Whether you’re an experienced swimmer or someone who is just learning how to do a freestyle flip turn, here are ten ways to make your flip turns better and faster.
Let’s start with a review of good, solid flip turn technique. This is where you’ll gain the most, especially if you’ve let these five basic principles slip. Then we'll dive into some details that will get you in and off of each wall faster.
[step1][steptitle1] Accelerate toward the Wall[/steptitle1][stepcontent]
The faster you swim into the wall, the more energy you have available to convert into a fast spin. And the faster you spin, the easier it will be to blast off the wall. Power through those last couple of meters with a strong kick and you may be surprised at how quickly your feet land on the wall.
[step2][steptitle2] Hold Your Breath In[/steptitle2][stepcontent]
Every breath takes you out of streamline position, which decreases your momentum. On that last stroke before the wall, you want to maximize (not decrease!) the amount of forward energy you are carrying into the turn.
[step3][steptitle3] Hold Your Breath Out[/steptitle3][stepcontent]
Again, breathing on the first arm stroke after the turn takes you out of streamline position and bleeds forward momentum at a critical moment. (The fastest you’re ever going in a pool is in the first few meters after you have pushed off the wall.) Plus, your first arm stroke will be most powerful if your head is in a neutral position, rather than turned to the side.
[step4][steptitle4] Foot Positioning[/steptitle4][stepcontent]
You will actually spin faster, and your feet will arrive on the wall more quickly if you throw them straight over the top, as opposed to over the top and slightly off to the side.
[step5][steptitle5] Push Off on Your Back[/steptitle5][stepcontent]
[hottip-SR][hottiptitle-S]Hot Tip: Old Habits[/hottiptitle-S][hottipcontent-S]
If you are trying to break the habit of twisting either during your somersault or when your feet are on the wall, swim freestyle-to-backstroke 50s in your warm-up and warm-down. In other words, swim a lap of freestyle, flip turn, and push off on your back for a lap of backstroke.
If you are flipping your feet straight over the top, but twisting onto your stomach before pushing off the wall, you are likely spending at least one -- if not three -- seconds ON the wall, where your speed is exactly zero meters per second. Instead, push off the wall the instant your feet land there. You should be on your back. Twist as you streamline kick to the surface.
Once you’re doing those five things – even when you’re swimming on autopilot – there are a few details that will take your flip turns to the next level.
[step6][steptitle6] Tuck into a Tighter Ball[/steptitle6][stepcontent]
The smaller you get, the less time you will need to complete the rotation. It really is that simple.
[hottip][hottiptitle]Hot Tip: Somersault Freestyle Drill[/hottiptitle][hottipcontent]
Somersault freestyle is a drill that will help improve the speed of your flip turns. As you swim freestyle, every six or eight arm strokes, do a somersault. Practice getting as small as possible, spinning really fast, and not breathing right before or right after the somersault.
[step7][steptitle7] Look Down[/steptitle7][stepcontent]
When you look directly at the target on the wall (the black cross), you have to lift your chin, and that takes your head (and upper body) in the opposite direction you need to go! Instead, look for the target by moving just your eyes. You cannot look directly at the target if you…
[step8][steptitle8] Tuck Your Chin[/steptitle8][stepcontent]
A common mistake beginners make when learning flip turns is that they pick their head up and out of the water before initiating the forward flip. They are using their head and upper body to generate the momentum they need to somersault.
You may not pick your head so far up that your eyes come out of the water, but check to see that you are not letting your chin come too far away from your chest. In other words, don’t cheat and use your head to create momentum. Use your core muscles and the good technique described in the above steps to convert your forward momentum into spinning momentum.
[step9][steptitle9] Elbow Positioning[/steptitle9][stepcontent]
Resist the temptation to create spin with wide, flailing arms. When you finish your last arm stroke just before the turn, both arms will be at your hips. Press on the back of your hands, but keep your arms where they are, so that you somersault between them. Use your core muscles to pull your head down toward your knees and to whip your feet over and down to their landing spot on the wall. When your feet hit the wall, your hands will be in exactly the right place to streamline as you push off the wall. See the photo at the start of this article!
[step10][steptitle10] Distance from the Wall[/steptitle10][stepcontent]
If you execute your turn when your head is within an inch or two of the gutter, you are way too close to the wall! When your feet land on the wall in a well-executed flip turn, your legs should be bent as if you are sitting in a chair that is slightly too short. To understand why, try this experiment.
Do two vertical jumps from the ground (with your arms in streamline position). On the first, crouch to the ground and jump from there. Bend your knees so that your butt is almost touching your heels, as it would be in a too-close-to-the-wall flip turn. On the second, crouch down until your knee angle is slightly less than 90 degrees. Your hips will be barely lower than your knees. You’ll probably get about the same height off the ground on both, but the latter should be easier. Plus, that’s 12 inches less you have to swim on every lap!
Experiment with It
Experiment with these techniques in your workouts, and you should have faster, easier freestyle flip turns.