How to Do a Flip Turn!




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!

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: An Important Thing to Remember...

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!

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.

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

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!

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:
     · Dolphin Kick : Keeping your legs together, move your body in a dolphin-like motion or,
     · Flutter (or Scissor) Kick: Separately kicking your legs the same as during the crawl stroke.

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!

Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest

    30 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I was so scared to try a flip turn for swimming. But this really helped explain it. I do flip turns almost on a daily bases now.

    Very nice! When I swim on my swim team, we come just about right next to the wall before we do a turn. And when you do a flip turn, eventually you will figure out when to blow bubbles out and when you don't need to during the turn, to save air for the push off.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    WOW, very nice.   That would send water up my nose for sure though....I tend to panic in water if I am swimming in an unconventional position...I haven't had much practice...
    5 replies

    To avoid water up the nose you can hum underwater rather than blow bubbles.
    Blowing bubbles out of your nose and mouth will blow out all of youroxygen and cause you to need to pop up for a breath sooner (and if youare not used to flip turns, you will want to pop up too soon.)
    Instead, take your last breath, then keep your lips closed and starthumming as you glide in for the turn.
    Try it just standing in the pool first. Stand there, start humming, duckunderwater while continuing to hum, keep humming as you stand back up.You will notice bubbles coming out of your nose as you hum underwater,but you will not have blown out all of your air.
    Then try it doing a somersault and then try it while doing the flip turn.
    Yay, you can do a flip turn without water up the nose AND not run out of breath!

    Thank you so much Judy! I have been trying to do flip turns for years and water up my nose and blowing out all my oxygen had ALWAYS prevented my success. After just 10 minutes of practice I was flip-turning swimmingly. This is the best advice for teaching flip turns. Thank you for you help. Much Thanks!!!

    Well, the first step would be to become more comfortable in water. Ever  since an incident where I nearly drowned (I was 9-10)about 40 years ago,  I have been fairly phobic about being inwater deeper then my  waist.  

    I have managed to learn to swim - quite poorly, but then I am notgoing to enter  any contests for sure :-)  -  and so am abit more comfortable around (and even  UNDER water (where I nowswim my best) BUT,  when I get gravitationally disoriented (flipping, or turning oddly) whether in water or out, I tendto gasp in  breaths.....not exactly the best thing to do underwater :-)

    Your advice though, sounds like it would work.....I will have tosomehow  reference this, so that when it warms up again in my area,I can get to a pool  and try it.  Even if I am not able tolearn a flip turn, it should make be more  comfortable withswimming across the top of the water (I have never learned to  breath properly with that side to side movement of one's face,either).   Thanks. 

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the helpful tip Judy!

    You are completely right about humming, I teach little kids duringswim lessons to hum & it works great, and if it works for littlekids it should work for us too! Plus, like you said, you only let out afew bubbles so you have plenty to keep you going until its time to swim again.

    & Goodhart, that's great that you're continuing to swim even thoughit's left some scars in the past...that takes alot of guts! I woulddefinitly try the humming thing and just play around with flips whileswimming. I know its pretty awkward at first, and it will take somepractice (it took me a few months to be completely comfortable with flipturns) but I'm sure with time it will come! Good luck!


    i've been swimming unprofessionally for the last 10 years and have the turn slightly different ... going in is all the same except that i twist at the wall when turning about and kicking off, not after the kickoff.

    3 replies

    I've just been swimming to the wall, quickly grabbing the edge of the pool, climbing up and running to the edge as fast as I can and leaping back into the water so I don't get left behind.

    Hows THAT for professional?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Do you mind telling me what camera was used for this, as it appears to be waterproof?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    HAHAHAHA! GREAT!! but i'm nervous when i am far at sides!

    This is a GREAT Instructable! I've been swimming for 15 years and this is exactly how I would explain a flip turn. Awesome job.


    9 years ago on Step 9

     Remember that if you are swimming in a competition you only use flip turns for free style and backstroke, not for breaststroke or butterfly. If you are swimming in a competition, its best to stick to flutter kicking and not dolphin kicking, as you may be disqualified.

    1 reply

     i agree with that up until the kicking part, you dolphin kick after a flip turn, you dolphin kick on your breaststroke pullout, you dolphin kick for fly, and you dolphin kick after your backstroke turn. ive been swimming competitively for some time now i know what im talking about.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     These tips are very helpful! the pictures and videos helped get the exact movements down. Goodhart- My mother had a similar problem, but she had lessons with a really great instructor and soon was swimming proficiently. Unfortunately, soon after she had a heart attack! (It didn't make sense because she was extremely healthy.)  She is (hopefully) going to take up lessons again. 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This was awesome! I really appreciated the frame by frame by frame pics to figure out body alignment