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50 Freestyle

QUESTION:Butterfly kick underwater

I am a 16 year old junior in high school, and just finished my third 3 month swim season. I do not swim club year round, only the 3 months of high school since freshman year. My time for 50 freestyle is a 24.91, and I will need to take off about a second to get top 6 at states next year and get a medal. There a few things I know I can work on other than the stroke itself, and I am curious about how much they help.

First off, my flip turn. It is not good. I am still the rookie who sticks their arms out to help rotate and gain balance, then move them out front before I kick off. If I get a good solid flip turn, how much can this take off?

Also, my dolphin kicks, they are ok but not strong.   Once I dive in do I want to dolphin kick right away or wait a tiny bit to keep some momentum. Also, how many kicks off the start and turn before surfacing?  If I improve these will this help my start and flip turn?

My dive is respectable so I won’t worry about that.

Other side questions, I heard swimming with your fingers slightly apart helps, is this true?

After these improvements, what can I do to improve my stroke for the 50 freestyle?

Thank you, Matt


Hi Matt,

These are some great questions and I have answered them below, one by one.

Flip Turn – From what you have shared, you can dramatically improve your flip turn.  This could take as much as 0.5 sec off your 50 freestyle time with one turn.  When you approach the wall for your turn make sure your face is looking downwards as you take the last freestyle stroke. As your hand enters the water pull down hard and rotate your head and body over your hand as you somersault.  Flip your feet over fast and place them on the wall so that your toes are pointing to the side of the pool and not upwards towards the sky or roof.  As you push off the wall bring your hands together so that they cut through the water in a streamline position.

Dolphin Kicks – Continue to work on your dolphin kicks as they are an important part of every freestyle, backstroke and butterfly race. When you dive into the water your body should be moving forward at its greatest velocity.  If you begin to kick immediately, this may slow you down.  My advice is to streamline as you enter the water and as soon as you feel your body starting to slow down, begin fast butterfly kicks underwater.  Off the start, you need to do butterfly kicks for as long as you can maintain a fast speed and no further than 15m.  Many sprint freestylers do 6 to 10 fly kicks very fast and come up and swim pretty quickly.  This is because they can swim on top of the water faster than they can do butterfly kick under water.  By improving your butterfly kick under water, you will definitely improve your start and flip time.

Fingers Slightly Apart – Yes, you can swim with your fingers ever so slightly apart so long as you form a web between your fingers and no water goes through between them. All you are trying to do is increase the size of your hand very slightly to produce more force.

Hope this helps Matt and please let me know how you go.



The Swimming Expert

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2 Responses to 50 Freestyle

  1. Ren November 1, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    Hi Gary,
    I am 14 years old and my 50 free time is 29.01 seconds. I really want to get to 24 seconds as that is the varsity cut at my school.

    I learnt to swim about 2 years ago and have been swimming ever since. I started swimming competitively for my school only about 2 months ago and have dropped 10 seconds since then. My distance per stroke is fairly good, and I can take about 4-5 strokes without a breath (while sprinting). However, my dive off the blocks is very awkward. My head tends to naturally look forward instead of downwards. I have been trying to correct this slowly and have been making very slow progress. Do you have any tips on improving this faster? My flipturns just aren’t good at all. I tuck my arms in and do a somersault kind of thing in the water and then push off the wall. My coaches say that part is very good. However, I am having trouble with doing what comes right after. Should I be streamlining and dolphin kicking on my side or on my front? Should I start my stroke after the flags? Btw, my dolphin kick is mediocre and I get to the flags in about 3-4 kicks on good days. Also, in a 50 free, should I focus on using my arms or my feet more? What should I work on first?

    • Gary November 21, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

      Hi Ren, You have quite a few questions and I encourage you to work through these with your coach.
      In regards to your head position, only you can make that change. Use a trigger to remember the correct head position, like every time you begin your first stroke, put your head into the correct position. If you do this for 30 days it will become habit.
      For most swimmers, streamlining on your side when doing dolphin kicks off the wall, is the preferred position. Swimmers who are not good at dolphin kick (as in they cant kick as fast as they swim) should practice 8 to 10 dolphin kicks off every start and turn in training but may do a few less in a race and come up swimming earlier. You should at least get to the flags before taking your first stroke.
      I recommend focusing on your arm pull as it provides more propulsion however keeping your feet up coming is also important as it reduces drag and provides more propulsion.
      I think all of these points are a priority and can be walked on simultaneously.
      Cheers Gary

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