Help me Flip
September 1, 2009 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Can you teach me how to do a swimming flip turn?

I used to know how. But I haven't swum in a while -- so not only have I forgotten how to flip, I also seem to have developed a fear of the wall.

Any quick and easy flip tips?
posted by LittlePumpkin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Tuck your head down to your chin. The rest of your body will follow.
posted by slateyness at 9:25 AM on September 1, 2009

Sorry, tuck your head with your chin down to your chest, is what I really meant to say.
posted by slateyness at 9:26 AM on September 1, 2009

Best answer: YouTube is great for things like this. I usually do open turns since I'm not racing and am also a little afraid of the wall. This video gives a boring amount of detail but seems comprehensive.
posted by jessamyn at 9:28 AM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

You want to be at the end of a stroke, too. Your arm should be extended as you start the flip so it curves with the rest of your body rather than trying to flip mid-stroke.

For a backstroke flip, you want to be about an arm's length away from the wall and you extend your head neck back and then the rest will follow.
posted by zizzle at 9:32 AM on September 1, 2009

Also blow out through your nose throughout the turn.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:34 AM on September 1, 2009

Response by poster: thanks all - video was especially helpful!
posted by LittlePumpkin at 9:35 AM on September 1, 2009

What is it about the wall that scares you? Smacking yourself against it? As you approach the wall, keep one arm extended forwarded and start your flip when your hand touches the wall. That will leave you exactly the right amount of space for your flip: enough so you don't smack yourself, not too much so that you can't propel off the wall with enough force.
posted by randomstriker at 9:37 AM on September 1, 2009

Best answer: Former swim coach here. Here's how I taught my kids:

For front crawl turns:

Practice by flutter-kicking in tight streamlined position. Using goggles so you can see where the wall is by following the line on the bottom or just flicking your eyes forward, when you get to some distance roughly a little less than a body-length from the wall, push both of your hands down your sides, underneath the water, as though you were doing a double-pull instead of the normal single-pull. Simultaneously use the momentum the pushes impart to pull your head (tuck your head down to your chin, as slateyness says) and body forward and underneath your torso and your legs over your head. Gently blow out a few bubbles from your nose when you're upside-down. Be sure to keep your body nice and in a straight line (don't rotate over to the left or right at this point in practicing). Keep your knees bent as you're flipping. Have your hands end up back the streamlined position as they complete the pull. You should end up on your back with your hands pointing toward the other end of the pool and your feet somewhere by the wall. Stop.

Repeat, each time flipping yourself a little closer to the wall. Eventually you'll get a sense for where the wall is, and you'll start finding your feet right by the wall with your knees bent just enough for a good, strong push-off from the wall.

When your feet are getting a good purchase on the wall, try flexing your knees to push yourself off the wall. At first, you will be pushing off while you're still on your back underwater. As you keep practicing, start rotating your torso and legs to one side to roll yourself over during the push-off from the wall. Still push-off in a tight streamline, and flutter kick a bit after the push-off. Eventually complete more of the rotation after your push-off, as you're kicking back to the surface. Note that you should not push off too deep under the water nor right at the surface of the water. You want to be down just a little bit, maybe a foot or two.

When you're comfortable enough with the flip and your location from the wall to integrate it back into your swimming, instead of doing a double-armed pull before the wall, just naturally work the flip into your cadence, such that you take a pull with one arm, leave the arm by your side, and use the pull from your other arm to initiate the flip. If you stop pulling a little too far from the wall, just glide a little bit longer than you otherwise might before initiating the flip proper.

Eventually you'll have fast and tight enough flips that you won't need to bother blowing any air out of your nose, which means you'll have more for swimming.

For backstroke turns:

They're very similar to front-crawl turns. The only part that's harder is learning how to judge where you are in relation to the wall. Try counting the number of arm strokes it takes you to go from one wall to where you should initiate your turn, or the number it takes you to get from the flags to where your turn should start, or from where the lane dividers change color near the wall.

To do the turn itself, you use one arm to pull/rotate your body around to either the left or right as that arm is completing its normal pull. The second arm follows over and makes its pull in the front crawl fashion. And then you're doing a flip turn just like you had started practicing one for the front crawl. Obviously, you stay on your back as you complete the flip, and push off the wall on your back in a streamlined position. Once you get more comfortable with the backstroke flip, you might try adding a few butterfly kicks as you go from pushing off the wall underwater back up to the surface (staying in streamline until you break the surface).

If you find that you flipped over too far from the wall and that you wouldn't be able to reach it with your feet just by extending your knees, try bringing your hands together as though you were clapping your hands over your head (except instead of clapping, end up back in a streamlined position). That will give you a tiny push toward the wall, hopefully enough for your feet to touch and push off.

In two decades of swimming, I don't ever remember actually hitting the lip of the pool with my ankles, so even if I ever did it didn't hurt much or for long. So don't practice, and don't worry too much.
posted by J-Train at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I was in this exact situation a few years ago, and I just wanted to mention that, in re-learning, you may well make an utter fool of yourself in front of all the hyper-competent lap swimmers a couple of times, coming up spluttering and gasping and with a nose full of water, and it's okay; you'll figure it out.
posted by palliser at 11:58 AM on September 1, 2009

Response by poster: thanks again for all your thorough and supportive answers -- to the pool!
posted by LittlePumpkin at 3:52 PM on September 1, 2009

Oops; I obviously meant to finish by saying "So do practice, and don't worry too much."
posted by J-Train at 3:58 PM on September 1, 2009

Just a few tips because J-Train pretty well nailed it.

Most more inexperienced swimmers make the mistake of of starting their turn too late. Watch some of the videos usually experienced swimmers will be more likely to miss the wall then turn too late where your ankles are at risk (another 20+ year swimmer here and I have banged my heels but usually on pools with weird gutters).

I'm usually about a meter to a meter and a half out when I start my turn and allow momentum to take me into the wall. If I swam it out I likely have a another stroke or two.

Which brings up another note, a little speed helps.

Another point I see inexperienced flippers make is getting in too tight of a ball, like they're doing a somersault. A good flip turn usually doesn't have too much bend in the knees in the air, they compact from the momentum into the wall. (You can see this in the video linked earlier).
posted by bitdamaged at 4:46 PM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this thread. I've always been afraid to try these, but after watching the video Jessamyn linked, I spent about 15 minute practicing after aquafit this morning, and seemed to get the hang of it.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:50 AM on September 3, 2009

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