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!