Learn These Important Skills and Drills to Have a Killer Flip Turn

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Abigail Sheridan, Swimming World College Intern.

We’ve all watched that race – where two swimmers are neck and neck, each ferociously fighting back the pain to hit the touch pad first. If these competitors are swimming at the same speed, then the one with a faster flip turn will prevail.

Turns are a staple in every race, so their importance cannot be understated. In the video below, all eight phenomenal athletes are competing at the highest level – the final heat of the 2012 London Olympic Games in the 100 freestyle. The importance of a fast flip turn can truly be seen. If Nathan Adrian’s flip turn had been .02 slower, he would have earned the silver medal.

Besides efficiency and speed, another reason proper flip turns are important is to prevent injury. Back pain can come from an over-arched lower back during flip turns – a problem easily solved by increasing core strength and focusing on body-line.

There are countless ways to improve, starting with the hundreds of flip turns swimmers perform at each and every practice. It is crucial that swimmers come into the wall with speed from the last two or three strokes rather than slow down at the wall. Here are a few ways to improve your flip turn ability!

Mindful Flip Turns at Practice


Photo Courtesy: Irsara Daniele/Bolzano Swim Meet

At practice, simply thinking about ways to improve flip turns can make a huge difference. Swimming World explores three things every swimmer can keep in mind for faster, more efficient flip turns in this “FINIS Tip of the Week”. Since there are so many opportunities to do a flip turn at every practice, this is one of the easiest ways to improve.

Swimming World chose the three focus points of approaching the wall with speed, leading with the head, and avoiding too much time on the wall. Muscle memory removes swimmers’ need to think about each flip turn they do. Choosing three things to focus on is a great way to reign in the mind to have a productive practice, no matter the set.

Improving Core Strength

Core strength is a key component of every aspect of swimming. The movement of a flip turn is no different – pressing the chest and flipping the feet over the head requires strength, so a simple way to improve flip turns is to build the necessary strength.

While there are many different exercises for specifically building abdominal muscle, each help in different ways. These seven exercises are a mix of traditional ab exercises and new variations. Each has a corresponding YouTube video for clarification and proper technique demonstration. 

1. Bicycle crunches are an abdominal intensive exercise perfect to strengthen core muscles for the fastest flipturns.

2. Spiderman crawl is a challenging exercise that activates and strengthens muscles from fingertips to toes.

3. While the Dead Bug exercise is named for its appearance, its name can be misleading in that it hides the high number of muscles one repetition activates. In particular, the lower back must stay flush with the ground.

4. Burpees are a classic exercise excellent for strengthening muscles all over the body. Specifically great for flip turn improvement, jumping at the end uses similar muscles to pushing off of the wall after a flip turn.

5. Planks are a traditional exercise well know for their diversity in muscle usage and poignant strengthening ability. The video below explores many phenomenal plank variations.

6. Russian Twists require the use of weight, like dumbbells or medicine balls, but are advantageous in their ability to work the rotational aspect of your core.

7. Oblique V-Ups are perfect to work all aspects of the abdominal muscle. The obliques help with rotation and with pulling the chest downward.


Chloe Sutton, the first American to make Olympic swimming teams in both open water and pool events in 2012, explores the best drill to practice spinning into the wall in as tight as ball as possible. In these YouTube Videos, she works with the Fitter and Faster Swim Tour to teach fast flip turns. The first video shows a drill that is perfect for teaching the speed required for efficient turns. The second video effectively shows the importance of using the arms properly in a flip turn. Drills like these two can be essential in learning the best flip turns possible.

With these resources, you should be able to greatly improve your swimming speed with snappy flip turns! Now go try them at your next practice.

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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  1. Scott Grimm

    Emma Grimm Sarah Grimm please read this

    • Alexis Cisneros

      I’m always looking for new techniques!!!

    • Alexis Cisneros

      Guess I’m in the right arena cause my kiddos do half these moves already 😁

    • Rachel Moore

      And now they will learn the other 1/2

    • Alexis Cisneros

      Rachel Moore and they will whine 😂😂😂

  2. avatar

    Interesting exercises and great explanations!

  3. avatar
    Anna Pittard

    Another brilliant article, well done!

  4. avatar
    Betsy Hall Champagne

    Nicely written, full of great information, as always!!

  5. avatar
    Julia Cusack

    Amazing! Or totes amazeballs if that isn’t yesterday’s hyberbole?!

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