Since I have been writing this column, I have received – surprising to me – more inquiries about turns than I have about stroking. I have responded personally to each, but it now seems to call for a complete column.
The turns for all strokes follow the same pattern (reach and touch, reverse and breathe, plant and sink, push off and glide). Instead of considering different, stroke-specific turns, the swimmer needs only to learn the approach to the pool wall and reversal for each stroke that puts the swimmer into the common push-off position that presents the least resistance.
To those who ask about turns, I say that they already have the second half of a good turn if they have read my column of August 2016 on how to perform an efficient push-off: pause long enough to sink; place feet on the wall with toes pointed to the side; push through the chest while extending the arms and body; keep a dynamic balance, and develop the longest possible glide on both sides.
The first half of a good turn is the easier one. Let’s start with the “open” crawl stroke turn. If you are always holding your glide position, one hand will already be extended to contact the gutter or pool wall, with your trailing arm at your side, pointing at the opposite wall.
Use your body’s momentum and the wall’s resistance to let the bottom half of your body continue toward the wall. This reversal of direction puts you in the usual position for pushing off. Be sure to practice on both sides, and the resulting smooth rhythm should carry over for other strokes.
The backstroke turn works the same way, regardless of which hand glides into the wall. The other hand is left behind while the body reverses and sinks, the legs bending to place the feet (pointing to the side) for the push-off.
Both the breaststroke and butterfly turns are performed in the same way. As the swimmer approaches the wall with arms extended in the glide position, one arm can be dropped behind (this is not competitive swimming) while the body reverses direction as it does for the crawl turn.
That’s it – a relaxed glide on your side into the wall, a breath taken while your body reverses direction, planting your feet with toes pointing to the side wall, and then the push-off, still on your side.
An efficient stroke deserves an efficient turn.
Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor and coach who has recently published “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directly primarily to non-competitors. firstname.lastname@example.org