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How to Do a Backstroke Flip Turn While Swimming

Updated on October 18, 2014

Tips and Techniques on How to Do a Backstroke Flip Turn

One of the hardest things to learn in competitive swimming is the flip turn. A flip turn can be much more efficient and less time consuming than an open turn when done correctly. It is a daunting task at first, but once mastered it can be like riding a bike, you never forget. A backstroke flip turn can seem easier in some instances than a typical freestyle flip turn, however there are a few key points you want to be mindful of before you begin.

Look for the Flags

Olympic size swimming pools have two rows of flags at each end of the pool for a reason, and it isn't too look pretty. These flags provide a signal to a swimmer who is doing the backstroke that the wall will be coming up in a few yards(or meters). When you learn how to perform a backstroke flip turn, you will need to keep track of your stroke cadence, and measure how many strokes it take before you reach the pool wall. For the sake of example, lets say it takes you 4 strokes before your hand hits the wall.

Subtract 1 Stroke and Turn Over

If it takes 4 strokes to hit the wall with your hand, make sure you count three strokes after you see the flags and then turn. As your left hand takes the final stroke in the water and ends at your hips, cross your right hand over your body and take 1 full freestyle stroke as you head into the wall.

Hands Down

It is important to learn that no matter what stroke you do, as you enter a flip turn the first thing you need to do is put your hands at your hips with your knuckles facing the bottom of the pool. This alignment will keep your hands from getting in the way as you flip. It is important to note that you should leave yourself just the right amount of room between you and the wall. If you are too close you may hit the wall, if you are too far away, you will be unable to push off the wall and continue to swim. As you improve your form you will get accustomed to when to start the flip and how far away you should be.

Lead with Your Chin

Once your arms are at your sides, the flip turn is started when you place your chin at your chest. The old saying is, 'wherever the head goes, the body should follow'. Put your head in the tucked position which should elevate your hips and start the process of the actual flip.

Head Down, Hips Up

As you put your head down into the water make sure you push your hips up and treat this flip-turn as if you were performing a somersault on a gym mat. Tuck your body into a ball and roll forward. As you flip your legs should follow.

Pop and Push

Once your legs have rolled over they should find the pool wall if you positioned yourself correctly. Your legs should be slightly bent so you can 'pop' off of the wall and push yourself back into the streamline position (hands locked above your head, with your biceps close to your ears. Try to keep your legs together as well). As you push off the wall your body will be facing the ceiling and your back will be towards the bottom of the pool. This is the perfect position to continue your backstroke.

Kick, Kick, Kick

You will not immediately be back on-top of the water. As you slowly rise back to the surface make sure you hold the streamline position and kick as the momentum from your wall-push propels you forward in the water. Just before your body breaks the water surface, make sure you begin your underwater stroke with one hand and your flip turn is complete!

Helpful Tips

#1 Leave enough room to flip!

#2 At first, you may want to have someone stand next to you as you flip. Most swimmers tend to attempt a flip, get nervous and straighten their back mid-way through the flip. This may cause injury as you may hit your head on the pool wall, or the floor of the pool if you are attempting in the shallow end. It is important to have a spotter there to assist and make you feel more comfortable.

#3 Don't give up. It will take several attempts before you get this right, and may take many more attempts before you perfect the flip-turn. Good Luck!


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