Turns: Foot Placement on the Wall
By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant
Foot placement on both flip and open turns is very important, but often not an area of focus for swimmers and coaches. Where and how you place your feet on the wall can have a significant impact on the power with which you push off, the depth of your turn, and how efficiently you are able to begin swimming the next length.
Turns are a bit like stroke techniques and snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. However, from observing some of our top athletes, here are a few general technical thoughts:
- On flip turns most of our best turners do not flip straight over or land their feet vertically on the wall. While a straight approach to the wall may facilitate a smooth flip it can create problems on the push-off, which is just as important as the flip itself. In general, our strongest turners land their feet at a 45- to 60-degree angle. The main benefits of this angled approach are that a swimmer’s body line is not disrupted on the push-off and, in freestyle, it allows for a smoother roll onto the stomach while kicking. From my observations, when swimmers place their feet vertically, they often disrupt their body line by contorting their upper body to the side before and during push-off.
- On open turns, most of our best turners bring their knees up first, and following their pivot, place their feet at a 90-degree angle allowing for a powerful and quick push off and a smooth transition back onto the stomach.
- On both types of turns it is important to have the knees bent enough to facilitate a strong push-off without sacrificing quickness by being too close to the wall. This seems obvious but is sometimes misapplied. More knee bend doesn’t necessarily translate to a more powerful push-off or faster turn. In fact anything past a 90 degree knee bend begins to diminish the power of the push.
- It is also important to think about the line created by the feet, hips and back. When trying to jump as high as you can on land, the three will ideally be in line with the direction you’re jumping. However, when pushing off the wall many swimmers end up in a “chair” position with their feet in front of (or above) their hips and back creating a less powerful push and less efficient body line.