How to Do a Flip Turn in Swimming

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A flip turn is an underwater somersault that you perform once you reach the wall at one end of a pool. It’s also a swimmer’s secret weapon for speedy laps.

When done right, this maneuver can help you save precious time at the start of every lap, and give you a boost of speed as your forcefully push off the wall. But to get the most out of it, you need to learn how to do a flip turn properly.

Here’s how to do a freestyle and backstroke flip turn with perfect form.

During What Strokes Do You Use a Flip Turn?

Flip turns are best used during the freestyle and backstroke, says Lindsay Bechtold, private swim instructor. “Butterfly stroke and breaststroke turns are called ‘open turns,’” she adds.

The reason? In competitions using the butterfly stroke and breaststroke, you’re required to touch the wall with two hands before starting your next lap.

With freestyle and backstroke, you’re only required to touch the wall with one hand, and you can push off the wall with your feet.

Flip Turn: Step-by-Step Instructions

flip turn underwater | Flip Turn

As you approach the wall at one end of the pool, the black line on the bottom of your lane will become a “T.” This “T” tells you the wall is only two feet away and it’s time to start your flip turn.
Allow your face to cross the “T” and take your last stroke going into the wall. As you finish the stroke, sweep your arms down to your sides, and tuck your chin and knees into your chest. Keeping your legs together, tuck into a ball and allow your head to lead the way. Exhale through your mouth as you go to avoid water going up your nose as you flip upside down.
Your legs will eventually swing out of the water, but still keep your knees bent and legs tucked.
As you finish your flip, plant your feet flat on the wall with your knees bent. Then, reach your arms forward and push off the wall into a streamline position, rotating so your stomach is facing the bottom of the pool.

Backstroke Flip Turn: Step-by-Step Instructions

backstroke flip turn | Flip Turn

As you approach the wall, look for the flags that hang over the end of the pool. Once you reach the flags, begin counting your strokes. “Every swimmer has their own ‘count,’ or number of arms to reach the wall,” Bechtold says. (You’ll want to figure out your count before attempting flip turns.) If it usually takes you five counts to reach the wall, begin your flip on four counts.
Take your last stroke going into the wall. As you finish the stroke, cross your opposite arm (the one that’s down by your side) across your body and into the water to flip yourself onto your stomach.
Sweep your arms down to your sides, and tuck your chin and knees into your chest. Keeping your legs together, tuck into a ball and allow your head to lead the way. Exhale through your mouth as you go to avoid water going up your nose as you flip upside down.
Your legs will eventually swing out of the water; keep your knees bent and legs tucked.
As you finish your flip, plant your feet flat on the wall with your knees bent. Then, reach your arms straight above your head and push off the wall into a streamline position.

Flip Turn Tips

Woman Does Flip in Open Water | Flip Turn

Get comfortable with your breathing pattern before trying a flip turn. This will help you nail the timing of flipping at the wall, and help you avoid getting a nose full of water.
Remember to exhale through your mouth as you tuck your chin so you create bubbles as you flip over. Again, this will keep the water out of your nose.
If the thought of doing an underwater somersault into a wall makes you nervous, practice flipping in open water. Bechtold often has newbies practice by flipping over every seven strokes, but find your own rhythm and get practicing. Once you feel confident doing the flip in open water, then try doing a flip turn at the wall.

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