3 Common Freestyle Flip Turn Mistakes

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

On the flip itself, there are three common mistakes being made by most swimmers. The first is that the knees are not tucked tight enough toward the chest, so the feet take too long to get to the wall. The second is that the swimmer rotates the body during the flip, so part of the rotation back to the stomach has occurred by the time the feet hit the wall. This also requires too much time. The third is that the arms are bent at the elbow over head when the feet hit the wall. This results in either a delay to get the arms back into the streamlined position, or a bad body position for the push off the wall, if the swimmer elects to straighten the arms as he pushes off. Let’s discuss the first mistake.

If you have ever watched a figure skating competition, you may have noticed that the skater often ends with a twirl. The twirl usually begins with the arms either fully or partly extended and the revolutions occur at a slower rate. Then, when the skater tucks the arms up tight to the chest, the speed of the revolutions increases dramatically…often so fast, you cannot even see the details of the skater’s face.

The Law Of Conservation Of Energy

The skater’s angular velocity increases when he tucks his arms in, not because he is applying more force to the twirl, but because of the law of conservation of energy. That law states that the energy of a rotating system about one axis is related to its mass, the radius of the mass and the angular velocity squared. Therefore, if the radius of the mass is shortened or decreased, the angular velocity must increase accordingly, for a given energy in the system.

That same law applies to the diver on the ten-meter platform trying to do a quadruple summersault or to the swimmer making his/her flip turn. The smaller and tighter the tuck, the faster the rotation goes. Making the effort to bring the knees closer to the chest and creating a tighter ball makes a huge difference in the speed of getting the feet on the wall.

The fastest way to get the feet on the wall is straight over the top with the toes pointing toward the surface. Adding a little twist or rotation to the body during the flip just costs more time. There is no need to do that. All of the rotation back to the stomach can occur during the underwater phase after the push off the wall. So long as the body is kept in a straight line, the rotation of the body during this phase will not slow the swimmer down.

The George Bovell Style

I also like to teach swimmers to have one foot slightly higher than the other when planted on the wall, something I learned from watching Olympian George Bovell. I am not certain how much of difference it makes, if any, but it feels more comfortable to me that way.

Undoubtedly the most common mistake being made on the flip is what the swimmer does with the arms underwater. As the legs come over the top, swimmers use the force from their hands pulling downward overhead in the water to help get the job done. By the time the feet are planted on the wall, most swimmers have created a small to large bend in the elbows in an effort to gain more leverage for the flip. Unfortunately, they are now in a bad situation. They can either delay the push off the wall until their arms are back in the streamline, or they can push off the wall in this non-streamlined shape and straighten the arms as they go. Either way, they lose.

The Cesar Cielo Style

A much better idea, which I first saw done by Cesar Cielo, is to keep the arms straight on the pull back. Then, when the feet hit the wall, there is no need to delay the push off the wall and the arms are nearly in the streamlined position. The result is greater speed off the wall with no hesitation. I have also noted other great turners that bend the arms slightly on the pull back, rather than keeping them straight, but by the time the feet are planted, the arms are back in the streamlined position. Either way, the swimmer is assured of getting off the wall faster.

There is nothing easy about doing a fast flip to the wall. In fact, in every aspect a fast flip is harder than a slow turn. More core strength is required and more attention to detail. The only way that a swimmer is assured of doing these fast flips in competition well is by developing core strength and by doing them correctly in practice…over and over again.

Watch the Video How to Flip Turn Part II: The Flip http://www.theraceclub.com/videos/fast-swimming-techniques-flip-turns-flip/ 

Read More about How to Flip Turn Part II: The Flip – http://www.theraceclub.com/aqua-notes/flip-turn-in-freestyle/ 

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

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Gina Rhinestone

Doc – The guy swimming in the background has 98% sun coverage & you forgot both the sunnies & the hat !
( see I do read your posts)

Dan, Underwater

An observation: it is nearly impossible to flip straight-over when you’re swimming circles. Ideas?

Becky D

If you are swimming counter-clockwise, you need to flip on the left side of the cross. This is easy to do if you are leading the lane — just move over to the left side of the lane by the time you get to the backstroke flags. If you are following behind someone, you need to pop into that spot (just to the left of the cross) right after the person ahead of you clears that space. If you are following too close to do that, you’re likely following too close. If your lane is truly crowded, then flipping straight over is an exercise left for another time.

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