After a hundred years of competitive swimming, Olympian Ryan Lochte has innovated a new way to turn during Freestyle. I first noticed the new innovation while Lochte was competing for a spot on the Olympic team this past year in Omaha, but thought I was mistaken so I shrugged it off. Then I saw it again at the Olympic games and couldn't believe my eyes.
It was an 'ah-ah' moment that I wish I had thought of. Ryan Lochte had it and it is better than you could have imagined. The idea is to turn and push off on your back. Then stay in this position while using powerful dolphin kicks to propel you past your opponents. For Ryan and any other swimmer who is faster swimming underwater while doing streamline dolphin kicks, this will give you an unfair legal advantage during a race.
To execute properly, as you push off the wall, you must go a little deeper than you normally would in Freestyle. This allows your body to get underneath the turbulence you created on your previous lap. This creates a slingshot effect that launches up past your competitors. Since you are on your back, you should be executing powerful full-body dolphin kicks. You are basically turning yourself into a whip that is powered from your fingertips all the way down to your toes. Finally, as your body starts to rise up to the surface, you rotate back onto your front and begin swimming like you normally would.
The biggest benefits here is that you are able to execute the turn in the deeper water. Like most things we talk about in swimming, surround the idea of moving the deeper more stable water to gain the most efficiency and power. Water at the surface is always in motion and incredibly more difficult to grasp and use to propel us quickly through the pool.
I can hear you asking, "but isn't that illegal?" Actually, it's not. Freestyle isn't actually a stroke. When we talk about Freestyle, we are actually talking about Front Crawl. The rules of Freestyle in competitive swimming is that you can swim in any form you want...Free is Free. Heck, you could do doggy paddle if you wanted to. You won't go very far in the sport, but it could be fun to do.
For Lochte, he is managing to gain almost a full 1 second of time over his competitors. This is huge. In a sport, where .01 seconds can separate you from having a gold medal to being silver or even worse not medaling at all, this new turn could be the deciding factor. I also noticed through additional research that it looks like Lochte is also able to get the full 15 meters under water that is usually only reserved for Backstroke races. I haven't seen any turn or underwater work since Michael Phelps blew everyone away with his in 2004.
The Lochte Turn is not without its risks, though. If you go to deep, then you will lose time while trying to get back up to the surface. It is so unconventional that the governing body of swimming, FINA, has said that the turn can only be used in Freestyle races. That means you can't use it during IM, Backstroke, Breaststroke, or Fly.
My bet is that in Toyko 2020, we will be seeing a lot more swimmers executing this turn. It probably won't be everyone as some people just aren't as strong kicking on their backs as Ryan is. But I foresee this turn having an enormous impact on the way Freestyle will be raced in the upcoming years.
I leave you with a couple of questions. Will you be adding this new innovation to your training? If you do I would love to hear about how it goes. Leave a comment below telling me if it worked for you or if you think this is going to be a one-off approach that only Ryan Lochte can do?
Update: For further reading on how this new turn is being handled at different levels of competition, I recommend you read the article on SwimSwam.