can contort your body any way you like.

    Can my head be underwater at the touch? Yes, as long as the head breaks the surface at least one during the last complete or incomplete stroke cycle prior to the touch.

    Are breaststrokers totally awesome for remembering all of these rules and swimming the toughest, most elegant, and unique stroke? Yes, of course, but that is not in the rules.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair
  5. Back to the Basics - Backstroke

    by , December 27th, 2016 at 12:52 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Happy New Year to all and best wishes for a great 2017 winter swim season! This month's blog entry continues our "back to the basics" series with a review of the rules and frequently asked questions involving backstroke.

    The Backstroke Start
    Last month, we summarized the rules for the forward start, but we know that backstroke starts are different. The backstroke start must be performed in the water. During the starting sequence, the familiar short whistles are still used to signal swimmers to remove all clothing except for swimwear and prepare for your event, and the long whistle is the signal to enter the water. Please enter the water in a safe manner - preferably feet first! For backstroke events only, there is a second long whistle which is the signal for swimmers "take their positions on the wall without undue delay". The second long whistle replaces what some swimmers might remember as the "place your feet" command.

    When assuming a starting position, the rules require swimmers to line up in the water facing the starting end of the course with both hands on the starting grips or the gutter. (Sometimes the horizontal bar with the starting grips is too high for some swimmers, so this rule means that it is acceptable to grab the gutter or the end wall if there is no gutter.)

    What about the position of the feet at the start? There is no explicit requirement for the feet to be placed under the surface of the water, but the toes cannot extend over the lip of the gutter and swimmers may not bend the toes over the lip of the gutter, before or immediately following the start. (What if there is no gutter? In "flat wall" pools with no gutters, we interpret this rule to mean that the toes cannot extend over the edge of the pool deck.)

    Upon the "take your mark" command, swimmers may assume any position that does not violate these rules regarding feet, hand, or starting position.

    The Stroke
    The rules say that swimmers must "push off on the back and continue swimming on the back throughout the race". The rules also say that "some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except that it shall be permitted for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn". This means that swimmers are permitted to kick underwater (any style of kick) after the start and after each turn, but the head must break the surface of the water within 15 meters.

    Sometimes people ask if different styles of backstroke are permitted. What about "double arm" backstroke or what some of us might have learned as "elementary backstroke" with a breaststroke kick? The rule only requires that a swimmer remain on the back throughout the race (except for the turn), so any stroke or kick variation is permitted as long as swimmers remain on the back.

    Many swimmers swim backstroke with a lot of body rotation. How far can a swimmer rotate along the body axis? In our glossary, we define "on the back" as meaning "at or past the vertical towards the back", so rotating up to 90 degrees is permitted throughout the race. Kicking on the side is permitted off of starts and turns as long as the swimmer does not rotate past the vertical towards the breast.

    The Turn
    The backstroke turn is sometimes complicated to describe. There is a pretty straightforward rule that "some part of the swimmer must touch the wall" upon completion of each length of the race. That means that an "old school" open turn is still permitted with a hand touch (or a head touch - ouch!). The swimmer can turn in any manner desired once a legal touch is made as long as the swimmer is still on the back when the feet leave the wall after the turn.

    What about a backstroke flip turn? Of course, a backstroke flip turn is also legal and commonly used during competition. Swimmers are permitted (not required) to rotate past the vertical towards the breast only during the turn. Once the swimmer has rotated towards the breast, one immediate continuous single arm pull or simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn.

    Now here is the important part of the rule that sometimes trips people up: "Once the body has left the position on the back, any kick or arm pull must be part of the continuous turning action". By the time the swimmer has turned and then completed the one permitted arm pull, the swimmer must initiate the turn. Any kicking into the wall or gliding into the wall without initiating the turn is an infraction. Any additional pulling is also an infraction. (This is one area of the rules where there are still some differences between organizations. High School and NCAA rules permit kicking and gliding into the wall.)

    What if I turn over, leaving a position on the back, intending to do a flip turn, but then touch the wall with my hand instead? Since the rules only say that some part of the swimmer must touch the wall, if there was no other independent glide, kick, or arm pull, this action is legal as long as the swimmer touches the wall during the one allowed continuous arm pull. However, if the swimmer takes another arm pull to make it to the wall, that would be an infraction.

    The Finish
    Finally, the rules say that the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back. No turning over or around to look for the wall!

    Many swimmers dive backwards for the finish in an effort to finish hard and reach for the wall. What if this technique results in the swimmer being completely submerged before the finish? Since the rule says that some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water, it would be an infraction if the official observes that the entire body is underwater. Generally, officials must make this observation while observing the swim before shifting their gaze to observe the touch itself. It needs to be pretty clear that absolutely no part of the body - not even a toe - is breaking the surface of the water. Most swimmers who dive for the wall will have the head, arm, and upper body submerged, but the feet remain above the water surface.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair
  6. Freestyle Follow Up

    by , November 27th, 2016 at 11:19 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    A commenter pointed out that I did not cover the 15-meter rule in the description of freestyle rules. That is correct and the 15-meter rule applies to freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly events. Swimmers may be completely submerged up to 15 meters after the start and each turn, at which point some part of the body must break the surface of the water. Swimmers may not be completely submerged after this point. The 15-meter points must be marked on each lane line. As with any disqualification, officials must determine that there was a rule violation beyond any reasonable uncertainty. So, either an official must be stationed at the 15-meter mark to make the call or it must be very clear to an official in another position.

    Also, in our freestyle blog entry, we discussed standing on the bottom of the pool. By rule, standing on the bottom of the pool during freestyle is legal, but not in any other stroke.

    So, here is a question to test our knowledge (careful, it is a trick). During a 200-meter butterfly event, a swimmer makes a legal touch at the turn. After the touch, the swimmer stands on a bottom of the pool for a few seconds to catch his breath. After doing so, the swimmer pushes off of the wall, assuming a legal body position, and starts swimming again. Should the swimmer be disqualified?

    Answer: No. Although the rule says that swimmers may not stand on the bottom of the pool during any other stroke (except for freestyle), this action in this case took place during the turn. The swimmer made a legal touch and can then turn in any manner desired. Because the action took place between the legal touch and leaving the wall with a legal body position, there is no disqualification.
  7. I spent the morning trying to bounce off walls

    This morning I swam the 5:45 workout with AG masters. I was sore in my shoulders and neck, and very tight in my hip flexors after yesterdayís meet, but everything loosened up eventually. Hereís what I did:

    500 scy warmup

    6 x 200 @ 3:00 [I alternated FR/BK by 25s, then by 50s, then by 100s, twice through]

    8 x 50, 1st 25 = stroke chimera (arms/kick = FL/FR, BK/FL, BR/FL, FR/FR, twice through), 2nd 25 = FR, all flutter kicking = fast

    4 x 100 Kick @ 2:00, alternating kicking on belly, side, back, side by 25

    8 x 100 FR @ 1:35, gliding in streamline position off walls as far as possible [I really loved this set. I was all superglidy bliss during itóI spent about half of each length with no stroking or kicking, just enjoying feeling the water around me and listening to all the various underwater noises before surfacing. It was like that wonderful moment of underwater stillness in BR pullouts, only times ten! Plus I finally felt all stretched out by the setís end. I need to remember to do this on my own if Iím feeling tight or stressed.]

    4 x 100 FR @ 1:30 with great underwaters [The idea was to keep the great streamlines off walls, and add underwaters and breakouts. The rest of the swimming was easy, which was good because working underwaters and breakouts really tires me out.]

    200 warmdown

    I entered nationals this morningóIím swimming 400 IM, 50 BR, 200 BK on Friday, and 200 IM, 100 FR, 50 BK on Saturday. Also, I was looking over the meet information printed in the magazine, and noticed that the description of Zoo Atlanta is pretty hilarious.
    Tags: atlanta, turns
  8. 5-15-09 Fast IM and IM Turns

    by , May 15th, 2009 at 01:19 PM (TJ's Blog of Slow Swimming!)
    11:00 AM to Noon at the Downtown YMCA (SCM) coached by Jann.

    400 free - every 4th length drill IM order
    8x50 drill (2 each IMO) on 1:10 - 2/1/2 fly, 6 kk and roll back, 2br/2 fly on breathing on the fly breast, 6 kick and roll free
    8 mid pool 25s on :40 quality (great walls and breakouts) IMO turns as follows
    2 fly/fly
    2 fly/back
    2 br/br
    2 br/fr
    Discuss areas for improvement and repeat.

    Main Set:
    3x150 IM all out (without the free) on 4:00 - Ouch!!! Isn't there a law that says anything over 75 isn't really a sprint? Fort, I'm looking for some backup here!

    100 easy

    1750 meters
    Swim Workouts