How to Flippin' Turn
One day you decide to go for a nice swim at the pool. You hop in, start swimming, and everything is going great until you reach the dreaded end of the pool; what do you do next?! Grab the wall and turn yourself around slowly like all your friends? OR are you going to take your swimming technique to the next level and impress everyone with a fast and flawless flip turn? Before, you would have chickened out. Now, the choice is yours.
Prerequisites: Ability to do basic freestyle, ability to do a somersault in the water, and the motivation to become a faster swimmer!
Alrighty, here we go!
Step 1: An important thing to remember...
BEFORE YOU START:
The first thing to remember when doing these turns is that flip turns are “blind”. Don’t try to look ahead to where you’re going when swimming into the wall, and don’t look when you’re pushing off of the wall either. Just keep your head in line with your body and trust the other swimmers in your lane.
A note to the nervous: If you are uncomfortable with doing somersaults or just want some practice before swimming straight into a wall, you can practice the movements given in this tutorial without a wall. Take away the scary part of the turn until you learn how to comfortably somersault.
Step 2: Let's get started!
SWIM TOWARDS THE WALL
Gain momentum towards the wall by swimming freestyle into the wall in the center of the lane (if possible). Generally, the more momentum you have, the faster your turn will be. However, be sure to start off slow on your first few practice runs! It doesn’t feel good to run into the wall.
USE THE T
In most pools, there is a large T on the bottom of the pool as well as on the wall underwater. This can be used to help time and center your turn. Try to swim directly over the T on the bottom and into the T on the wall.
Step 3: Start the somersault!
When you are directly above the T on the bottom of the pool, begin your half-somersault. Tuck your chin, kick one last hard kick and finish your arm pull with your hands ending at your sides.
Note: For a first timer, you may want to plug your nose with either a nose plug or your hand during this exercise. No one likes getting tons of water up their nose! However, once you've mastered this step, try blowing bubbles out your nose instead of plugging it with your hand. Having both hands free makes a flip turn much easier to complete.
Step 4: Finish the Somersault
DO THE FLIP
Tuck your knees and chin into your chest as tight as possible, and pull your feet into your butt. Use your arms to keep the somersault going by pushing the water up towards your ears with your palms and forearms.
Note: The goal here is simply to flip from your front to your back, so don't get too worried about all the details. For your first couple tries, just work on getting your legs over and then go back and work on the details later.
Step 5: On the wall
As you complete your half-somersault, straighten your arms out over your head and put one hand on top of the other. Point the tips of your fingers in the direction you want to go, which is directly down the pool. Be sure to squeeze your arms tight! From the waist up, you should be in a streamline: think of making your body match the shape of a torpedo. Long and tight!
PLANT THOSE FEET
Extend your legs out of the curled ball, and plant them squarely on the wall approximately 6” under the surface of the water, toes pointed up. As you get better, you will want to be close enough to the wall that your hips and knees are both making 90 degree angles, as is you’re sitting straight up in a chair.
Step 6: Houston, we have takeoff!
Launch yourself off the wall by straightening your legs and moving your entire body in a tight streamline (remember, torpedo-like). Staying on your back, push straight off of the wall. Remember to keep your eyes on the surface of the water and not on your toes or your destination!
[See the sequence of pictures to help clarify this step.]
Note: Once you've had some practice completing the turn, you can speed things up by playing 'hot potato' with the wall. To keep your turns fast, you minimize the time your feet spend on the wall by planting and pushing off in one quick, smooth motion.
Step 7: Just keep kicking...
To maintain your momentum, kick your legs are you are leaving the wall. There are two types of kick to choose from at this point:
It all depends on your preference and what’s faster for you. As you become more comfortable with the turn, play around with both kicks to decide which is best for you.
Step 8: From the back to the front...
As you leave the wall in a tight streamline (keep your arms right on top of your ears!), begin to rotate your whole body from belly-up to belly-down by twisting your entire body. I think about rotating my shoulders and hips together; this keeps my streamline tight as I’m twisting. Remember to keep your whole body in a straight line!
[View the sequence of underwater and above-water pictures to clarify this step!]
Step 9: Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming
Once you are belly down, begin your transition back into freestyle by using a strong flutter kick and heading towards the surface. Begin your freestyle pull with whichever hand is closest to the bottom of the pool. As your hand completes the pull, you should be close enough to the surface for your hand to exit the water just like a normal stroke.
Note: The timing of this takes practice, so don’t be frustrated if it doesn’t work on your first try!
Step 10: Put it all together and....TAA DAA!!
Practice these steps slowly at first, and add speed as you become more confident in your abilities. As you get better, work on stretching your distance off the wall. Other advanced steps include speeding up as you approach the wall and performing dolphin kicks off the wall before you begin your flutter kick.
Good luck learning this turn! It’s tricky, but worth learning; you can do it!