View Full Version : Flip Turns?!

May 15th, 2003, 10:18 AM
I'm training for my second triathlon - now that I know better and know what to expect I'm actually researching and trying to learn more and think this site is great! Thanks to everyone who provides their expertise.

I have a question about lap swimming though, I've never learned how to flip turn, so I get to the end turn around and come back. Two questions on that, does that affect my swim by not doing the flip turn? Guessing not much since there is no flip turning in open water...and second how could one learn to do a flip turn? Feel kinda foolish when even the grandma's are doing them and I can't :-[


May 15th, 2003, 11:18 AM
Your logic concerning if a flip turn affects your swimming may not work the way you expect. There are no flip turns in open swims b/c there is no walls!!!!(typically).

All major freestyle/backstroke swimmers use flip turns. They are dramtically faster (once mastered), and allow for some timely arm rest coming off a wall while keeping up speed.

Learning flip turns can be a trying experience though. I would find a coach or someone else to help learn the technique.


May 18th, 2003, 07:57 PM
If you know how to do sommersaults, you're pretty close to being set. when you're coming into the wall, take your last stroke and do a front sommersault, then while you're flipping, when your feet get near the wall, push off and straighten yourself out, hard to explain but ask people to help with it too, i'm sure they will.

May 21st, 2003, 01:49 PM
Even after years of swimming, many of us still struggle with flip turns.

In all honesty, if you don't need to learn it, don't bother. It's ok to do an open turn while you're working out at the Y. So what if Granny can do it, Granny's probably not swimming that open water mile like you are.

If you are determined to learn, watch the other people swimming while you are. Ask one of them how they do it. You can't read about it and instantly know, it takes practice and it takes knowing what to practice.

Good luck in your triathlon!

May 21st, 2003, 05:02 PM
Thanks for all the feedback! Unfortunately those grandmas are racing open water and also passing me! Although they've been doing this much longer than I have so I'll give them that.

I've tried doing the summersaults just haven't been able to get the turn into it...I think my stop and turn will look less foolish than my flipping and then standing 2 feet before the edge of the pool. If anything maybe I'll amuse others like I'm amusing those of you reading this that know what their doing! ;-) Thanks for the encouragment.

May 22nd, 2003, 05:32 PM
Unless you can readily learn a flip turn--to do this with speed involves a lot of turns a practice. You can learn to do a speed open turn. You don't need to stop at the wall, turn around, then take off. A speed turn is very similar to what is done in a breaststoke and butterfly turn only you don't have to touch with both hands, watch someone who does these types of turns and you will see how one is done. A open speed turn is usually faster than a mediocre flip turn and faster than the stop, turn, take off.

When learning flip turns--do not practice at first going into the wall--practice the flip pushing off the wall--you will find it much easier with the added boost of speed. Later after you have perfected this then try into the wall. The line on the bottom is what you want to watch--not where the wall is. Go so many strokes and turn, stop. Pay attention to where you are when you started the turn in relation to the line on the bottom--and that "T" marking. Then next time start your turn one stroke beyond that point and see if your feet connect with the wall. Keep adding a stroke to the next until your feet do touch the wall. You then know about where you need to be to start your turn. Play around with that.

If you having a hard time learning to turn without sinking to the bottom and nearly scraping your back on the bottom--use empty gallon milk jugs with the handles and a screw type lid. Hold one in each hand and your arms out like a "T" at first until you get the hang of turning over straight--try pushing off the wall and doing the turn. Once you have built some speed with that then try without the jugs. This method although looks silly, does work.

Many races are lost or won on the turns--I think this would be more dynamic in one of those usually open water but early in the season done in the pool triathlons--with a speedy turn you will be farther ahead of those who do not practice that element of pool racing.

Dominick Aielloeaver
May 22nd, 2003, 06:11 PM
Ii have tried some flip turns , but made me dizzy. may be my age 68 . But I never did flip turn.

May 23rd, 2003, 01:04 AM
Instead of flipping over right away on your stomach after the turn. Try just doing the turn and pushing off on your back then slowly rotating over on your stomach. I myself and my whole team in high school were doing that after turning over and cut a bunch of time cause that's what our coach made us do over and over till we got it right.


Dominick Aielloeaver
May 23rd, 2003, 01:10 AM
Thats worth atry. sounds like good advice.:)

June 11th, 2003, 01:19 AM
Hi! I'd like to encourage you to keep attempting to learn to flip turn; flip turns are much more efficient than open turns, not only because they save time but also because they allow you to swim continuously without breaking your rhythm. You might find executing a flip turn is much easier if you do not think of it as any type of somersault. You do not want to roll your body; you want to flip your body. Come into the wall at a fast pace, (do not breath coming into the wall as it will cause you to lose too much momentum, and do not be afraid of hitting the wall; you won’t hit the wall because you should purposefully graze it with your fingertips at the longest part of your final stroke so you know exactly where the wall is and so you know that you are the perfect distance from it to begin your turn). Once you have grazed the wall, without pausing throw that outstretched arm down under your body toward your pelvis and fold your body in half at the waist so that your whole body flips, (you will not and should not be perfectly straight of course, your legs will be bent some, which is why so many bystanders mistake a flip turn for a somersault motion instead of a force movement). Your forward momentum will have carried you the slightest bit closer to the wall so that you can push off hard and effectively as you right yourself (not deep!) under the water. Unlike trying to right yourself after a somersault movement (when you have lost your momentum and your hands might be flailing everywhere), righten-ing yourself as you push off from a true flip will feel like a natural motion. Remember, speed, force, power. Good luck!

June 11th, 2003, 06:44 PM
thought everyone might find this helpful


June 26th, 2003, 02:40 PM
:cool: Learning to flip turn is a matter of practice, practice, practice. It helps to have someone who knows how to do them to explain and then show you the steps. It also helps a lot to look at this person under water because this is where the whole thing takes place. Back in 85 a good friend of mine showed me how to do this, I am grateful for it and now it is second nature to me. So don't ever give up! You will get it, I promise you will. Be patient and persistant. Good luck!:)

July 22nd, 2003, 05:01 PM
This is going to sound strange, and may not be for the n00b to learn flip turns, but here it is. My trick to flip turns is to not think of it as a somersault at all, even one bit.

Basically, doing freestyle (at a healthy pace), as one hand comes to your side as it finishes it's push (you should feel the end of a stroke push in your triceps) you leave it there (palm down) instead of pulling your arm out as the other hand goes into the water. Once the other hand pulls through your stroke and is also at your side (palm down) you will fold your body at the waist. Not like a somersault at all! but more like a hamstring stretch where you try to get your head to your knees. Your arms and hands don't do anything but keep you steady and as your torso bends downward you'll feel the tension a little (like a rubber band) in your back and hammys as your legs sling over your head. It's like a snapping motion rather than a roll! Suddenly, you are facing the opposite direction and your hands are already in the proper position to push off! It'll take a while to get the dsitance correct, as you want some leg bend but nothing too dramatic. It's not like you're in so close you're doing a squat off the wall!

The reason to *not* learn it as a somersault is because you'll get used to rolling at a certain distance from the wall--much closer than a proper flip turn because you are tucking your knees more when you somersault. Then when you get better and you learn a real flip turn, your distance will be all screwed up and the back of your ankles will be mightily pissed the first time you smack them on the edge of the pool because you were too close when they snapped over.

You don't need a wall to practice the motion but it helps--flip turns feel awkward unless there is a wall there to greet your feet. A visit to a local high school or collegiate swim meet will give you a better sense--just watch the fast ones, not the slow ones :)

Flip turns are tough to learn, and words don't do them justice. You might want to see if there is a coach local who will work with you for a couple 20 minute spans.

July 25th, 2003, 10:33 PM
A flip turn when first learning it is hard. Try using a backyard inground pool. going from the short end streamline and do a flip exspect some water to get up your nose. as you get the hang of it you can streamline back and forth. as you return to a standard lap lane pool add the strokes.Practice during your warm ups.Dont be afraid to look foolish you should see me trying to learn a flip turn for backstroke. Good Luck

July 27th, 2003, 08:59 PM

After many moons, I learned flip turns...

Here's how...

Next time there is a swim meet, college, World's (too bad I read your post so late...), and especially the Olympics, have your VCR running and tape, tape, tape.

Most times there is an underwater camera and you can catch the strokes, flip turns, starts, etc., and then replay them to get the right technique.

This is how I learned...watching the techniques, listening to the expert commentary and then going to the pool to practice.

Also, visit this website...it is german/english language but there are tons of great tips!

I hope this helps,


July 27th, 2003, 09:00 PM
oops...here's the website!



August 12th, 2003, 08:20 PM
Lot of good input here. I'll add my own 2c description here...

Have you ever seen a Lobster or a Shrimp take off in a hurry?
It bends over in a half, head under the knees and jets off.

As I approach the wall, I turn into a shrimp... ;)
Elbows and hands tuck inhead goes down under the knees, bent in a half at the waist, feet go overhead, and when it's time to jet off, feet get planted at the wall, arms stretrch forward, and pushoff.

As you are about to bend down, I do a very strong kick, that launches my feet overhead.

I watch the pool bottom markings, and my current speed to know when to start the turn, so I'm not too close or too far.

At the begining, start flipping your feet overhead gently, and bend your knees in as far as you can (as they pass overhead), then start stretching your legs out, in anticipation of your feet pushing off the wall. Feet never kick the wall, they plant amd push off, almost as if the wall is a trampoline.

After some practice, you'll know how close or far you are from the wall, so you won't have to waste your time bending your knees all the way in and anticipating the wall.

Also, what helped me is watching other people doing flipturns, in a lane next to them, under water. Looking to see where their arms go, where the legs go, how the body bends.

You may experience being dizzy after doing flipturns, and for maybe an hour after the workout. That goes away in 2-3 weeks or so, then you can get through the workout without getting dizzy.

January 14th, 2004, 09:39 AM
:) When it comes to flip turns the word is: Practice, practice, practice. But in order to practice this you have to learned it first. They are a bit tricky but not impossible. All the advise the other swimmers have given you is right on the money but it would help a lot if you can ask one of those grandmas to let you see her do it under water. That way, you can acctually SEE someone do it and then apply all this advice. You said you want to do Triathlons and if this is the case, don't bothrer with flip turns. l read in an article in the www.trinewbies.com web site (which is wonderful, you should check it out!!!!) that said that the flip turns will cause your heart reate to rise. (it does!) This in turn may negatibly affect your aerobic pace. The flip turns are great for competition in a swimming pool but for open water swimming they serve no purpose. So don't worry to much about doing it unless you really think you should, it is up to you. l learned to do them back in the 80s. l was competing with the USMS and a good friend of mine showed me how. Hey, maybe l am one of those grandmas that you say do them when you work out so if you ask me to show you l will defenetly do it. :D
Keep on swimming!!!!!!!!!!

January 19th, 2004, 12:27 PM
I would vote for learning flipturns. It seems to me that I get a better workout when I flipturn, or at least I can swim many more laps just doing open turns than when I flipturn at every end. (It takes me several strokes to recover and get my breathing settled which is more aerobic) I learned by watching others and then after trying it for a few workouts I asked a high school swimmer, who was swimming in the next lane, to show me how she did flipturns. She showed me the basics and that was it. took about 5 minutes. So maybe you can just ask one of the Grannys to give you a quick lesson. She will probably be flattered that you asked!:)

January 23rd, 2004, 01:23 PM
alot of great advice from people.. if you can try to have someone videotape you doing a flip turn that would be best.. there are so many things going on in a flip turn that it may be hard to feel what we are all talking about. The best way to improve is to see yourself and see what you have to change.

I coach many triathletes and they have they same question, do I need to learn how to do a flip turn? well, if you want to be a more competent and confident swimmer than yes. you will start cutting time off of your swims in a pool and you may be able to start working at a faster pace with faster people. Think about what people will buy for their bike to make it better or they get better running shoes, doing a flip turn is part of becoming a swimmer. Keep trying and you may be the one passing people soon

February 6th, 2004, 04:50 PM
I also want to urge you to learn the flip turns. It will actually make your pool swim MORE like your open water swims, not less. Think about it for a minute. When you do an open turn or a stop turn you grab the wall and rest a moment before pushing off and swimming. When you get in open wanter what are you going to grab onto and rest a moment before continuing?

When you do a flip turn you do not stop at all, the swimming becomes continuous, just as it is in open water.

If you really want to simulate open water, minimize you push off the wall so it just returns you to swimming pace (most pool swimmers maximize the push).

The one bit of advice about grazing the wall with your finger is questionable. If you are in that close you will have to bend your knees too much to keep from hitting the wall. People who ball up and turn actually are often slower in their turns that people who do open turns.

A simple description of a flip turn is to tuck your chin hard (your torso will follow) and kick your legs over.

I strongly suggest initial attempts be done away from the wall and slowly work your way into the wall to get the distance right.

Also note, that the cross mark on the bottom of the pool is not always the same distance from the wall from one pool to the next, so you have to adjust your turning point each time you swim in a new pool. This must be part of your pre-meet warmups or you may loose valuable time.

February 8th, 2004, 11:18 PM
Another benefit to flip turns is the stretch it gives your back. This can really help you overall in your swimming (as well as running and cycling). Open turn swimmers tend to really tighten up, which lowers your overall distance capacity.

Most beginners also suffer from poor body position in the water. I believe that flip turns will help you to keep a more horizontal position. Concentrate on keeping the water line coming into the wall at the crown of your head. If you do the open turn, then the tendency is to raise your head which gives you an inefficient body position coming into the wall - your hips sink lower and you are pushing a lot of water coming into the wall. Even though you are training for open water swimming, you don't want to develop this type of body position.

One final thought, I did not like the advice you got earlier regarding sweeping the wall with the fingertips before flipping - you are way, way too close to the wall for this.

February 13th, 2004, 11:59 AM
In practice today I turned too soon and it reminded me of the two worst feelings in swimming:

2) When, in a race you execute a flip turn and realize your feet are not touching the wall.:(

1) when swimming butterfly and you realize you took one too many strokes at the end of the pool:eek:

March 1st, 2004, 09:17 PM
I have to touch the wall first and use it for leverage when flipping on backstroke, but I worry that I lose time. Does anyone have any suggestions on back flips without using your hand on the wall for leverage?

I bend forward at the waist (freestyle), but I haven't figured out how to bend backward at the waist.

Rob Copeland
March 2nd, 2004, 08:15 AM
Flipping for backstroke is now the same as flipping for front crawl. In USMS you are allowed to roll over from back to front as you approach the wall and then you can do a normal front flip, just make sure to push off on your back. The following is the USMS backstroke turn rule:

Backstroke 101.4.3—Turns
Upon completion of each length, some part of the swimmer must touch the wall. During the turn the shoulders may be turned past the vertical toward the breast, after which a continuous single arm pull or a continuous simultaneous double arm pull may be used to execute the turn. Once the body has left the position on the back, any kick or arm pull must be part of the continuous turning action. The swimmer must have returned to a position on the back upon leaving the wall.
Note: The swimmer who turns past vertical and, in a continuous motion, grabs the wall before pushing off with the feet while on the back is considered to have executed a “continuous turning action.”