If you’ve ever done laps at a pub­lic pool, you’ve seen how some swim­mers exe­cute a beau­ti­ful flip turn at the end of each length of the pool, while novices get tan­gled in the som­er­sault and often end up with mouth­fuls of water.

Know­ing how to do a flip turn will change your expe­ri­ence of lap swim­ming. You’ll get a bet­ter workout—eliminating the mini rests as you hang on the edge of the pool—you’ll save time, and you’ll build your endurance and become stronger and fit­ter. Sound good?


Get Ready To Flip

At the end of the black line at the bot­tom of a pool there’s a shorter per­pen­dic­u­lar line two feet away from the side of the pool. This is the time to start mak­ing your flip turn.

Writer Alex Kim­son describes the next ele­ments of the flip turn:

As your face crosses the T, keep your left arm by your side while your right arm enters its last stroke before the wall (this is assum­ing you are right-handed). Tuck your chin into your chest and, as your right arm is fin­ish­ing the under­wa­ter recov­ery of its last stroke (so that it’s down by your hip, like the left arm), dol­phin kick your legs for a final propul­sive push. This last thrust should cat­a­pult you fur­ther down­ward into your flip.

Remem­ber, you’ve already started to turn down­ward as you tucked your chin into your chest while your right arm was fol­low­ing through on its under­wa­ter pull. Allow your body to fol­low, tuck­ing into a ball while trail­ing your head’s lead.


The Right Angle

At this point, your back­side should be out of the water with your legs about to breach. Keep in mind you are doing a som­er­sault. As your legs swing out of the water, they should be tucked so that your knees are at a right angle (the same posi­tion your legs are in when seated in a chair).

You may lose momen­tum at this point, not able to fin­ish that last essen­tial heels-over-the-head seg­ment that will get your feet planted on the wall and pre­pare you for blast-off in the oppo­site direc­tion. The solu­tion? Use your arms! Given that they are both at your side as you flip your body over, use them from below the elbow to scull, or push, water up toward your face. This will pro­pel you that last bit around and get you in posi­tion for push­ing off the wall.



After a few tries, you should be able to plant your feet on the wall with your legs bent at the knees (again, as if you are sit­ting in a chair). If you do every­thing cor­rectly, your face should be fac­ing the ceil­ing, about a foot below the sur­face of the water (so remem­ber to blow air out your nose!).

How­ever, if you push off the wall in this posi­tion, you will end up sur­fac­ing on your back unless you rotate your body dur­ing your push-off. As you are thrust­ing your­self off the wall, begin turn­ing your­self to face the bot­tom of the pool, face down. Rotate enough so that you sur­face on your stom­ach and resume swim­ming freestyle with­out a hitch.


Get Aero­dy­namic

As you ride the momen­tum of your leap off the wall, stretch out your arms while tuck­ing them behind your head in a stream­line (or div­ing) posi­tion, elbows locked, hands on top of one another and posi­tioned into an arrow­head. The more aero­dy­namic you are in the push-off, the more speed you will retain in this most vital (read: fastest) part of your lap. As you feel your­self slow­ing down, begin tak­ing a stroke with your right arm, then your left, and resume swimming.


Breath­ing Pattern

Hold your breath in the first seg­ment of your turn, as you tuck, roll, and plant your feet on the wall. If you don’t know how to hold your breath with­out get­ting water up your nose, gen­tly exhale through your nose while you flip over. As you push off the wall and rotate in the final step of your turn, exhale more aggres­sively (you want your lungs to be rel­a­tively empty so that by the time you take your first breath, post-flip, you can intake the max­i­mum amount of fresh air).

Now, while these instruc­tions are very good, it wouldn’t hurt to check out some YouTube videos that break down the flip turn. Some peo­ple will learn bet­ter from pic­tures than from words. Here’s a good one from LiveStrong.




Either way, with a lit­tle prac­tice you’ll soon be that grace­ful swim­mer at the pool… swiftly and eas­ily exe­cut­ing strength­en­ing, time-saving flip turns with the best of them.

Check out the blog for more swim­ming tips!



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