It’s difficult trying to figure out how to flip turn on your own. Most people who begin swimming as an adult will never learn the correct way to flip turn simply because they never get taught. They go through trial and error but never seem to be able to ‘nail’ the freestyle turn correctly. There is one big mistake 90% of swimmers make when doing a turn.

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Most swimmers will use their arms to help them flip over in their turn. As they approach the wall they put their arms in front of their head and ‘scoop’ the water in a circular motion to initiate the flip. This not only slows down their momentum but it places their arms in the wrong position before pushing off the wall. A swimmer will need to overcome a lot of resistance to get their arms into the streamline position before pushing off.

The correct way to do a freestyle turn is to bring both arms to your side after taking your last stroke. Your arms will then remain by your side as you drop your head and put your chin to your chest and perform a dolphin kick to help initiate the ‘flip’ motion. As your body is performing the flip motion, your arms will stay in the same position as when you begun the flip motion and they will go into streamline position. As your feet hit the wall shoulder width apart, your upper body will be straight and streamlined with the hands together, and your legs will be bent at the knees ready to push off. At this stage you should be on your back or slightly rotated to a maximum of 45 degrees. As you push off the wall begin your rotation to your front as you perform dolphin kick off the wall or go back into your freestyle stroke.

The most important thing is to avoid using your arms to flip over, instead keep your arms by your side as your body flips. Your arms should then remain where they were when you begun your flip, and then they will be able to go straight into streamline position as you hit the wall

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Power words are words which if thought about while performing an action, can improve that action dramatically. For example, imagine a golfer lining up to sink a 6 yard putt on the 18th hole. He needs to sink this shot for the win. The pressure on him to perform is enormous.

Now pause for a moment. What do you think a professional golfer would be saying to himself? “HARD AND FAST…HARD AND FAST” or “STEADY…STEADY…”.

The latter of course.

In swimming it is no different. There are two power words which if thought about and repeated while swimming, your swimming will immediately improve. Not only in the way it feels, but in speed, in ease and in smoothness.

These two words are “LONG” and “RELAXED”.

Repeat them when you’re swimming.

“LONG” and “RELAXED”.

When I use this technique with swimmers who are starting out or have little experience, the results are dramatic. It’s common to have swimmers tell me they ‘finally get it’ once they experience swimming long and relaxed.

What do I mean by ‘long’?

Swimming ‘long’ means to be as torpedo like as possible. You should imagine yourself reaching for the wall in each stroke and pulling right back past your hip. The longer you can make your body the less resistance you will create and the faster you will go.

What do I mean by ‘relaxed’?

To go faster in swimming, you need to relax your body. Contrary to what comes natural when we attempt to speed up, you must relax your arms, your shoulders and your legs to increase your speed. Rather than swimming ‘tense’, relax your muscles and allow yourself to power through the water without fighting it. This is absolute key to swimming fast.

During your next workout, imagine yourself swimming ‘long’ and ‘relaxed’ and instantly see the benefits.

The best way to save energy in swimming freestyle is to rotate from side to side.

We rotate for a few reasons. It is important because it reduces the amount of drag our body creates in the water. Does it waste energy going side to side? It does and it doesn’t. Rotation does use energy (only a small amount) however we are using the momentum of our stroke to get from one side to the other. Also, by rotating it allows you to anchor your hand in the water and to move past that anchor much faster and easier than you would by swimming flat. Thus faster swimming!

How far should I rotate? Depending on your ability, most elite swimmers will rotate to about 45 degrees. This doesn’t mean you can’t! It may take some practice before you get this angle comfortably, but it is worth the effort once you do. Long distance swimmers generally rotate more than a sprinter would. If you are racing a triathlon or more than 400 meters in the water, work hard to rotate as much as possible for a longer stroke. During sprinting, it is best to limit your rotation slightly in exchange for a higher stroke rate.

What is the best way to work on my rotation outside of the pool? The best way is to increase your core strength (abdominal strength). This is good news! For guys it means you get to work on that six pack abs, and girls get will see a flatter stomach doing these exercises. The best methods for increasing core strength are prone hold and pilates. Prone hold is simple and can be done before bed each night, and pilates is an excellent way to improve your swimming muscles.

An important point in body rotation: Make sure your hips and shoulders stay connected. This requires a strong core as we mentioned earlier. Your shoulders should rotate with your hips and should move at the same time. It can work best by concentrating on moving your hips first and your shoulders second.

There are some common questions that pop up by new swimmers about how to breath properly in freestyle swimming. A swimmers ability to swim efficiently relies heavily upon getting the breathing correct. In freestyle swimming, body position needs to be correct before anything else. But for many, once they throw in breathing…it all goes haywire! This is a result of lack of balance and breathing by moving the head and not rotating the body to breath, plus a few other things.

These are the four breathing mistakes made freestyle, as well as how you can overcome them:

1. Not Getting Sufficient Air

There are a number of reasons this typically happens in freestyle swimming. To begin, make sure you breathe out all of your air before rotating to take a breath. When learning, there are some people who try to exhale and inhale while they are rotating to the side for oxygen. There just isn’t enough time to do this! Exhaling should only take place in the water in the form of bubbles. The timing might seem difficult at first, but eventually you will get accustomed to it. Second, you may find yourself sinking when you breathe. Be sure to roll to the side to breathe, and not rotate your head to look straight up. Practicing side kicking drills and shark fin drills, as shown in the Mastering Freestyle program with Australian Champion Sam Ashby will also help you with this challenge.

2. Your Leading (Extended) Arm Sinks When Taking a Breath

This is to do with lack of balance. When you take a breath, your other arm should be extending in front. For a lot of swimmers, the extended arm drops down into the water, dropping the elbow and sinking their body while trying to inhale. The side kicking drill and shark fin drill mentioned earlier will also help to improve this. Another useful drill that will help with this challenge is the fist drill which is also a part o the Mastering Freestyle program. This drill forces you to swim without the use your hands, therefore improving your balance in the water.

3. Sacrificing Speed While “Pausing” During Breathing

It’s typical for many swimmers to be cruising along feeling smooth and comfortable and then you take a breath and it feels as though you’ve lost all your momentum. To stop this, when you breathe, focus on first breathing to the side by having your mouth parallel to the waters edge, rather than breathing over the water. It may take a while to perfect, but once you do, it will get rid of the pause, and improve your speed overall.

4. Sucking Water In When Taking a Breath

In training, this can often occur because of #1 and #2 above.  There are numerous drills to practice which will help you with this such as the side kicking and shark fin drills, so too as one-arm drill. One-arm drill is simply a full stroke but with one arm while your opposite arm rests at your side. Breathe on the opposite side of the stroking arm. This dill isn’t easy but once you get you may notice a major improvement in your swimming!

In swimming, effective propulsive movements are SLOW to FAST.

In every stroke you reach long, feel the water, catch and then accelerate through the pull to the recovery.

A powerful stroke starts with an effective feel on the entry and then a strong catch. Once you have got that strong catch, it’s the acceleration through the stroke which makes all the difference.

A big mistake which amateur swimmers too often make is they pull through the water before they have reached long and ‘caught’ the water. Missing this step causes bubbles on the hand as the swimmer pulls through. This makes the stroke ineffective as the swimmer is pulling through air and not able to accelerate by holding the water with their catch.

During the ‘catch’ phase of the stroke (between the hand entering and the pull through) the main objective is to reach long to reduce drag, and to allow the air bubbles to leave the hand and forearm. Once they have left, the swimmer can begin the pull through with maximum effectiveness. The difference between pulling through without bubbles on the hand compared to pulling through with bubbles is many seconds difference.

If you can master the slow to fast movement with the arms and combine this with a ‘no bubbles’ approach to pulling through, you can drastically improve your swimming. It’s worth practicing the two disciplines until you get them right. It sure beats training harder and may allow you to improve your times with less effort.