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Flip turns can make swimmers faster

This is an excerpt from Developing Swimmers by Michael Brooks.

Flip Turns

Freestyle and backstroke are the two variations of flip turns. Done correctly, they speed up a swimmer while allowing a brief respite from swimming, thus explaining why short-course times are faster than long-course times for the same events.

Freestyle Approach

Unless swimmers take a lot of momentum into the wall, they will not take much off of it. The approach is crucial to maintaining speed; any hitches, pauses, or stops are deadly against good competitors. The turn should be seamless and fast.

  • Use attack mode. Swimmers need to attack the wall; this is an attitude as much as a technique. They should not breathe the last two strokes into the wall.
  • Keep your eyes on the cross. Swimmers should keep their eyes on the cross on the end of the pool for precision. Many coaches prefer to have their swimmers focus on the T on the pool bottom. But given the differences in water depth and clarity from pool to pool, swimmers can time their turns more precisely by focusing on the wall. The slight loss in streamlining is made up for by the improved timing.
  • Gauge for a full stroke. Fast in, fast out. Gliding in or chopping the last stroke into the wall kills momentum just when swimmers want to be moving full speed ahead. Instead, they should gauge their strokes into the wall from several strokes out so that they can finish with a strong, full stroke with hands at their sides. Any necessary adjustments in stroke length are spread out over several strokes rather than concentrated on the last one.

Freestyle Turn on the Wall

For a flip turn, the turn on the wall consists of somersaulting and planting the feet on it for the push-off. Quickness is crucial.

  • Do the quad. For a fast somersault, four things need to happen quickly all once: Duck the chin, dolphin-kick powerfully, tuck at the middle, and back-scull with both hands toward the face (see figure 8.16). The quad gets the feet over and on the wall quickly. The body should be a small spinning ball in a tuck position, not a layout.
  • Plant and go. The legs flip straight over on the somersault, and the feet plant on the wall with the toes pointing upward. On the wall, it's one touch and go. There is no twisting and turning on it, and there is no waiting to turn over onto the stomach before pushing off. Instead, swimmers get off the wall as fast as they can and worry about twisting after they push off (see figure 8.17). They should not add any extra motions that take time and slow them down.

Freestyle Send-Away

The send-away takes the speed from the somersault and adds the power of the push-off and the underwater kicking. Underwater dolphin kicking is an important weapon in the arsenal of most top swimmers.

  • Explode. The push off the wall is powerful, with a straight back and taut body—no sogginess.
  • Streamline. The head is tucked tight against the upper arms, the elbows are squeezed tight, and the hands are placed one on the other. The swimmer resembles a skinny sharpened pencil coming off the wall (see figure 8.18).
  • Use hyperspeed. Small, powerful, quick dolphins, working both beats of each kick, are more powerful and streamlined than big, slow dolphins. Every kick from first to last must be powerful. One common mistake is for swimmers to start strong but get progressively weaker until they are almost motionless by the last kick. Underwater dolphins on the send-away (see figure 8.19) are becoming important even with age-groupers, especially in short-course yards racing. Age-groupers must practice this skill.
  • Break out. For most swimmers, the first two breakout strokes are wimpy giveaways. This wastes an opportunity to carry the speed from the push-off and underwater dolphins into the swimming. After a freestyle turn, swimmers should always pull with the bottom arm first (this may not be the arm whose hand is on the bottom), and they should make the breakout strokes long, strong, and powerful, causing the body to surge forward and setting a good rhythm for the length. Never breathe the first two strokes (or more, for short races) since effort and momentum are wasted by climbing upward to breathe.

Read more about Developing Swimmers by Michael Brooks.

More Excerpts From Developing Swimmers