Flip turns are challenging for many beginner swimmers, so much so that many people skip the flip and opt for open turns 100% of the time. 

What if we told you that you’re actually swimming slower when you don’t do flip turns?

Whether you need some convincing to keep learning flip turns, or you’re an experienced swimmer who wants to improve your turn speed and technique, read on for a breakdown of the benefits of doing flip turns and a few pro tips to refine your form. 

Short Course vs. Long Course World Records

Let’s start by looking at how flip turns affect the World Record in both short course and long course pools. 

Depending on the race, a world record set in a long course (50m) pool is anywhere from 1-5% slower than the same race in a short course (25m) pool. In a long course pool, swimmers do half as many flip turns because the pool is twice as long.

When we compare freestyle events that require flip turns (the 50 and 1,500 free) to an event that requires open turns (the 200 breaststroke), we can see that regardless of the turn type, having more walls in a race makes a difference. 

Why Do Flip Turns Help You Swim Faster?

If that comparison wasn’t enough to convince you of the importance of good flip turns for speed, we’ve got three more reasons right here:

1. Streamline Speed vs. Swim Speed

For most swimmers, streamline will be faster than regular swimming. A good flip turn sets you up for a strong streamline and underwater before you start swimming again. We recommend maximizing your time in streamline for extra speed gains!

Related: Tips for a Perfect Streamline

In freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, you can swim up to 15 meters underwater off the dive and off each turn (in breaststroke there is no limit). If you were to maximize those underwaters off of each wall, you’d spend 60% of a race in a 25-meter pool underwater, and 30% of a race in a 50-meter pool underwater. 

When you neglect your turns and underwaters, you won’t take advantage of this valuable time in streamline, and you’ll probably swim slower overall.

2. Reset Between Lengths

Flip turns are a chance for a quick break in the middle of your swim. 

To be clear, you should not consider flip turns a true “break.” They’re not a time to slow down and rest! Instead, think of turns as a chance to break up the monotony of your stroke, which gives your muscles a breather. 

The few seconds you spend in a turn can be just what you need to dig deep and keep pushing through a tough set. Start every length with a fresh outlook!

3. Drive More Power

In a short course pool, your turns drive tons of power. That means you might be able to get away with stroke mechanics that are less efficient. That also means your turns are a lot more important in a shorter pool. 

In a long course pool, your stroke efficiency needs to be on point, or you will struggle to make it through a race. Turns are still important in long course swimming, but they don’t play as large a role in overall power and speed. 

Elite swimmers will only do 5-10 seconds of work per length in a short course pool because of the power they generate with each turn. In a long course pool, that work doubles!

For more flip turn tips and a step-by-step guide, check out this post

When Should You Avoid Doing Flip Turns?

Despite all this data, some swimmers still just don’t want to do flip turns. And that’s ok! 

If you don’t know how to do a flip turn and don’t want to learn, keep doing your thing. Or, if you swim in open water most of the time, there’s not a huge benefit to learning to flip turn.

Related: How to Fix 5 Common Flip Turn Mistakes

Depending on your goals, choose the option that works best for you. Just know that learning how to do a flip turn will help you swim faster for longer in your pool workouts, which can help you reach your fitness or weight loss goals that much more quickly.

5 Pro Tips for Flip Turns

On the other hand, if you do want to improve your flip turn, we’ve got some tips for you:

Related: 2 Drills to Improve Your Swimming Flip Turn

  1. Practice: Practice makes perfect! Commit to doing a flip turn for an entire workout, or dedicate time to flip turn drills every day. Whatever you do, stay consistent and you’ll improve!
  2. Stay Disciplined: You aren’t always going to be motivated to keep up your flip turn practice, especially if you find it tough to do a good flip turn. Motivation will come and go, but it’s up to you to remain disciplined and keep practicing!
  3. Break it into Parts: Even if you already know how to do a flip turn, get back to basics! Work on each aspect of your turn on its own to build power and technique for your next race. 
  4. Train With Fins: Adding fins to your training can help you work on your push offs. Stay tight through the turn and exaggerate your dolphin kick off of each wall. 
  5. Learn From the Best: Watch good swimmers at your pool to get a feel for their technique, or watch footage from professional races. Identify what the best swimmers are doing during their turns, and apply it to your own swimming. 

If you’re serious about swimming faster, you need to learn how to do a flip turn! Commit to learning over the next few months, and soon flip turns will become second nature. Start a personalized Training Plan in the MySwimPro app to get daily, custom workouts, drills and technique tips designed to help you reach your goals and swim faster than ever!


1 Comment

  1. I’m really not sure, like ok at these elite swimmers side by side https://youtu.be/wuFK-x8v6XE if anything we should be doing a breastroke turn in freestyle. It’s a lot easier for non elite swimmers. Unless you’re going at 1:30/100 or less it’s marginal at best and less breaths which if you’re at threshold will take you to red. And the YouTube with 2 swimmers doing 1min/100 shows me it’s not worth it.

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