The individual medley consists of a single swimmer swimming equal distances of four different strokes within one race. The stroke order swum is 1.Butterfly 2.Backstroke 3.Breaststroke and 4.Freestyle.
The technique for individual medley events does not differ much from the technique for the separate events for the four strokes. The main difference is the turning technique needed at the transition from one stroke to the next stroke. Each section has to be completed as described by the stroke rules of this section.
The butterfly stroke section has to be ended with both hands touching the wall at the same time, but has to leave the wall on the back for backstroke. Swimmers may do this by pulling the knees underneath of their body after touching the wall with both hands, and then rolling backwards on their back, or swinging one arm back and rolling over onto the side of the arm swung back. During the roll in the first method the arms are not stretched, but rather hold close to the body with the hands a few centimeters in front of the chest. This reduces the rotational moment and allows for a faster turn. At the end of the backwards roll the swimmer sinks under water and extends over the head. The swimmer then pushes off the wall with both legs and starts the regular underwater phase of backstroke, usually a dolphin kick for up to 15 m before surfacing and swimming normal backstroke.
The backstroke section has to end with touching the wall while lying on the back. For the subsequent breaststroke the swimmer has to leave the wall on the breast. Most swimmers prefer to do an open turn, simply driving the feet into the wall. The swimmer is then under water face down and extends the hands forward before pushing off the wall with both legs. The swimmer continues with the regular breaststroke, consisting of a gliding phase, an underwater pull-down, and another gliding phase before surfacing and swimming normal breaststroke. A newer, but not required technique for the backstroke to breaststroke turn is a backflip turn. The swimmer touches on his or her backside with one hand. After touching the wall, the swimmer tucks their knees up to their stomach and flips around so that their feet are touching the wall pointing down and they can push off of the wall on their stomach.
Another, arguably faster variation of the new backstroke to breaststroke turn is very similar to the regular forward flipturn. The swimmer goes into the wall with their leading arm outstretched behind their head. The swimmer then touches the wall and immediately goes into a frontflip and proceeds with the breaststroke portion of the race. With this turn, it is crucial that the swimmer remains technically on their back until they touch the wall, which means that the front of the body should be rotated chest-side up more than it is chest-side down, otherwise the swimmer will be disqualified.
The breaststroke section has to be ended with both hands touching the wall at the same time while on the breast. A normal breaststroke turn is usually used to turn and push off the wall. After leaving the wall the freestyle underwater phase is initiated, followed by regular freestyle on the surface after up to 15 m underwater. For medley events, freestyle means
any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly. Some form of front crawl is typically used.