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 is the process of changing direction at the wall to stay swimming continuously. For Freestyle and Backstroke this will entail doing a full somersault on the wall and then pushing 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 even kick sets. There are a number of core benefits of mastering this skill and below are the main reasons:

  • 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.

So when you do a flip turn, it eliminates these tiny rest stops from your workout and, over time, develops more continuous-swimming 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

  1. Standing Somersault
    • Lead with both your hands, then one hand
    • Try to do entire flip out of water
    • Be in as small of a ball as possible
  2. Horizontal Somersault
    • Use leading arm to pull in
    • Key: Carry momentum small ball
  3. Somersault At The Wall
    • Flip at one arms length from the wall
    • Place your feet = 6-12 inches under the surface of the water
    • Ensure your body is fully aligned
  4. Push Off On Your Back
    • Ensure a stable foot placement
    • Push off on your back in streamline (then kick)
  5. Rotate Onto Stomach
    • Push off on your back with momentum turning onto your front
    • Kick (free or fly) in streamline to return to front side

Listen to the episode on SoundCloud:

Flip Turn Tips

While you will not learn to master the flip turn over night, you can make significant progress just by working on the skill every time you swim. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Checkout these tips to help you improve faster:

  • Tight ball
  • Approach wall fast (with momentum)
  • Don’t glide into the wall
  • Don’t lift head up to breath right before the wall
  • Use the T on bottom/flip at an arms length
  • Push off on your back
  • Don’t breath on the breakout stroke – it kills speed off 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
  • Flip over lane marker – focuses on flipping in a tight ball
  • Push off on your back – keeps you aligned through flip processes
  • Two kickboards – teaches you to keep your hands simple on the flip

I hope this Whiteboard Wednesday was helpful in mastering the freestyle flip turn. Happy swimming!

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