Racing Into Your Turns (Part 2 of 2-Part Flip Turn Series)

see Part 1

By SwimSwam Partner Content
February 07th, 2020

courtesy of, a SwimmersBest brand

Most swimmers are given lots of training on the fundamentals of their turns. However, there are 2 turn problems that get worse and worse with endless practices:

  1. the approach into the turn, and
  2. the set-up to leave the wall with speed. In this article we discuss the approach of the turn and the next article will address details on how to leave the wall with speed.
  3. We ‘give up’ most of our speed as we approach the wall. There are several flaws that can be seen in most competitive swimmers: 1) they stop stroking too far away from the wall, 2) they look up and stare at the wall, 3) they stop kicking and glide into the wall, and 4) after they stop kicking they throw in one last double-leg down kick to counteract the effort to throw their head down. All 4 of these problems are quite universal in the industry and it is easy to understand how this happens when we take a turn about every 15-18 seconds for hours every day of the week. But these flaws are guaranteed to creep into our ALL of our races. When it comes to our turns, we need to agree that ‘JUNK IN = JUNK OUT’. If you go into your walls slow with these 4 bad habits, you will come out slow, no matter how well you carry out the details of the turn itself. These 4 bad habits suck speed out of our turns hundreds of times per day. Habits like staring at the wall will NOT go away on race day when we are in a strange pool. These problems have to be fixed every day on every turn.

    We don’t need high tech equipment to explain why these 4 problems will suck out our speed do we? 1) stop stroking too far away from the wall = slower, 2) look up and stare at the wall (i.e breaks our streamline, creates a ton of frontal drag, and mentally we need time to process what we see) = slower, 3) stop kicking and glide to the wall = slower, 4) double-leg down kick = slower and more energy. Want to cut your best times… fix your turns in every practice to erase the muscle memory you have created.

    Improving Your Approach to the Walls – the Fundamental Changes:

    1. Retrain your focus through the last 2-3 strokes. Timing is key to drive through your turn. If you don’t time your last stroke with the engagement of your turns, ALL of the 4 problems we reviewed will come right back into reality.
    2. DON’T look up. Once you look at the wall, you are now out of position to use your forward momentum to help drive your chest down. To prove this to yourself, test how much downward force you can get by simply nodding your head and bowing at the waist. Swim in the middle of the pool (no walls needed for this) and as you engage your last stroke, nod your head into your chest – notice how your body will drive down as the force hits your shoulders. Next do the same drill but nod as you engage your stroke and ‘bow’ at the waist as you finish your stroke. You will now feel tons of FREE energy driving your buoyant chest down under the water. This is the force you need to use instead of throwing your head down as you dolphin kick and waste tons of core energy!
    3. What you see is what you get! Stop looking at the wall! Not only does this prevent you from using your ‘nod/bow’ forward momentum, but it distracts your eyes. You don’t have time to allow your brain to process your timing and distance from the wall! This is really the core of why you go slow into your walls in practice. Your body and brain needs time to react to what you SEE. So you stop stroking, stop kicking and stare at the wall so you can decide when you are close enough to exert all the wasted energy into your turn. Your brain can not possibly respond as fast as you can move so instead the body slows down. LOOK AT THE FLOOR and use the end of the lane ‘T’ to tell you how far away you are from the wall. All pools are the same from the T to the wall. The T won’t move… the wall won’t move.
    4. Power your last stroke. Connect your ‘nod’ with your catch’ and your ‘bow’ with the finish of your stroke and you will create more momentum to drive your chest down instead of using so much of your core muscles and cardio effort.
    5. Kick through your turn. Many of you will be convinced that I am wrong about how much you need a double-leg down kick (dolphin kick) into your turn and others don’t realize they do it in the first place. First this is only because you didn’t try out my drills to test the ‘nod’ and ‘bow’ process so you are using your core to engage your turn. You are ‘slamming’ your head down and trying to press against your dolphin kick to get your raised head down under the water. But your dolphin kick doesn’t hit a solid object or a trampoline, it hits water which absorbs your momentum and now your feet are 2 feet under the water as you pull them out of the water and cause yourself even MORE effort and lost energy. But hey, you do you boo.


      Start Fixing your Problems:
      Study the Fundamentals:Test the nod/bow process away from your walls to learn to use your ‘free’ downward force from your forward speed (see video example).

      Train with Resistance Regularly: Stretch cords provide ideal ways to highlight all the points in which you are slowing down into the approach of your flip turns. The new stretch cords by provide completely new ways to adjust cords to target precise turn training for any swimming level. Their cords include adjustable tethers to allow precise distances from a wall to make it very hard to flip turn without getting pulled away from the wall. When adjusted correctly swimmers can feel the impact of every detail we have reviewed in this article. When you look up, stop stroking, stop kicking, etc… you will loose precious forward motion and get pulled away from the wall (“denied’) and not allow you to get your feet firmly on the wall. Being attached to a stretch cord will also force you to get in streamline instantly as there is no time to hesitate before you will be pulled off the wall.

      The first product available is the Long Cord with Quick Change. These kits consist of 2 long cords that, when combined, can be stretched 25 yards long (or an upgrade tether will allow 25 meters). Each kit comes in optional intensities and a chart is available to select intensities for each swimmer level to ensure each can reach 25 yards with the right cord. Since these kits include 2 half length cords and 2 belts (with quick connect carabiners) you can split each kit into matching 2 sets for 2 swimmers. The half length cords can be attached at the middle of the pool to allow 2 swimmers to use each kit and train their turns at the same time. This configuration of the ONE Long Cords is ideal for ‘ins and outs’ or ‘outs and ins’ turn training. Swimmers can regularly erase weeks of lazy turns in practice and quickly retune their flaws and delays in their turns.

      The second product by ONEswim for turn training is the Lane Line Stationary Swim Trainer. This kit can be used with 2 adjustable side tethers. It can be used for tethered swimming or for turns. The stationary kit can alternatively be used by attaching the 2 stretch cords together directly between 2 lane lines and then the tether can be attached straight up the center of the lane to the swimmer (single point attachment instead of 2 side attachments). This flexibility allows you to choose different configurations for different strokes or turn options.

      All of the ONESwim stretch cord products include adjustable tethers to allow you to extend or shorten the distance from the swimmer to the attachment point. The swimmer can easily make adjustments while they are tethered. The ONE stretch cords also rotate on the belt to improve natural body rotation compared to competitive products that are sewn to the belt. Additionally, since all parts of the ONE stretch cords are independent, it is cost effective to interchange parts or replacement parts as needed without buying entire new kits every year.

      Fix Your Problems Everyday: Once you have tested how the ‘nod/bow’ can help create fast turns with less cardio/core energy output, and then fine-tuned your turns with resistance stretch cords, hopefully your eyes are now wide open to ways you can greatly improve your race times. It should now be easy to make a plan to beat the swimmers that got mad when I suggested they shouldn’t dolphin kit into their turns and stopped reading! So now you need to agree that you have engrained habits during practices that need to be addressed every day. Here are my suggestions:

      1. Start by changing 1 thing at a time: Start by focusing on your eyes for a week (look at the floor, not the wall)… this is easily followed by working on your ‘nod/bow’ to use your forward momentum to your benefit, then work on a constant kick into your turns… and lastly make sure you are taking your last stroke and not just gliding into your walls.
      2. Be sure you schedule a few times each month to use resistance stretch cord turns to focus on all the small details that can constantly make you faster. Where do you feel resistance? When do you feel yourself getting pulled backwards? What details do you change when you are tethered to a stretch cord from your normal flip turns? These are the things to focus on for the following few weeks of practice.
      3. Read next month’s installment for how to focus on cleaning up the way you leave your walls for part 2 of this article!