31 December 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Improving Swimming Flip Turns

This post is for those struggling with swimming flip turns. During the 2012–2013 winter season (the winter is when I do most of my swimming) I have found that open turns are faster for me, but nearly every source indicates that a flip turn is the only way to go when swimming freestyle. Hmmm, read on.

There are some great videos on how to do and improve an “open turn” at the bottom of this page. I have found that by doing this type of turn, instead of a flip turn, that my breathing issues have disappeared.


>> Good individual photos. Hover over white boxes in photos for additional tips. Below are the relevant steps reviewed on this site called Instructables.

Gain momentum towards the wall by swimming freestyle into the wall in the center of the lane (if possible). Generally, the more momentum you have, the faster your turn will be. However, be sure to start off slow on your first few practice runs! It doesn’t feel good to run into the wall.
When you are directly above the T on the bottom of the pool, begin your half-somersault. Tuck your chin, kick one last hard kick and finish your arm pull with your hands ending at your sides.
Tuck your knees and chin into your chest as tight as possible, and pull your feet into your butt. Use your arms to keep the somersault going by pushing the water up towards your ears with your palms and forearms.
As you complete your half-somersault, straighten your arms out over your head and put one hand on top of the other. Point the tips of your fingers in the direction you want to go, which is directly down the pool. Be sure to squeeze your arms tight! From the waist up, you should be in a streamline: think of making your body match the shape of a torpedo. Long and tight!
Extend your legs out of the curled ball, and plant them squarely on the wall approximately 6” under the surface of the water, toes pointed up. As you get better, you will want to be close enough to the wall that your hips and knees are both making 90 degree angles, as is you’re sitting straight up in a chair.
Step 6: PUSH OFF
Launch yourself off the wall by straightening your legs and moving your entire body in a tight streamline (remember, torpedo-like). Staying on your back, push straight off of the wall. Remember to keep your eyes on the surface of the water and not on your toes or your destination!
Step 7: KICK
To maintain your momentum, kick your legs are you are leaving the wall. There are two types of kick to choose from at this point:

     · Dolphin Kick : Keeping your legs together, move your body in a dolphin-like motion or,
     · Flutter (or Scissor) Kick: Separately kicking your legs the same as during the crawl stroke.

It all depends on your preference and what’s faster for you. As you become more comfortable with the turn, play around with both kicks to decide which is best for you.


  1. Research indicating that flip turns can cut off 26 seconds in a 1650 yd Free Race
  2. Flip turn videos (Triathlete site)
  3. Five videos on how to do flip turns. Using a noodle is the first step.  They encourage you to NOT use your arms. Here are the other steps: two, three, four & five. (Videos from the huge GoSwim video library).
  4. Also see this video or this one on mid-lap flips.
  5. Semi-useful animation of flips.

OPEN TURNS (or as I call it…backwards flip turns)

From Go Swim: video 1, video 2, video 3 and video 4.
Traditional flip turns are generally accepted as the fastest way for freestyle stroke and an “open turn” is generally accepted as the fastest way for breaststroke or butterfly. Video 1 says that this method of an open turn, is as fast, if not faster than a flip turn. Personally I have found that this turn is much faster than the somersault flip turn. I don’t get a dizzy and get an extra breath this way.

Their mantra is “speed in” and “speed out,” the faster you approach the wall, the faster you will leave it. Be sure to NOT grab the wall and pull yourself into it.

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