Do you lift your head to look at the wall before you flip turn? Or do you slow down before you turn? We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but those habits are making your freestyle and backstroke slower!

Whether you’re just learning how to do a flip turn or you want to refine your technique, you’re in the right place. Check out how to fix those mistakes (plus a few more) and maximize your speed off the wall!

1. Slowing Down into the Turn

When you slow down into your flip turn, you will be slower off the wall. It’s simple math! 

Momentum = Mass x Velocity

In this case, your body’s mass is fixed, but you can control the velocity at which you approach the wall. You’ll carry whatever momentum you have into the turn out of the turn and into your next lap. Plus, going a little faster into the turn actually makes it easier to flip over!

Related: How to Do a Freestyle Flip Turn

Try to maintain your speed or speed up into the turn to explode off the wall. If you’re new to flip turns and you slow down because you’re nervous about running into the wall, know that you’ll get more comfortable the more you practice. 

2. Sweeping the Hands Wide 

Many new swimmers extend their arms out to the side for extra leverage as they flip. While this might be helpful to give yourself an extra boost to flip over, it isn’t as efficient once you start swimming faster. Keep it simple!

Instead, keep your hands tight to your body for the whole turn. After taking your final stroke, initiate your turn head-first, with your arms at your sides. As you flip, press your hands up toward your shoulders, like you’re doing a bicep curl. Your hands should end up in streamline position when your feet land on the wall, setting you up for a speedy push.

When your hands are super wide, you’re making it harder to get back to that streamline.

3. Lifting Your Head

Many swimmers will look forward to the wall before initiating their flip turn. This seems small, but it can have a big impact on your speed. 

Lifting your head impacts your overall body position, causing your hips to drop which can increase drag and make it harder to flip.

Related: How to Do an Open Turn

Instead, rely on the T on the bottom of the pool and count your strokes from the flags into the wall to determine when you should start your turn. The wall isn’t going anywhere, so you don’t need to look at it!

4. Turning Your Body Before Your Feet Hit the Wall

This one might seem like a more efficient way to turn and get going in the other direction, but it’s not! Some swimmers flip sideways when they turn, so their feet land on the wall pointing to the left or the right, and not straight up.

When you flip sideways, your body creates more resistance with the water than it does when you flip straight over. And we know that water is 800 times more dense than air, so we want to avoid any extra resistance or drag whenever possible!

When you do a flip turn, try to flip straight over and land with your feet on the wall, toes pointing up, and your eyes looking directly up at the sky. Push off on your back in streamline and use your core to rotate back to your stomach.

5. Breathing into and Out of the Wall

Once you fix your actual turn, you aren’t quite done. If you breathe right before your turn and take a breath with your first stroke after the turn, you’re slowing yourself down! 

Instead, try to take your last breath at the flags before you turn (about five meters from the wall). After you turn, take two to three strokes before taking a breath. This can be tough, but with practice your breath control will improve.

Related: How to Fix 5 Common Breathing Mistakes

To work on your breath control before and after the turn, add a longer swim to your workout and challenge yourself to not breathe from the flags into the wall and from the wall to the flags. That means no breaths from the flags into your turn, and no breaths until you pass the flags after the turn. 

If that’s too much, try to take two strokes before you breathe after each turn in your workout. Make sure to exhale slowly through your nose after you push off the wall so you can take a quick inhale after that second stroke!

Perfect Your Flip Turn With This Swim Workout

This workout incorporates a few different sets and drills designed to help you improve your flip turn. If you like this workout, you’ll find more just like it, plus personalized Training Plans, in the MySwimPro app! Download the app and save $35 on your first year with code SWIM35 >

  • Distance: 1,600 meters/yards
  • Duration: 35 minutes


  • 1 x 400 Freestyle @ 6:00
  • 3 x 100 Kick @ 1:50 Descend
  • 4 x 25 FLOW Drill @ :30 with fins & snorkel*

*This drill will help improve your dolphin kick off the wall after your turn! Learn how to do FLOW Drill here.

Main Set

  • 4 x 50 Freestyle/Backstroke by 25 @ 1:00 (focus on flip turn & pushing off on your back)
  • 4 x 75 Freestyle @ 1:20 Mid Pool*
  • 4 x 50 Freestyle @ 1:00 with fins, negative split stroke count**

*Start the 75s from the middle of the pool to add one extra flip turn. To complete a 75 this way, you’ll swim 12.5 meters, flip, swim a full 25, flip, swim a full 25, flip, and swim 12.5 meters, stopping in the middle of the pool. For an extra challenge, try to tread water until your interval is up!

**To negative split your stroke count, count your strokes for the first 25 and try to take one less stroke on the second 25. A good flip turn and streamline will help!

Cool Down 

1 x 100 Freestyle @ 1:40 Silent Swimming

For a step-by-step guide to the freestyle flip turn, check out this video:

What tips do you have for mastering the freestyle flip turn? Share them in the comments! Download the MySwimPro app for more technique tips, plus personalized, Guided Workouts and Training Plans!



  1. Bill Mccormick on

    Hello….I have a fear of swimming to hard into the wall for my flip turn….I’m fearful that I’ll crash into the wall or slam legs on the concrete as I turn if I’m too close! Has anyone had this happen?? Thanks, Bill

    • Taylor Holmes on

      Hi Bill, that’s a very common concern for many people, but it doesn’t happen too often! The best thing to do is to first practice your flip turn in the middle of the pool so you can get a feel for it. Then it might be helpful to practice very slow flips closer to the wall. Unless you are going at full sprint speed, you will not be moving fast enough to hurt yourself badly if you accidentally tap the wall with your feet or legs.

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