The Flop Turn: Just As Fast and Lochte-Rule Legal

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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.

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5 thoughts on “The Flop Turn: Just As Fast and Lochte-Rule Legal

  1. Nothing new here, is there? 🙂 I’ve been swimming competitively – off and on – for over 40 years, and I think that’s how I’ve always done the turn. In fact, practice almost demands that turn because you’re almost never coming in square to the wall when circle swimming…

    1. Hi Barry, I’m not sure when it happened but at some point people felt it was easier or faster to just flip straight over. I agree with you that decades ago when I swam we did this flop turn. But talk to younger coaches and they think it’s crazy.

  2. I always did the flop turn (graduated hugh school in 87 and swam for Mich State). It was fastet for me because the right side of my body was so dominant strength wise and I generally timed my stroke for my right arm to take the last stroke and throw my right shoulder into the turn. I came across yout forum because my daughter’s high school’s 200 medley relay was disqualified for this rule and it is not a very good rule for a relay when your freestyler is someone who never does IM and is sprinting a 50 and has to alter her turn just because Lochte did lord knows how many inder water dolphin kicks in 2015. Personally, they should soften the rule to allow one dolphin kick in any position. If they allow one dolphin kick in the breastroke pull out, why not lighten up the rule in the medley, particilarly for relays? BTW, the 2017 softening of the tule does nothing for medley Relays and sprint freestylers. That change teaches kids not to kick off the wall or they will be DQ’d. Oh well. I said my peace and the Stone Rigde High School 2019 medley relay has now joined an elite group of swimmers DQ’d for swimming freestyle the way they were trained to do freestyle. BTW, the SR relay was supposed to take first at night in the finals. The DQ moved them from 2nd place to 4th place in the DC Metro championships and the offical that DQ’d the freestyler was his neighbor and his child car pools with the DQ’d swimmer – awkward!

    1. I feel for you Anthony. Sometimes DQs just don’t appear to make any sense. I think at the heart of all of this is FINA’s severe paranoia about the speed and efficiency of underwater kicking, and especially underwater kicking on the back. So paranoid that they don’t want even a hint of it under certain circumstances, such as IM and MR. That paranoia is also at the heart of the “failure to initiate” DQ that affects so many developing swimmers. Sometimes common sense takes a back seat.

I love comments, especially when they disagree with my view.

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