World-Class Walls: Elements of Elite Turns by Matt Kredich, University of Tennessee (2013)




All right, I am going to go ahead and get started.  I’m going to start with a quick story, about the evolution of turns.  This is a moment in history, not many people know this.  And there’s not a whole lot of history worth telling where I swam, which is Duke University; at least in terms of Swimming.  But this one’s good.  There was a guy who coached the Duke swim team for about 30 years, and his name was Jack Persons.  Anybody ever know Jack?  Jack was one of those coaches who could coach everything.  He coached Lacrosse, he coached Baseball and he played Football, ran Track; he was a champion boxer, back in the day.  And then he coached for/at Duke for 30-some years.  Phenomenal teacher of Red Cross, taught Red Cross for over 50 years; taught me all my first Red Cross certifications.  And he was a character; he was an absolute riot.


So, back in the late ‘40s, the flip turn had not been widely adopted.  As near as I can tell, the first person to do a flip turn in competition was Adolph Keifer in the ‘36 Olympics.  But by the ‘40s, it still hadn’t been widely adopted.  And information really did not flow very quickly back then.  There was no way to look-up what people across the country were doing on their turns, their starts, and so things moved slowly.


There is a really-good, young sprinter named William McKee at Duke.  And somehow he came on this new-fangled idea that he wanted to try in a swim meet and he was going to do this flip turn.  And so he went up to Coach Persons, and this is at a big meet.  He said, “Coach, I’m going to try this flip turn.  I promise you it is faster; I’ve been working on it in practice, just watch this.”  And Coach Persons said, “You will do no such thing.  You are not going to do a flip turn, we need to win this.  Keep that junk out of here, that’s a circus trick.”


So Billy got in there and swam the first length.  And he did a turn, a flip turn, and came off the wall ahead of this guy.  Did another turn, flip turn, came off the wall even further ahead.  And by the end of the race, he was a good body-length ahead.  Won the race for the team, got out, really proud of himself.  Ran over to Coach Persons: “What about that, Coach?”  Well Coach Persons, who, remember was an amateur boxer, slugged him in the stomach.  “Don’t you ever do that in a meet again,” he said.


So, sometimes we are slow to adopt things that are obviously faster, and that’s human nature.  But this talk is really… I am not claiming to be giving you anything revolutionary here—although there are a couple of things that may be thought of as blasphemous, we’ll see.  But this is a way to just stimulate thinking about turns, and give us some ideas about how you are approaching them.


So first of all we are going to talk about valuing turns.  What value do we place on walls?  And do the values that we display and the way we practice actually match what we say we value?  So here’s a map of a short-course pool—in fact, it is going to become a map of a race.  And the arrows represent the distance that we will call turns.  So off the wall, is everything from off the wall to the point where the swimmer exits on to the surface; and coming into the wall we have what we call the approach.  Okay.


So this swimmer is taking up a lot of their race time executing turns.  This one is doing less.  And you can sort of see that everybody brings a different kind of approach to walls.  All right.  What is the percentage then of time spent, or distance spent, on turns.  And some of those people are spending half of the distance of the race executing some element of a turn—half.  And even the people who are approaching a turn as something to get-through and get-out-of really quickly are still going about 7 meters out of every 25; as a: stroke in, a jump off, an underwater travel, and then a stroke onto the surface.  Okay?  And those skills are taking-up 7 yards out of every 25; that’s a pretty big percentage.  So the bottom line is: it’s a big part of the race.


Now, how much time do we spend focusing on making turns better?  And by we, I mean, we as coaches.  Because I can hear some of you now—I have said it before too—your thoughts are probably as old as the sport itself: we focus on turns every time we do them.  Right?  You’ve said it, I’ve said it.  If you want to work on turns, work on it now.  You do a turn everyday; you do a turn every length.  Well, I think we’ve got to get away from that idea, because, like I said: it is as old as the sport.  And if that approach, think about it when you do it, therefore you’ll get better,  if that approach hasn’t worked—and I don’t think it has, I think we’ve stagnated—then we need a different approach.


In a long course pool, I’m going to tell you, it is not really even… it is not much different.  The distance that we spend swimming is different, but it’s possible that the importance of a turn may be even greater.


Let’s say you use the entire 15 meters: that’s still only 30% of the race.  But what I would like you to visualize is actually the effect of the exit.  And I am using the term exit as the moment where you break the surface of the water and switch from underwater propulsion to propulsion on top of the water.  It is a violent moment and therefore it can be called a breakout; but we don’t want it to be violent, so we are going to call it an exit.  You are exiting kind of from one room into another; from one way of being in the water to another.  Breakout sounds like you are getting out of jail; exits can be graceful and should be.


Okay, what are the highest speeds that a swimmer reaches in a race?  Certainly off the start; but then off the wall.  The second-highest speed you reach in a race is coming off the wall.  By logic then, there has to be some kind of deceleration between that high-speed off the wall and the speed that you are creating on the surface; there has to be deceleration.  And there is also going to be a decay rate, a deceleration, down the pool.  That is happening.  It is not automatic, but if we were to analyze the velocity at each moment in the length, we would find that people slow down.  The faster swimmers slow down less than others, but people do decelerate.


And I am going to say that this moment where you exit, from underwater to on top of the water, is going to determine the rate of deceleration in the rest of the length.  So the velocity/speed that you are carrying underwater, if you are carry that to the surface, then the rate of deceleration and the total deceleration will be a lot less.  And you can imagine it.


Imagine a swimmer taking their first stroke six inches below the surface of the water and coming to a stop.  Okay?  Their initial speed is going to be slow; and at any point probably other than after the first turn in the race, they will not accelerate.  Their initial speed, that’s what they have got to deal with, and that length is doomed.  In a long-course pool, that length is doomed for a longer period of time than in a short-course pool.  So the cumulative effect could even be greater.  And if you nail it, if they are coming out of the water, coming through the exit with the same velocity that they created under the water, then their deceleration is going to be less.  And that’s multiplied over the remainder of the 35 meters and that gives them a distinct advantage.  So the rest of the quality of the rest of the length is affected by the quality of the exit.  Alright.


And this is just a graph that kind of represents…. (Might not have chosen the colors well but) the yellow swimmer is coming off the wall with the same speed as the gray one.  But the deceleration.  Let’s say the grey swimmer has a really-good impulse, acceleration almost, right before the surface; and then it’s too early, so there is a huge deceleration and then they decelerate from a slower point.  And probably at a greater rate than the swimmer who has a smooth exit and no deceleration through the surface, or at least limited deceleration through the surface.  So it could be possible that the turn is even more important in long-course swimming than in short course—something to consider anyhow.


So the next part is… this is an example of why it doesn’t work to say we work on turns all the time; every time you do a turn, we are working on a turn.  And I gave this talk in Australia, and this is a challenge: watch people pass at basketball and you’ve got to count the number of times they pass the basketball.  The players wearing white, only; not the players wearing black.  Okay?  The Australians weren’t very good.  Americans watch more basketball, I want you guys to nail this; for American pride, Team USA, right here.  Ready?


What is your count?  Who saw a guerilla?  You are way better than the Aussies.  Alright, the point of that experiment is probably obvious: the instructions that I gave you were not to look for the guerilla—if we had given you the instruction to look for the guerilla, you would have easily seen the guerilla—they were to count the passes of the people wearing white.  And I even did something to try to focus you even more, make it a little more meaningful, on the passing: tap-into the national pride here.  So even though a guerilla clearly passed through the picture, a lot of people still didn’t see it.


So let’s apply that to we work on turns every time we do turns.  Well, by that logic, we work on everything, every time we do it.  And we do: we experience it, we get better at it, we are practicing it.  Everything that we do, everything that we practice, we get better at.  But the intention you bring to it is what really defines the progress you are going to make.  And if we are focusing on heart rate, and focusing on stroke length, and breath timing, and times; then the turn is sort of a causal experience.  And that’s okay, there is a time for that.  But if we want to get better turns, we can’t say: well you should have gotten better because you did them.  I hope that makes sense.


So, how do we visualize turns?  How are they different than some of these moves here?  Imagine if you were to practice these moves here the way we practice turns.  These are guys doing fairly dangerous stunts; it’s tumbling, it’s acrobatic, it’s incredibly athletic.  And that’s what we are asking people to do on turns.  But the big difference in Swimming is: there is no danger in doing a turn wrong—there’s nothing that we are risking.  These guys, if they don’t do it right, then there is going to be some pain.  And this is probably… for every one video of hardcore that’s kind of spectacular, there are three or four of them that are spectacular in terms of the injuries that are being captured on video.  So there is a tremendous amount of danger, so there is tremendous amount of incentive to do it right.  There is not as much incentive [in Swimming] because there is no danger in doing a turn poorly.  But the gymnastic ability, the athletic ability, that we are asking for from our swimmers, is really on par with what these guys are doing.


So I am going to talk about how we’ve kind of treated turns in the past.  It has been an evolution over several years.  I’ve gotten a huge kind of push this year.  Those of you at my talk earlier, I talked about the time I spent with Bill Boomer; it’s helped me a tremendous amount in kind of thinking about it and visualizing and practicing the turn, in terms of elements, in terms of specific skills.


And what we’ve done is we’ve broken the turn down into seven different segments:

  1. Starting with the approach,
  2. then moving to the rotation,
  3. the landing,
  4. the jump,
  5. flight, which is the period right after the jump, leaving the wall before you start to create any impulses,
  6. underwater, subsurface travelling,
  7. and then the exit.

Seven different pieces.


Within each stroke, these segments, these pieces make up what I’ll called forms.  This monk is practicing forms of kung fu.  And I don’t believe that I am overreaching in saying that turns offer the same kind of opportunity for growth as a martial art does.  We can work towards mastery on every part, and like in everything else that we do, mastery is seldom if ever achieved.  So here are our forms; they are not as graceful.  But these are some kind of snapshots of the way we practice the different elements and the different forms of turns.  And I’ll go over some of these; as I go through the talk, I’ll continue to show you examples so you can visualize them—I think it’s really important.  But what I felt like I was doing at one point was making a turn video, and I didn’t really want to make a turn video for this talk.


I want to stimulate thinking and ask you to kind of conceptualize some of these things, and then challenge you to take it a step further or multiple steps further in your own practice.  Because if we look at the evolution of Swimming, 20-30 years ago, people were not travelling very far underwater; 40 years ago, everyone was coming-up before the flags; 30 years ago, most people were coming up before the flags, off of every wall.  So who knows how many strokes per 100 we’ve lost in the past even 10 years.  It is going underwater and it starts at the wall.  So we are trying to get really good at this.


So there are a million different variations of the elements that you can put together to practice for turns.  And now I am going to talk—again, I talked a little bit this morning but I am going to talk again—about one of the main challenges to doing turns well and that’s our relationship with breathing.  I showed this slide earlier this morning.  And we talked… I’ll give you something you can all relate to.  We talked about this extensively for the past 18 months.



The fact is that what drives respiration is an accumulation of CO2 in the blood. The body interprets that as an acid.  If your blood becomes more acid, then a series of reactions kind of occur that increase blood flow to the peripheral parts of the body, decrease blood flow to the organs, increase heart rate, increase breathing frequency; that’s all reacting to CO2, it’s not reacting to a lack of oxygen.  And that’s why a lot of people struggle at altitude, because there may not be as much CO2 accumulation but there is a lot less oxygen and a lot of times respiration is not increased.


So we talked about this quite a bit and just this year we were going over it one more time, and we had three guys come up and say: I never knew that; I always thought we were trying to hold on to oxygen.  And you can see the trouble with that.  If the thought is, and this is the way I think most of us were taught, that breathing is all about getting oxygen in and then hanging on to it—if that’s the goal.  But in fact what’s happening is you are holding onto CO2 and it keeps getting worse and worse in terms of accumulation, then you are in a loop that you are not going to get out of.


So I think it is really important for swimmers to understand that the main function of breathing is to get rid of CO2.  Because that affects their mindset, it affects their… well, if they are panicked, a CO2 panic stimulates a flight-or-fight response.  And that changes—as I talked about this morning—it changes your head position.  In that kind of panic, people look for the horizon; that is the first reaction.  They are going to balance, they will look for the horizon.  So they have this kind of stabilization… they want to get stabilized in space so that they can do the next thing, and that doesn’t work well for Swimming.


And so when we do hypoxic work—and I am guilty of this—we would spend a lot of time in past years just doing a lot of 25s underwater, fast.  Underwater and then add-on to that.  And if you can’t hold your breath that long, if you can’t be fast underwater for 25, then shame on you; that was kind of the approach.  And I stopped doing that not because I had any kind of insight into what was really going on, other than: they weren’t getting any better.


They were not able to hold their breath any longer in races.  In fact, if I think back on it, it is possible they were getting worse.  And why is that?  Because what we were reinforcing was this panic mode that they were getting themselves to.  It was not all of them, but the majority of them, they were panicking.  And it was a survival issue: they were just trying to survive the set.  But we were not increasing comfort; we were just increasing compliance.  And that’s not really what I am aiming for, as a coach; not compliance.  I want our athletes to discover what’s best, discover what’s fastest; not just do what I say and especially if what I am saying is wrong.


So having a CO2 accumulation and CO2 anxiety is not optimal for skill acquisition, and there are a lot of potential problems with it.


So this diagram of learning I think really applies well to the exercise of learning to deal with CO2 anxiety.  So we want athletes to always have kind of a home base of comfort and safety in the water.  We talked about, this morning, ways that we tried to create that.  If they never leave comfort and safety, then they get bored and stagnant.  So our goal in coaching is to provide opportunities for them to take risks, move outside of the comfort and safety and risk; and that’s when they start to experience a little bit of CO2 anxiety.  Okay, there is a risk there.  Not quite full-on panic, but there is something starting to kind of bug them.  Hey, I need some relief pretty soon.


And if we allow them the chance to then breathe, once they experience that risk, take it a little further, see what happens.  Take it a little further, see what happens; take it a little longer, before you get your breath.  Just see what happens.  It is okay: if you need it, you get it.  Then they are carrying a different attitude into that challenge.  If they have to—if they have to go all the way and they have to reach a certain point and they know they have to—then panic can set in.  And that kind of experience is, I would argue, taking you backwards.


So the goal is to create an environment where they are constantly moving in-and-out of this kind of risk and comfort and safety.  One way we do that is to actually have them go to the bottom of the pool and spend some time there, and then come up for breath.  And they anticipate the breath and then we tell them: okay, don’t let yourself breathe; just come up to the surface and stay there and don’t let yourself breathe.  And then notice the anxiety: so it will rise and then it will shrink again, when they notice it.  And they know it’s okay; no one is going to hit them if they come up and get a breath and they won’t be punished for failing.  Just notice it; it’s mindfulness, it’s awareness.


Just that exercise alone, experiencing a little more and a little more and a little more CO2 anxiety, gets them used to kind of experiencing it and saying it’s going to be all right.  So on that last wall, they’ve experienced that anxiety before; they are going to feel it.  They have experienced it, it’s okay and they can carry it even further.


What happens if we ask them to go a certain distance or a certain number of kicks off of every wall?  Well one person may be able to handle it; another person may slip into their early stages of anxiety and then be able to manage that.  Another may hit that stage about three kicks in, or 5 meters in, and then the next 2.5 meters is panic.  How do they overcome that?  Well who says that they do; they may never do.


So this is a primal issue; it is not under their conscious control.  And just like hunger, the feeling of falling or losing your balance or other primal fears, if we try to attack it with a hammer, we are just going to reinforce a lot of this.  So we use breathing to help them understand buoyancy.  We use breathing as a way to get rid of waste.


There was an interesting experiment that Boomer had us do, which was designed to help identify the people who are prone to holding on their breath.  They are the ones who have a hard time exhaling.  They have them… and you guys could do this, if we had time, but we are not going to do it.  You just walk, like walk down this room or walk down the pool deck, breath normally and count the number of steps on the inhale and the number of steps on the exhale.  You will find that some people are exhaling about four steps and inhaling three; those people are pretty comfortable with breathing.  Some are three and three.  Some are exhaling for three and inhaling four; and those are the people who are going to show up in your pool not being able to exhale, being frightened to death as they go in to the bottom because that means they’ve got to breathe all their out to get to the bottom.  And those are people who are going to, no matter what you do, if they experience that CO2 anxiety over and over in practice, they are not going to be able to come off that last wall and execute anything underwater.  So breath holding is not the answer.


Here are some ways we address it.  We start each practice with some exercises that allow them to control their buoyancy with breathing: so float on the surface, exhale slowly, notice when they get to neutral buoyancy, notice when they get to a buoyancy that allows them to sink to the bottom slowly.  And then, we have even have races to the bottom, exhale to the bottom, get to the bottom without using your hands or your legs—and that’s really informative.  We have them do exercises and tasks on the bottom of the pool.  Give them things to do so their mind is occupied doing something that’s kind of fun, kind of entertaining; it is playful, but they are doing it without breathing.  We have underwater hockey games with a diving brick: they have just got to keep the brick on the ground and push it with your hands.  Sometimes they bleed in that game, and that’s not part of the plan but it’s not that bad either.


Segments of a turn

Okay, so now we are going to talk about the pieces of a turn.  First we will talk about the approach.  Okay the approach is the final stroke into the wall.  The goal of the approach is to carry velocity.  So we want to accelerate the final cycles and double-cut the water.  So what does that mean?  It means that we want to submerge a little bit—I think that term is used a lot in teaching turns.


But it’s not about getting below the surface “no matter what”; it is about getting below the surface and still traveling forward.  Because when we are below the surface, the water can travel either right above us or right below us, but it will take the shortest route.  If we are on the surface, for those who lift up and then try to keep moving forward, well water had no choice: it hit us straight-on and it is gone under us.  And some of it has traveled a long way to get under us, which increases drag.


So we are trying to submerge slightly, double-cut the water so that some water is traveling over the top, some over the bottom.  And you will watch some of our best freestylers even do this in their freestyle: they will spend time, not with their head dry, but they will spend time underwater with the water traveling over the top of their head and under their body because it is less resistant than if they are sitting on top of the water.


Another part of the approach, kind of one of the bridge pieces, is to set-up the next part, the rotation, by releasing their lower back.  That’s a skill: releasing the lower back.  And then on the long-axis strokes, the last stroke we treat as a fly stroke.  And that helps create that double-cut, that initial press; it is a different kind of stroke coming into the wall.


Okay, here is a drill that we will do; just working on the initial press.  Again it’s a skill.  When they push-off the wall and just try to sneak under the lane line.  You can get under the lane line, but sneaking under the lane line, and even kind of letting the lane line twirl on your back, gives them a sense of just how far to go.  It’s a fine motor skill; it is not one that they get immediately.  It’s an exercise to feel that subtle press.


Here is another one, where now they are taking a couple of strokes into it, getting under the lane line and then going into a somersault, either forward or backwards.  And again the goal is not to get under the lane line; it is to subtly, quietly get under the lane line and still be traveling forward.  We want them to be traveling forward enough so that when they initiate that rotation, the somersault, they have cleared the lane line.  And we’ve just started… at this point when this was taken, we had just started introducing that last stroke as a fly stroke.


Okay this is a same idea but we do with backstroke.  So push off the wall on their back.  (There’s the man.)  Push off the wall on their back, and then get to rotate over and… (there we go) submerge on the crossover stroke.  Then we will continue with some exercises.  The jumping over the lane lines into a somersault is a way to help them feel how to release their lower back.  If they try to create that somersault in lines instead of in a ball, then the jump over the lane line is not quite as successful.


This is short-axis turns.  We will do this under the lane line and then do a reverse somersault.


This is something that we may do in warm-up: just take an element of turn and kind of work on the fine motor-control of it, in a fairly non-threatening situation.  It’s a pretty engaging exercise if they understand the goal and they’re tuned into it.


Here we go into the rotation.  So the approach, last stroke presses down, double-cuts the water and now we are getting into the rotation.  Okay, so part two: the rotation.


If you watch the line of this young man’s hips, he is going from the approach into a ball—and he needs to tuck his head a little bit earlier.  And then watch the line of his hips come towards the wall and then down: they never come up.  If the line of the hips come up then the swimmer has probably lifted their head.  So the line of the hip should be straight towards the wall and then down, or even just at an angle down and then at an even steeper angle down, right here.


Here is another example of an approach; this is Christine Magnuson doing a turn.  And this is probably a little-bit too low on the approach for fly—she is about to come up on it.  But she still had the idea that it’s faster to be below the surface at that point than on top.


Okay, so releasing the lower back and creating that ball: really important skill.  And this drill that we call Nelmsing, after Milt Nelms—who developed it, I think, for a number of reasons—give us that opportunity.  So at the top of the arc, when they are doing these… dolphin dives you can call them.  At the top of the arch their goal is to release their lower back.  And then we will do some harmonic movements on the surface of the water where, again, we are working on the skill of sending a wave down the body.  And in that, in the middle of that wave, it’s important for them to release there lower back instead of keeping it rigid and in a line.  So we will use this in warm-up to kind of tune-into that particular movement.


So how do you incorporate this into practice?  Like you just spent a lot of time working on the approach.  Well, there are a lot of ways you can put any of these elements into practice.  So I am going to use the approach as an example.  May start off with 6×100 on 10 seconds rest, going across the lane lines.  So going one way is on the surface, with that harmonic wave under the lane lines; and then at 25, Nelms over the lane lines; and then 25 harmonic under the lane lines; and then 25 underwater, so we take it all the way below the water.  So there is a lot of experiences there: they are getting some breath control; they are going all the way to the bottom of the pool; they are experiencing a lot of different movements, a lot of different elements.


And then we move to 6×100, let’s say on 10 seconds rest.  25 with a short-axis, no wall turn every two hand hits/every two stroke cycle, okay.  So they will take maybe two breaststrokes and then a really quick reverse somersault, unfold into a line, take two more strokes—maybe we switch to fly.  Then coming back the other way, it’s a 25 with a long-axis turn every three strokes.


There is a chance on every one of those for them to practice the approach, to practice the rotation, okay. And that’s how we start putting these two things together.  You practice the approach…. And so it’s not just every time they get to the wall; it’s every time we feel like giving them the opportunity to do it.  So we can get a lot of repetitions in, while you are covering some distance and covering some time and getting into to some level of energy production.  There is no speed limit on this, so you can make this fast, you can make it part of an Endurance-2 set, you can make it part of even VO2-max set.  Like throw-in something that gives them the opportunity to execute this stuff under pressure, under a condition of fatigue.


So you’ve got to say maybe where you 20×100, best average.  Why not, after every 5, have them do 2×25 where they are hitting a turn or an approach and a revolution and then unfold into a line every three or four strokes?  But they’ve got to do it at the same tempo and at the same speed as they were executing the other five 100s at.  You are not getting out of that energy system, and what you are getting into is some real practice.  So now you are focusing their efforts on skills and skills under pressure.  And that is a way to really work on turns and practice these elements of turns.  Well, there we are: approach, rotation, landing, jump, flight, subsurface travel and exit.


Okay this experiment (and I am not going to hit play).  Everybody remember back about twenty minutes ago when I showed you this—they were spinning each other.  (I think this is the troublesome slide, so I am going to get away from it.)  We do this exercise to help them really create a great shape in the water for the rotation.  And it is a lot easier to do this in a short/shallow pool.  Have one swimmer get into a ball, the tightest ball as they can, and then float.  Their partner takes two fingers, one at the ankle, one at the shoulder; and starts trying to spin them.  And the goal is to put in as little energy into that as possible.


And if they spin around about three or four times, and then you repeat it, and then you repeat it again; then the quality of the shape that they are creating is dramatically different.  They learn how to keep their head inside, they learn how to release there lower back, they learn how to release their upper back.  And they spin really easily in the water, there is very little energy input.  You can do it forwards and backwards.


The first time that they spin, it’s a series of broken lines and it does not really flow very well.  The other thing that you can do with it is: get them into that ball and then have their partner try to bounce them a little bit and then try to spin him.  They will see that if they try to change altitude in the water and get out there floating layer, when they do that ball, they don’t spin very well.  So that’s kind of a cool exercise that we are going to skip for safety sake.


The landing.  Think of everything leading up to the landing as… the goal is to get into a position that you can jump from.  Because that’s where most of your speed is going to come from on a turn.  You can get around real quick, but if you don’t land in a position you can jump from, then all you have done is kind of create a quick movement but you have not created anything that is going to lead to a fast turn.  So landing position is really critical.


The jumping position is something that we work on land, a lot.  So the goal is to—and this is part of our warm-up everyday—they will do some walking on land, come down into a squat position, where they are in a streamline.  And they have to balance over the balls of their feet—they’re jumping off the balls of their feet—with really-good posture and come up in a straight line.  And they have got to be able to use their glutes and their lower abs at the end of that jump.  But they have got to feel what position to get into on that landing; position is absolutely critical.


One of the ways that were a disadvantage in Swimming is most people—and this includes some of our swimmers, I will show you something in a minute—most people do not carry momentum into the wall, especially on a forward somersault, a long-axis turn.  If you watch, people have a way of just finding how to stop and then do the turn and then push off.  So what that means is they are not compressing on the wall at all.  So all that work we do on plyometrics to be able to get a good jump, well there is no stretch when they land on the wall.  So we do this drill to try to create momentum to get a sense of how to carry momentum through the water on a turn.


But we are pushing off the water fast, and then doing a somersault underwater, and then feeling how that momentum carries us towards the wall.  That’s good stuff.  Because if they land on the wall in that position, they get a stretch, they get to position themselves and they get a great jump.  If they’ve stopped, all they are doing is punching the wall with their feet: that’s not a jump.  So the landing needs to be loaded; it’s not static.


You can watch, right here; I think this is [Pieter] van den Hoogenband.  (Can you see that?)  When his feet land on the wall, there is no momentum carrying him towards the wall.  He is unfolding, his feet land on the wall and then there is a push; but there is no jump.


The jump.  Okay; I think I just alluded to this: this is really hard.  It’s hard to create a landing position that’s going to lead to a great jump.  It’s hard to give yourself momentum into the wall that’s going to allow for a landing that creates a great jump.


How do they know… how are they going to know if they are in the right position?  Again, this is not a turn that defies gravity on the wall: this is not me trying to run up the wall and flip over.  So the punishment for not doing it right is minimal.  And so I think as a whole, we swimmers have really-poor-quality jumps off the wall.


So how do we get a feeling for how to create them?  Well, we get a lot of reps in.  We do it vertically, we do it horizontally.  It’s a whole lot easier vertically to feel that load, and we will do something like this between repeats, and make it part of the set.


[audience member]:  Do you have them breathe a certain way when they do that?  Like do they hold their breath on the way down, and then….


[Kredich]:  Yup.  They are always exhaling when they go to the bottom, and then inhaling when they get to the top.  Exhale into the bottom.  They are obviously, in that exercise, not spending a lot of time on the bottom, and so they can continue to exhale through that whole exercise.  But it’s exhaling to get to the bottom.


You can see, if we land… the second picture is a good example of where a lot of swimmers land, with their hips up high.  That creates a jump that comes right from the quads.  There is no gluteal involvement at all; there is very little back involvement; it’s just the quads, and there is not a lot of power to that.


The flight.  The next part is the flight, and this is just simply gliding.  How long and how far do you go before the first impulse?  Well, I think the answer to that is: you take that velocity off the wall and you don’t start creating an impulse—whether it’s a pull-down or a kick—you don’t do that until the velocity you can create is enough to take-over the speed that you are currently traveling at.  If you are going real fast and you start to kick and that kick can’t create that velocity on it’s own; then you are probably slowing down with the kick, hold that line.


Way back, I think, in the ‘70s, JT, John Trembley, was one of the first people that really played with this, and Ray Bussard.  And I think what they found back then is what seems to true today: it is about a body-length.  Almost no matter what speed you are going.  And the slower the speed that you are going, the longer you can hold this.  But a body-length is about where you start to lose velocity.


Okay the first impulse, the first time you are putting energy into the water after that jump, in butterfly, backstroke and freestyles is underwater dolphin kicks or what we call harmonics.  And the reason we call it harmonics, I will explain in a second.  But then in the breaststroke, it’s the initiation of the pull-out, how are you going to attempt that.


So subsurface travel, harmonics in Swimming.  Really evocative word, because we are talking about creating a wave pattern and no broken line.  A harmonic frequency in, I guess, acoustics and physics is one that a material kind of settle into with only one input of energy; so a tuning fork is the classic example.  In Swimming, we will image that.  We don’t really have that because our body is in so many pieces and so many different combinations.  But we will call it: the frequency and amplitude combination of wave production in the body that requires the least amount of energy input.  So the higher the frequency, the lower the amplitude; and the lower the frequency, probably, the higher the amplitude.


We can create these movements.  And there is always a most efficient way to do that: a way to minimize the energy input and maximize the output.  And here is a video of Christine Magnuson doing it on the surface.  Just essentially sending a wave… imagine the wave that’s traveling down her body.


We ask our swimmers to initiate the impulse right at the top of their sternum.  And I don’t know if you noticed this, but instead of pressing down, we asked them to press the top of their sternum in.  Press the top of their sternum up towards the vertebrae between the shoulder blades.  That’s where the wave kind of initiates, and then it just travels down the body.  And people who are real stiff in the lower back… and we talked early about being able to release the lower back for the turn, well it’s also real important to be able to release the lower back if you are going to be good underwater.  And Christine was really good at this.  But that wave runs out her feet.


And this is an old video, but a really-good example of… this is Elin Austevoll from Stanford.  And you can imagine just somebody grabbing her right about where her suit crosses and using her as a whip, that wave travels all the way down her body.  And it’s not being initiated from the kick; the kick is a result of the traveling in the wave.


This is a video of Lenny Krayzelburg, so it’s underwater.  Again I think you can see… where is that wave is being initiated?  And if we focus on the top part of the sternum, I think that’s where… there are obviously a lot of different places you can initiate that wave, but that’s where most of the best are generating the initial impulse.  Not necessarily the power, but the initial impulse.


The arms are traveling in a straight line, but the impulse is clearly originating somewhere other than the hips.  Right?


All right the pull-out.  (We are going to hustle through the last part of this.)  Want you to notice the quality of the line that’s being created on the pull-out; it is an excellent one. There are no dramatic changes in angle; no dramatic changes in body position.  Being able to control buoyancy is an absolute key.  And our goal in every turn is to be able to come to the surface in a line, not in an angle.  Come to the surface in line.


The next slide, this is Kevin Cordes.  And I think you have probably all seen it, but his pull-outs are phenomenal as is his swimming—good example of the pull-out.


I am going to talk a little bit about the exit, and then I am going to throw that blasphemous piece out at you, and then I’m going to run out of here and catch a plane.


All right the exit.  Important principles here.  Subsurface velocities are always greater than surface velocities or else you should not be underwater.  So you are traveling faster underwater than on-top, or else, what are doing?  I hope that makes sense.  Velocity is movement forward not up.  So we want to stay horizontal and we don’t want to get into any kind of vertical movement.


Because being underwater is faster than being on top of water, deceleration is inevitable.  And so the goal of the exit is to minimize deceleration through surface.  The first movement, the exit, the first stroke, is initiated from the floating layers. So that the layer that we float, if we initiate the movement there, we are not fighting gravity, so we are not being pushed down; and we are not fighting buoyancy, we are not being pushed up; we get to move forward.  And any kind of adjustments that you are going to make in the tone of your body or the posture of your body should be made right there in that floating layer.


Okay, this is an example of the way we are practicing coming off the wall. We come off on our side sometimes.  But the first stroke that we are taking in freestyle, right now, is on our side and it is with the top arm.  This restart position is what they are going to… essentially the position they are going to be in when they come to the surface.  And that’s how we kick.


That is also the position of choice for people who bodysurf.  That’s what they do in order to move the fastest.  On their side, with the bottom-arm leading; creating a line that they will ride forward with tremendous amount of velocity.  Now he is trying to slow down there.  As soon as he puts his arm out, he accelerates down the wave: that’s where speed comes from.


So what we are doing—and believe me, I would not try it if I did not think it was fast, and if you don’t want to try it, I think that’s awesome if you are competing against me.  We are coming to the surface and using the top arm essentially to get through the stroke and extend the line.  And then use that top arm as a way to vault forward into the first stroke.


The rotation that’s involved in a bottom-arm breakout, bottom-arm first stroke is unavoidably going to slow you down—the rotation, okay.  So the reason for taking that bottom-arm stroke, the rationale has always been: well there is a tremendous amount of force and power we can create there.  But if swimming on the surface is going to be slower than swimming underwater, then as soon as we go into that then we are slowing down.  So why not take it to the surface, and on the surface get in the position that bodysurfers are choosing as the fastest position?


Think about it: if you were being towed behind a water-ski boat and you had to choose the position of least resistance, you would probably go to your side, one arm down, one arm up.  That’s the position we are trying to leave the water from.  We are not trying to rotate onto it; we are trying to carry speed onto it.  Then all of a sudden, this arm is free and we vault forward and we are gone.  And I believe that works for the 50, and I believe it works for the 1500, and everything in between.


We will try to create as much velocity as we can underwater with fins, and take that into breaststroke.  Been doing that before we even had the thought that that might be the rule; thankfully it is not.  I think it’s important for athletes to experience coming through the surface at higher-than-race velocities.  And I think that’s what fins are really good for.  It could still be the future of breaststroke.


So, again, part of what we try to do in training is take all these pieces and put them together, two at a time, three at a time.  So here is a way to do a somersault, followed by an exit cycle.  Somersault and then this is kind of lining-up… and then getting through the exit cycle.


Then this last slide is our 200 Freestyle Relay this year at NCAAs.  And I am not going to say… I mean, when I look at this… well, I don’t even know where we are, but we are not in the lead.  I think we are in… the swimmer in the red suit is one-below our swimmers, so we’re above her.  When I look at this, I don’t think that our turns are particularly great, but the last one was.  And they are certainly better than they were.  And in a way we won this relay by being really-good off the far wall.


That was the top arm breakdown and that was executed really well.  We are getting behind.  That swimmer gets on the wall really well; she can do better getting off.  Then our last swimmer was a 53-second 100 freestyler coming to Tennessee; I think she split a 21.4 on this.  And really kind of put it away on that last wall.  Bought-into the stuff and made a weakness a strength.  So that’s an example; and I am sure you guys have seen plenty of examples of the way a wall can help you win a race.


That’s what I got.  Anybody have any questions?


[audience member]:  Yeah.  You showed how to initiate freestyle with a top arm; what do you think about backstroke?


[Kredich]:  That’s in the works.  We are also initiating backstroke with a top arm, and it’s pretty cool.  It is awkward, but it’s pretty… it’s going to be fast yeah.


[audience member]:  What do you think about butterfly?  Talking about pull, double-pull, the recovery.


[Kredich]:  I’m talking about the recovery and the landing, because you are coming into a prone position.  The recovery is more straight arm and that helps create that press, yup.


Anything else?  Thanks.



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