Basics of the Freestyle Flip Turn

December 25, 2020

There’s a definite art to the freestyle flip turn, but the good news is, mastering the technique is a pretty fun process.

For casual swimmers, flip turns may not be necessary. But if you’re looking to take your swimming to the next level — and you’re comfortable flipping in the water — improving your flip turn is a simple yet underlooked way to add speed and velocity to your swimming. 

Generally, you do flip turns for freestyle. There’s a slightly more complicated version of a flip turn for backstroke, which involves a different approach and set up. For the purpose of this post, however, we’ll focus on the freestyle. Don’t worry if it’s slow-going at first. With regular practice comes mastery…and greater confidence, which is half the battle!


The Basics of Flip Turns

While a flip turn is kind of like a somersault, you don’t want to do a full somersault in the water. This would lead you to swim into the wall (ouch).

“Wherever your head is directing where you push off, that’s where you’re going to go, so don’t focus on trying to do a perfect somersault,” said Kelsey Lord, Columbia Clippers coach. 

To get started, swim freestyle toward the wall — if possible, try to position yourself in the middle of the lane. Although more momentum means a faster flip turn, it’s a good idea to start slowly to get a good feel for the technique first.

Lord typically instructs her swimmers to start to flip when they’re roughly an arm’s length away from the wall, or to take one stroke after they are over the black T on the bottom of the pool. 

“If you’re too close you will possibly hit your head, scrape your back or hit your heels on top of the wall. But if you’re too far away, you will have to stretch your legs out to hit the wall for the push off,” she said. “The distance will vary for each person depending on their height. A taller person would need more space to flip over than a smaller person.”

Once your arms are at your side, you can tuck your chin to your chest to start your flip (with your feet and knees pulled in). To keep your flip going, use your arms to push the water up towards your ears with your palms and forearms. The big goal here is simply to flip from your front to back, and this gets easier with practice.

After you flip and pull your legs over top, your feet will hit the black T shoulder width apart in ‘chair position.’ This simply means when you swim into the wall and flip over, it should look like you’re sitting in a chair with your arms in a streamline, legs at a 90 degree angle and eyes looking to the ceiling. So, instead of sitting upright, you’re sitting with your back facing the bottom of the pool and your feet on the wall. 

Finally, it’s time for take-off! Keep your entire body in a streamline and straighten your legs to push off the wall. As you push, twist toward your stomach using your core and begin to kick.

There you have it…the basic elements to executing a flip turn. Happy flipping!


Master Your Flip Turn With CA

CA’s coaches and swim lesson instructors are here to help. CA offers one-on-one swim lessons for all ages and skill levels. Learn more here.

Share this post