How to teach Beginners to Flip Turn

Competitive swimming training is usually done in a swim pool, and that means endless laps! Every time we get to the wall, the most efficient and fast way to turn around and continue swimming is the Flip Turn.

Lets break it down into 5 steps:

  • The approach
  • The Flip
  • The plant
  • Take-off
  • Streamline

What we need to remember with beginning swimmers is that they are generally clumsy, and lack most of the fine body motion control that older or even more experienced swimmers have. Our focus is on teaching repetitively actions that will simulate or contribute to a better flip turn. We want to instill a general body motion that gets our swimmers as close to the correct precise movements that a quality flip turn requires.


Begin with Somersaults or Flips

Sprinkle your practices with 5 forward flips. While you are waiting for a lane to finish, assign everyone 5 flips before starting the next set or activity. For true beginners, watch for nose plugging, and unhappiness when water goes up noses. Remember to encourage bubble blowing through noses, or “blowing snot boogers” while you flip.


  • Blow bubbles through nose
  • Flip upside-down, do not rotate sideways or spin
  • Feet should be parallel, watch for crossed ankles
  • Feet should start and plant after flip in same location
  • using hands is okay to begin with

Transition to Jumps and Handstands that turn into flips

Once you’ve had your swimmers practice flips repeatedly on many occasions, you should modify the activity to make it more challenging and fun. We’re going to add motion, and posture to the flip.

A flip turn is essentially a half flip done where the body is face down in the water with the hands at or near the sides.


We’re going to focus on the top and second from the top positions.

  • Do 5 hand stands that turn into somersaults
  • Do 5 Jumps from the bottom (deeper water) and before you get to the surface do a flip

The goal is to have the swimmer achieve two things: 1) Feel the motion of the jump transition into a quick flip 2) Feel the rigid body posture of a handstand, and change it into a flip.

Combined, that is the first half of a flip turn. While moving through the water, maintain a rigid flat body posture, then flip, planting your feet on the wall.



Start Close, then back up


Practice doing standing flips as close to the wall as possible. Goal is to minimize amount of distance swimmer moves backwards during each flip.

After 2 flips with face touching wall, take 1 step back.

Do 2 flips 1 step away from wall.

Take a step back…

continue pattern until you reach the T mark, or about 2 yards away from the wall.


Once at the T mark, do the following activity to practice flip turns:


  • Go to bottom of pool, feet on the T mark
  • Jump forward in streamline, can kick
  • Flip at wall
  • Plant feet on wall
  • stop!

Our goal is to have horizontal body posture with motion, then do a flip, placing the feet on the wall. Swimmers should be laying on their backs, with their face pointed to the sky or ceiling. Feet should be about shoulder width apart toes pointed up with face.


Notice the body position in the above picture, while we want to eventually achieve that position, for beginners we are more concerned with the general body location and movement.


Repeat the approach, then plant, a significant amount of times. Over the course of  week attempt at least 30 times. If you’re comfortable with the results, add a streamline on the back, back to the T mark.


Put It Together, but short

Photo by ESPN Ric Frazier


Start at the flags, or about 5 meters or 5 yards away from the wall. Swim FREESTYLE, kick in position 11, and then do the complete turn. Encourage swimmers to remember each step.

  • Approach
  • Flip
  • Plant
  • Take-off
  • Streamline


Have swimmers always push off on their back in Backstroke Streamline. We want swimmers to create a habit of initially pushing off however their feet land, and not rotating on the wall to their stomach.


Our ultimate goal is to get to this point:


YouTube player


How do you teach Flip Turns?

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