Pro Tip: The Sneaky Way to Improve Your Swim Turns

“Ugh, my turns suck,” she said. “I wish we practiced them more often in practice.”

She wasn’t wrong. My teammate’s turns weren’t the best. This had become painfully apparent when it came to racing. Not used to turning at race speed meant that she had trouble timing her turns properly, leaving her perpetually behind off each wall.

During her 200 freestyle she barely grazed the wall on her first turn, pushing off with her tippy toes. On the second she turned way to close, her butt nearly touching the wall the turn was so tight. But on the third turn she (finally) nailed it.

Despite getting it together for the final turn and push-off, the first two had cost her a solid couple seconds.

While my teammate’s turns might have indeed, “sucked,” as she so delicately put it, it was somewhat lost on her that over the course of 4,000 or 5,000-meter swim workout we were doing a hearty number of them.

How to Double the Number of Turns You Are Doing (& Get in Better Shape)

The easiest way to do more turns is to start your reps from the middle of the pool. To swim out to the 12.5 or 25 mark and start your reps from dead center.

So let’s say you were doing a set of 50’s. Instead of performing one push-off and one turn, by starting in the middle of the pool you are doing two per rep.

There are benefits to doing sets this way that go beyond getting more turns in.

  • Starting from a dead stop is much more difficult. Without the benefit of a push-off and underwater dolphin kicks it is more challenging to get up to speed. Those first few strokes require a high stroke rate in order to quickly get to swim speed, which is great for you swimmers who have trouble increasing their stroke rate.
  • Active rest. Most swimmers can’t wait to float into the wall so that they can flop their arms into the gutter for passive rest between repetitions. Starting mid-pool ramps up the difficulty when you are tasked with doing active rest between reps in the form of vertical kicking or simply treading water. (Or, you know, just hang off of the lane-rope.)
  • Sprint into the wall. A variation of this set has you starting from 5 or 10 meters or yards away from the pool into a dead sprint into the wall and turn. This means you don’t have to sprint a full lap before hitting a turn at speed, you can do it from just beyond the flags and get far more of them in as a result.
  • Swim with fins. What the experience I described above details is an unfamiliarity with turning at high speed. Sure we can crush our turns when we are in practice and swimming at moderate to moderately high intensity, but when we are going at race pace speed things change. Swim and turn at high speed with fins to get used to this kind of velocity so that the fast closing wall is not a shock when you dive in at the big meet.
  • Ideal for long course swimmers. For you swimmers that train predominantly in long course meters, starting from the middle of the pool is a super easy way to get more turn work in, while also reaping the increased aerobic benefits of long course swimming.

At the end of the day, if you want to turn fast at the big meet you need to turn fast in practice too!

Being such a big part of your races (particularly in the short course format) your turns should be something you do with intention each and every day at practice.

Remember the golden rule: The way we train is the way we race.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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