Want to slice some time off your swimming without any additional training? (Um, yessss.) Here is how to do a flip turn that will shave valuable time off your swimming.
In the race to get better and faster we are always looking at doing more.
More training at race pace. More sessions in the water. More high tech space fabric for our swim suits. More large pizzas after practice.
But, as you will see in a little bit, you can produce faster swimming and do a flip turn more efficiently to get better results in the pool with only having to give a little more mental focus over the course of your swimming practices.
After all, when you watch your local swimmers go through the motions during their workouts, most of their flip turns are slow, unfocused, and rob them of the speed and velocity that they worked so hard to build up over the course of each length.
Here are 5 ways how to do a flip turn a whole lot faster:
1. Accelerate into the wall.
Recently I detailed an old swim of mine where I visibly and measurably slowed down in the 10m leading into the one turn of a 50m short course race.
How much did the slow down cost me? 0.6 seconds, which is basically a lifetime in a 50.
I decelerated into the wall, picking my head up in order to judge how many more strokes I was going to do before turning. Total rookie mistake.
When you are approaching the turn think in terms of acceleration—the more speed you carry going into your flip turn the faster you are going to rotate and explode off of the wall.
2. Don’t breathe into the wall.
Your coach has told you repeatedly the importance of not breathing into the wall. But you never really listened, because really, what difference does it make? And besides, I need me some of that tasty O2!
But as it turns out, it can make an absolute huge difference.
Not breathing into your flip turns does a few powerful things, not the least of which is helps you not slow down into the wall (see point above!), helps promote better chin placement (see below!), and even helps teach better breathing pattern discipline.
So yeah, listen to your coach once in a while! It will help you turn faster, and also be like, a 12% better looking person*.
3. Tuck your chin.
This is probably the most common error I see swimmers make from beginner to experienced—picking your head up to take a nice, long and semi-loving look at the wall.
Instead, keep your chin tucked and trust your stroke count into the flags to ensure that your feet land so that you can push off with max power.
Every one of your millions and millions of flip turn should be completed with efficiency of movement: straight in, straight out.
Picking your head up into the wall leads to an over-rotation in both the approach and exit of the flip turn—you go up and over when you initiate the turn (wasted speed and distance), and then end up having to over-compensate for the added rotation when coming out of it, which usually leaves you pointing straight up at the surface.
Tip: Want a mental cue to help you with this? Think about driving the top of your head straight at the middle of the T on the bulkhead or wall.
4. “Hot foot” the turns by having arms extended out when your feet hit the wall.
Okay, so you’ve mastered the tucked chin. Concentrated on maintaining speed into the turn. And remembered to not breathe to keep moving at a high clip. What’s next?
Exploding off the wall like you just funneled a Costco-sized can of Red Bull. That’s what.
When most swimmers do their flip turn there is a marked pause where they plant their feet, and then raise their arms above their head to push off.
Think of the tenths of a second—yes, that’s what we are hoping for here—that you will save on each turn having your arms above your head when your feet touch the wall. No waiting, no fumbling around under the water to get organized, just a lovely little streamline already in place and ready to push off with.
This one will take practice, and might have to over-ride your current turning habits—but it’s well worth the extra little bit of focus.
Having your arms streamlined above you, ready and waiting, will also encourage you to “hot foot” the flip turns—pushing off quickly and sharply instead of hesitantly planting and replanting the bottom of your feet on the turn.
5. Get more sleep.
Bet ya didn’t see that one coming!
I would say the funnest way to improve your turn has nothing to do with technique (unless you count sleeping technique—I prefer on my back with a pillow under my elbow to lock my shoulder in place), but rather, how much sleep swimmers get.
Research done with swimmers at Stanford found that swim performance improved across all areas after 6 weeks of sleep extension (the athletes were instructed to get 1-2 hours extra sleep nightly), from reaction times to sprinting speed.
How fast the swimmers turned also improved—on average the swimmers slashed 0.10 seconds off their turn speed. Which might not sound like a lot, but added up over the course of a race (particularly short course!), can add up to something seriously substantial.
Faster turns, faster swimming, and more sleep? Giddyup!
The Next Step
You perform a dizzying amount of flip turns over the course of each week during your swim practices.
How many of them are done at your best? How many of them are performed mindfully and with focus?
Don’t wait for your coach to put on a specialized “starts and turns” session—although who doesn’t like themselves one of those?—and take the lead on leveling up your flip turns the next time you walk out on deck.
If you put even just a couple of these tips into place you will drop some significant times on your flip turns, which will translate into faster times where it matters most—the clock.
* This is made up. Or is it?
More Stuff Like This:
Pro Tip: How to Double the Number of Turns You Do In Practice. Want more work on your flip turns? Here is a way to increase the overall number of opportunities to level up your walls.