A perfect flip-turn can shave seconds off your race, but perfection takes practice, time and skill. Learn how to make the perfect break below.
How should I approach the turn?
When doing a proper freestyle flip-turn, it’s really important to maintain your speed coming into the wall. Many swimmers slow down right before a turn and end up losing seconds off the wall. To maintain speed, make sure you do not breathe in or out when nearing the wall—instead, hold your breath and just swim from the flags to the wall and back.
When should you start your turn?
Avoid raising your head to look up at the wall when you’re swimming toward it. Keep your head down and in line with your body. Look up only with your eyes. When you spot the bottom of the “T” on the wall, then start your turn.
How should my body be positioned?
The last stroke before you flip should be strong. Keep your hand directly under your chest when you pull down, with your elbow out wide. Your arm should be at a 45-degree angle. Once you complete your last stroke, both of your arms should be down at your sides, and your body should be in a straight line. Duck your head first and allow your body to follow. At the same time, sweep your hands up toward your face, creating momentum by pressing the water toward you. As you do this, you should be compressing your entire body into a tight ball. Tuck your knees up to your chest and spin your feet over your body and onto the wall.
What does a clean breakout look like?
Once your feet are about in line with your body, push off on your back and into a streamline. You may then begin to turn over onto your stomach while simultaneously kicking with either three strong dolphin kicks or a six-beat freestyle kick. The breakout from the turn is just as important as the actual turn in maintaining speed off the wall, so make sure you kick hard. Resist taking a breath until you are about three strokes out of your breakout.
Emily Silver competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was a silver medalist as a member of the 4x100m freestyle relay. She won gold at the 2008 World Championships and 2007 Summer Universiade, both in the 4x100m relay. She is currently the athlete relations manager for USA Swimming.