I’ve been hearing a lot of discontent lately from coaches about how swimmers are getting disqualified in the freestyle legs of IMs and Medley Relays due to the “Lochte Rule”. I understand their frustration as many, many, many coaches only know the traditional flip turn. But there are alternative!
This rule got its name when Ryan Lochte pushed off and kicked underwater on his back during the BR-FR turn in the 2015 World Championship 200 IM final. FINA immediately issued a rule clarification stating that spending any time on the back during the freestyle leg of an IM or Medley Relay is considered backstroke and therefore illegal. (I talked about Lochte’s turn, and deconstructed it here.)
This FINA interpretation was eased slightly in 2017 when they stated that the swimmer must return to the stomach before the first pull or kick or they will be deemed to be swimming backstroke.
The controversy over this rule is that classic freestyle flip turns are executed by flipping straight over so that the swimmer is flat on their back when their feet the wall. They then immediately push off on their back and rotate to the stomach while kicking underwater. Any sign of a kick before rotating at least 90° to their stomach is cause for disqualification.
The Flop Turn
Whether you agree with the Lochte Rule or not is irrelevant. Swimmers need to adapt to this rule, and that means modifying their flip turn. As it turns out, we’ve been doing a variation of the flip turn since well before the Lochte Rule – I first mentioned our flop turn in a 2013 post. I’m positive we didn’t invent it, and I don’t know what it’s supposed to be called. We just call it the flop turn.
Basically, imagine an uncoordinated kid trying to do a front somersault on a mat, but flopping onto their side partway through. This results in the feet pointing to the side. Right where you want them to be.
And it’s really that easy in the water, although the feet usually hit the wall pointing at roughly 2 o’clock and not 3 o’clock. But this is worlds better than hitting with the feet pointing at 12 o’clock. This means that there’s very little rotation of the body required in order to be legal. Just hit the wall and push off.
The usual response I always get it is that the flop turn must be much slower, because everyone knows the flip turn is the fastest turn. I can only tell you that for most of my swimmers, but not all, it’s at least as fast and sometimes faster. According to my testing, the minor rotation before the feet hit the wall doesn’t take any longer than a flip turn. And the push off with minimal rotation afterwards can be even faster. Now, to be honest we do have a few swimmers who can’t managed to figure the turn out, but not many.
I can personally say that I converted over to the flop turn about 5 years ago, and have never looked back. Feels faster to me.
Click on the pictures to watch videos of two of my swimmers demonstrating the flop turn. Each video shows the turn twice: first time through at normal speed, and then again with the turn portion at 1/4 speed.