By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant
Using your arms to accelerate the flip in freestyle and backstroke turns has obvious benefit and is not a new concept. However, the degree to which it’s employed varies wildly from athlete to athlete. Check out the videos below for an example of how two athletes utilize their arms differently while performing the same turn.
In the first clip, the athlete clearly engages his arms, pulling with his palms moving in the direction of the bottom of the pool to enhance the speed or “snap” of his flip. His hands complete the pulling motion just behind his head, slightly before his feet hit the wall and are in position to be pressed into streamline as he extends his arms. The force that is being applied here is clear from the visible disruption of the water near his hands as they move towards his head.
In the second clip, you can see that the athlete (blue suit) never rotates his hands to get his palms facing down. His hands still end up located in a good position to enter his streamline, but the opportunity to increase the speed of his flip was lost. While this isn’t necessarily detrimental to his turn, it’s not optimal in terms of maximizing the force and speed of his flip and getting into and off the wall as quickly as possible.
In watching underwater tape from recent competitions, it’s clear that many athletes are not employing their arms as much as they could be when executing their turns. The concept of adding the arms to a turn is a bit of a rarity: a relatively simple technique that could yield impactful results very quickly.