The freestyle flip turn is an essential skill if you want to take your swimming to the next level. Although it’s not required, you’ll see most advanced lap swimmers do a flip turn at the end of the pool. An elite swimmer will do 500,000+ flip turns over the course of a season and millions of flip turns in their lifetime!
To learn how to master the freestyle flip turn, watch this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday:
What Is A Flip Turn?
A flip turn allows you to change direction at the wall to stay swimming continuously. For freestyle and backstroke you’ll do a full somersault on the wall and push off in streamline. In breaststroke and butterfly, the equivalent is called an ‘Open Turn‘. For the scope of this guide, we’ll focus on the freestyle flip turn.
Why Do A Flip Turn?
The flip turn is applicable when swimming freestyle, backstroke, and sometimes when doing kick sets. There are a number of core benefits of mastering this skill:
- It’s faster
- It’s more efficient
- It will help you build endurance
Knowing how to execute a flip turn will ensure a better workout, because every time you pause or hang on the wall between laps, you are giving your body a little break.
A Note For Triathletes
Some triathletes and open water swimmers feel that learning to do flip turns is not only a waste of time but can slow you down for racing in open water. On the contrary, if you add up all those split-second poolside breaks you take at the wall and you will find that swimming a mile in open water is a lot tougher than swimming a mile broken up into 25-yard segments.
When you do a flip turn, you eliminate those tiny rest stops from your workout and, over time, develop more endurance. For open water swimming and triathlon training, your overall goal is to improve endurance and flip turns can help you do that.
5 Steps to Learn The Freestyle Flip Turn
- Standing Somersault (standing in shallow water ~4 feet deep)
- Lead with both your hands, then one hand
- Try to do an entire flip out of water
- Try to flip in a tight ball
- Horizontal Somersault
- Use leading arm to pull yourself into the flip
- Carry your momentum as you tuck into a small ball
- Somersault At The Wall
- Flip at one arm’s length from the wall
- Place your feet 6-12 inches under the surface of the water
- Ensure your body is fully aligned. Flip straight over, so you end up looking straight up at the sky, with your feet on the wall, toes pointing toward the surface.
- Push Off On Your Back
- Ensure a stable foot placement
- Push off on your back in streamline (then kick)
- Rotate Onto Stomach
- Push off on your back in streamline
- Kick (free or fly) in streamline and use your core to return to front side
Listen to the episode on SoundCloud:
Flip Turn Tips
While you will not learn to master the flip turn overnight, you can make significant progress just by working on the skill every time you swim. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Check out these tips to help you improve faster:
- Tuck into a tight ball
- Approach the wall fast (your momentum into the wall will carry off of the wall when you push off)
- Don’t glide into the wall
- Don’t lift your head to breathe right before the wall
- Use the T on bottom to determine when to flip, or flip at an arm’s length from the wall.
- Push off on your back
- Don’t breathe on the breakout stroke – it kills your speed off the streamline
- Practice flipping with two different (right/left) lead arms
- Flip turn all the time (in every workout and every set)
Flip Turn Drills
While you’ll make a conscious effort on every flip turn that you do, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and incorporate drills in your training. These drills each focus on a specific element of the flip turn. Give them a go at least once per week:
- 3 strokes, then flip : Works on using last arm pull to set-up flip. Do a few 25s of this drill to practice flipping away from the wall.
- Flip over lane marker : Focuses on flipping in a tight ball
- Push off on your back: Keeps you aligned through the flip process
- Two kickboards: Practice your flip turns in the middle of the pool, holding onto a kickboard in each hand. This drill teaches you to keep your hands tucked in next to your torso as you flip.
I hope this Whiteboard Wednesday was helpful in mastering the freestyle flip turn. Happy swimming!
For more Swim Workouts, download the MySwimPro app on your iPhone, Android or smartwatch. Start your Personalized Training Plan when you upgrade to MySwimPro Coach.
Very helpful. Thank you.
Enjoyed the lesson. Thank you.
Awesome class Fares! Thanks for the instruction. Dean J
I swim with a guy next to me who is a tri-athlete and his wife swims in the nxt lane. She does all the strokes per workout and flips her turns. He thinks he does not need to do all 4 strokes and flip turns. A real attitude. We recently had a timed 10 x 100’s off the blocks. He is 35 years younger. I was in the water before him, he started catching up until the turn, I did my flip turn onto my back and dolphin kick, didn’t breathe going in or out as trained. When I took my first breath he was 2 body lengths behind me, then the 2nd and 3rd turn, he was still behind me. When I touched the wall, he was 3 body lengths behind me……..he would not look at me. So for all 10 x 100’s, he could not catch me. I never said a word to him, because he was fuming. His wife came up to me and said, keep swimming next to him, because you are influencing by example. The coach later gave him some counsel about his attitude and dared and challenged him to do all his turns as flip turns and all 4 strokes. His attitude changed, he got better and better at each practice. The next time trial, he was on! He struggled with fly and finally asked me for help and I smiled, and hugged him and told him I would be happy to teach him with easy steps technique, like we teach little kids. After 2 months he was finally getting the undulating. He did his first 50 fly time trial, but I did not swim next to him. I swam in the next heat. We then did a 100 fly and that was easy peasy for me, but a struggle for him. Then I did a 200 fly time trial to see where I was at and there were only 3 of us able to do that. That was a successful outcome for me to finally swim my favorite event. He was forever humbled by experiencing change, leaving ego behind, accepting an older persons perspective and learning to be a real team mate. We still swim next to each other and he makes me a better swimmer. Everyday, we write our goal on paper and read today’s mantra out loud. He is swimming in his first swimming ever on January 28th with wife in tow. Yay!
I was taught to do flip turns about 25 years ago so it’s almost second nature for me. I have however noticed that by the time my feet touch the wall, I’m already on my side so my push off is not on my back. Is there any benefit from pushing off on your back rather than on your side?
Thanks for your message, Caren! I would say that pushing off on your back keeps your body more aligned so you’re set up for a better streamline position. If you have more specific technique questions, you can always email our CEO Fares at email@example.com and he’d be happy to help!
You do statistically kick faster on your side than your back, but you would last lonver underwater on your back instead of your side, allowing you to save more energy for actually swimming. I had the same problem, but I was taught this and it helped to drop time
Thank you for the tips, being able to flip has made a difference with my swim!
It was a long time dream to be able to do this, and the 5 step broke the flip down and made it easier to accomplish… now the job is to perfect it at every single turn!
That is awesome Carolina, thank you so much for your feedback! Are there any specific videos you’d like us to make to improve another skill?
Very helpful, THANK YOU.
Hey. I’ve been trying for a couple of years to learn to flip turn. Nothing seems to be working. I always end up with a head full of water and after two or three I get nauseous. I considered getting some nose clips but haven’t yet. These videos are great but I’d like to see “flip turns for absolute beginners” and maybe an instructional video called “how to teach a flip turn.” I’m a retired, recreational swimmer who swims 2x a week, 1500m each time. Thanks
Robert, thank you for your great feedback. We are actually working on producing a lot more educational videos like this in the upcoming months. We will for sure incorporate more beginner tips. If you’d like some specific feedback on your swimming, email our CEO firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s always happy to help!
Thank you for your support, and happy swimming! 🙂
– Paige Walters, Marketing Director
I second this request. I need the flip turn instructions and drills demonstrated more. at present, I can swim up to 1650 yds in 55 minutes but only of the first 400-500 yds are mostly back stroke and need to keep increasing endurance. My goal is 1 mile open water competition in a lake
Thank you for your feedback, Annemarie! I’ve passed your suggestion on to our video team!
A problem I always have in doing flip turns is that I get really dizzy. Because of this I have about given up but I so want to be able to do them. Any suggestions as to how to avoid getting dizzy? Thanks
I would recommend practicing doing flips in the middle of the pool, and not just at the wall. Start very slowly, and once your body gets more used to the turning, you should be more comfortable doing it faster and against the wall. It will get better, I promise! I also recommend closing your eyes, that might help.
Excellent training video. After viewing, i became much more confident and proficient after one hour of practice.
That’s great to hear! Keep up the good work!
I’ve never done flip. I will try to practice .I’ll start with vertical salt water first. The videos’ seemed very helpful.
I love the video’s. I’ll try it next time in the pool.
I tried so many times to flip but I couldn’t and neither my sister, both of us are swimming for almost 3 years and we are average at it, but I don’t know why we feel pressure in our heads whenever we try to flip, Is there something specific I’m doing wrong, Is it because of my weight, because I am overweight, but my sister is fit. I don’t know what’s wrong but I really wanna learn it, I’ve seen all your videos but couldn’t learn it yet😭
Learning how to flip turn takes a lot of practice! If you are not already, make sure to exhale out of your nose as you flip over. That might help reduce some of the pressure you are feeling in your head!