Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.
The important law of inertia comes into play at several key times during the flip turn and the approach to the wall is one of them. If a body in motion truly wants to stay in motion then the worst thing we can do is slow down while approaching the wall. Yet nearly every swimmer does.
Why swimmers slow down as they approach the wall
There are two primary reasons why swimmers tend to slow down as they approach the wall. The first is that they fail to keep swimming to the wall. Too often, swimmers will use the T on the end of the black line on the bottom of the pool, as if that is a queue to stop swimming, and glide until they feel it is time to make the flip. With the compelling frontal drag forces imposed by the water on a swimmer’s body during that glide time, they begin to slow down immediately. Their speed drops like it is falling off a cliff. In such a case, by the time the flip is initiated from a much slower speed, more work is required to get the legs over the top and on to the wall than if the swimmer had elected to take another stroke and maintain a higher speed. It also takes more time to get there. Even a partial stroke is better than none and a glide.
The second reason that swimmers slow down as they approach the wall is that they lift their heads up, usually to see the cross on the end of the pool, in order to judge the timing of their flip. Lifting the head up, whether swimming or gliding, causes an immediate increase in frontal drag with a resultant slowing down. Even worse, since the head needs to drop down under water in order to make the flip turn, lifting the head and arching the back is moving it in the wrong direction. While the head lift may create a little more downward force, since it drops down from a higher position, the energy required to get it there and the loss of speed are not worth the trade.
To look at the “T” or not to look at the “T” (on the bottom of the pool)
While keeping the head down going into the turn, utilizing the T on the bottom to judge the distance to the wall, may be faster, it also involves more risk for the swimmer. Without actually looking at the wall, there is a greater chance of being too far out or too close to the wall, once the flip is made. In either case, the penalty is greater than the reward. More time will be lost on the turn than if the swimmer looked up and nailed the wall.
The only effective way to prevent this problem is by practicing the “no look” turn over and over again, and by doing so at or close to race speed. With enough practice, a swimmer can learn to make the turn accurately at high speed and without looking straight ahead at the wall ahead. Or a compromise is to look at the bottom of the wall, rather than the cross, resulting in less head lift. The only exception is when the pool is extremely deep or with a deep-water bulkhead. In those situations, looking up is necessary. Otherwise, remember ‘fast in…fast out’. Keep the head down and swim to the wall.
Watch the video: http://www.theraceclub.com/videos/fast-swimming-techniques-freestyle-flip-turn-the-approach/
Read more about the Approach in the Freestyle Flip Turn: http://www.theraceclub.com/aqua-notes/flip-turn-part-approach/
Yours in swimming,
https://www.linkedin.com/pub/gary-hall/9/908/671 [email protected]
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