Flip Turns for Beginners

Today, I’m going over the Freestyle Flip-turn. I’ll start with an over view of the turn, cover flips, the push off, and common mistakes. Watch the turn in slow motion. After finishing my final stroke into the wall, I initiate the turn starting at the head, then hips, followed by the legs. As I push off the wall, I twist back to my stomach.

Flips: To many beginners, it simply looks like we’re doing a front roll, but watch what happens when I curl up in a ball in the water.  It actually pulls me away from the wall. Don’t curl up all at once. Head first, then hips, then legs. Start by practicing flips away from the wall. Try standing flips, push flips, or swimming flips.

On a standing flip, jump into the flip. When flipping, let the air come out of your nose so that water doesn’t go up. Try humming. Many beginners use their hands to help facilitate the flip. Push the water over your head while flipping. Next, try pushing off the wall and into the flip. This will give you the sensation of carrying your speed into the turn. Finally, add strokes. Finish your stroke and initiate the turn. Try again. Watch again as I swim towards the camera. I finish my stroke. Then, head, hips, legs.

Gauging your Distance From the Wall: In backstroke, we gauge our distance from the wall based on the backstroke flags. In freestyle, we gauge our distance from the wall based on the T on the bottom of the pool. As a six foot tall adult, I take one stroke past the T before initiating the turn. I’ve see little kids take two or three strokes past the T before flipping. To show students, how close you have to get. I’ll often position them on the wall and then, back them out of the turn. Rely on in water cues to gauge your distance to the wall.

Push-offs: Unlike backstroke, there is no “Delay Initiating Turn”, so if you’re too far away, you can kick to get closer. When coming off the wall, push and twist back to your stomach. Let’s watch it from the side. I don’t twist while I’m on the wall. I corkscrew off the wall.

Common Mistakes: Common mistakes that I see all the time include – head up swimmers, early push-offs, and swimmers that try to do everything at once. Don’t lift your head to look for the wall. This ruins your momentum and makes it harder to flip. Don’t push off before your feet enter the water. You risk hitting your heels on the gutter. As for those who try to do everything at once, slow it down. Don’t twist mid flip. Initiate the turn with the head, hips, legs. Then, push and twist off the wall.


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Written by Chris B.

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