Intro to Turns

Turning is an inevitable part of swimming laps – you can either choose to do an open turn or a flip turn each time you encounter the wall. Keep in mind that although open turns require less effort, flip turns provide more fluidity during a set. Remember that whichever turn you choose to do should fit your particular workout or training goals. Below is an explanation of the two.

Front Crawl Open Turn

1. As you approach the wall on your stomach allow your dominate arm to extend until it grabs a hold of the wall. As you bend your arm at the elbow, bring the rest of your body into the wall while swinging your legs up firmly against the wall.

Tip: Feel free to use whichever arm works easier for you, most often it tends to be your dominate arm or the hand that you write with.

2. Position your feet against the wall, with knees bent, so that you are able to twist around on the balls of your feet and face away from the wall with your non-dominate hand extended towards the lap lane.

Tip: At this point your feet should be stacked one on top of the other and facing horizontally to the wall. Coordinate your feet so that the top foot coincides with the arm that is the leading/dominate one.

3. Allow yourself to take a breath as you prepare to push off the wall. When you are ready, push off the wall with both feet – both arms should be fully extended in front of you in streamline position.

Tip: As you push off your legs should straighten and your arms should form a rocket like shape above your head – this is called streamline position. Streamline position works on immobilizing your head by squeezing your forearms together over your ears and it works on decreasing resistance in the water.

Tip: You may push off while you are slightly on your side, and this is fine. The goal is to eventually straighten out and add in Step 4.

4. As you push off the wall, work on keeping your arms in streamline position and when ready add in a flutter kick. The kick will propel you to the surface of the water where you can begin to move in full front crawl.


Front Crawl Flip Turns

1. When you have about one full stroke length left from the wall allow your dominate arm to take one final arm stroke, later meeting your non-dominate arm by your side next to your thighs.

Tip: One stroke length varies from person to person but 3.5 feet is a good estimate. A good guide is to either a. practice doing summersaults in front of the wall and trying to push off or b. following the T shape that the lap line marker at the bottom of the pool makes and turning once you swim past it.

Tip: It is extremely important to make sure that your dominate arm gets a powerful final stroke – this power is going to be the main force propelling you forward and into the turn.

2. Flip into a half somersault pushing your hips forward by force of a strong dolphin kick.

Tip: Dolphin kick is the kicked used during the Butterfly stroke – legs are together and move as one unit starting from the hips, to the knees, to the ankle in one fluid movement.

Tip: Keeping your chin pulled in toward your chest will allow you to perform a tightly tucked-tuck.

Tip: It is always a good idea to practice somersaults away from the wall and with adding in the dolphin kick until you feel comfortable with the movement.

3. As you are completing the flip/somersault your legs should be bracing in order for your feet to meet the wall. Once your feet have met the wall, your knees will bend and will prepare for you to push off into streamline position.

Tip: You will either land with your toes facing down towards the ground or to the side – either way is fine so long as your knees are also bend and facing the same direction.

4. As you push off with your arms extending overhead in streamline position your face will be in the water, with your gaze downward.

Tip: Again, you may push off the wall with your body slightly skewed to the side (with your belly button facing the wall) and this is fine. As you continue to push off you can rotate the rest of your body so that you’re facing downward.

5. As you push off the wall, work on keeping your arms in streamline position and when ready add in a flutter kick. The kick will propel you to the surface of the water where you can begin to move in full front crawl.


Need help on perfecting your kick? Looking to develop your own swim workout? Questions about rotary breathing?



For me, mastering flip turns was always the most challenging part of learning to swim competitively. What is your biggest past or current obstacle in the pool or open water?



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8 responses to “Intro to Turns

  1. Swimming totally intimidates me…but this post makes me want to try it!! Great tips!

  2. Aww, this post brought me back to my competitive swimming days in high school. 🙂

    I got so burnt out from swimming in high school that I actually haven’t swam laps since. I think my biggest obstacle would be getting back into the pool!

  3. Learning to breathe in the water is the hardest for me. I feel claustrophobic and tend to just turn my head from side to side.

  4. Hey Kate!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and it’s so nice to meet you! 🙂

    To answer your question, I just bought a jar of Matha Nut Dark Chocolate Almond Butter! It’s amazing!!! 🙂

  5. Flip turns are the worst for me. 😦

  6. fattiefatterton

    I am so glad that you wrote this post. I am saving it so that I can try the flip turn. I’ve always wanted to. 😀

  7. Pingback: On disclaiming « What Kate Ate

  8. Pingback: Swim | What Kate Ate

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