How to do the Back-to-Breast Turn with Gold Medalist Darian Townsend

Breakdown of the turn:

This transition is essentially half of a backstroke turn and half of a freestyle turn. As you come in to the wall on your back, cross your top arm across your face and reach for the wall. Do not turn past your side before touching the wall! A legal transition requires swimmers to not break the plane until their hand hits the wall. Rotate your hand so your fingers are pointing down when you touch the wall. When you touch the wall, touch on your side. Flip over, using your hand as leverage to twist your body, so your feet hit the wall while you are on your side. Push off in to a streamline and breaststroke pullout. Speed in to the wall creates momentum to help you through each phase of the turn.

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around the transition as a whole, try this progression one-by-one:

  • Start on your stomach! Swim freestyle into the wall, touch the wall with one hand. Then go in to a regular freestyle flip turn into a breaststroke pullout off the wall.
  • Now focus on your hand placement. Stay on your stomach, but this time, when you touch the wall turn your hand so your fingers are pointing downwards. Use your hand to leverage your turn. Flip, and go into your breaststroke pullout.
  • Switch to your side. Kick into the wall on your side with one arm out, working on the same hand position and flip.
  • Once you feel comfortable on your side, try kicking in to the wall on your back. Focus on reaching your arm across your face, but do not rotate past your side! Touch the wall, fingers down, and flip into your breaststroke pullout.
  • Next, switch to backstroke into the transition. Focus on stroke count and practicing the timing and using your momentum to take you through the rest of the turn progression.

Keep in mind that this turn takes practice. Have patience, take your time, and keep at it. This turn is the fastest back-to-breast transition in the pool when executed correctly.

Take a look at Olympic Gold Medalist Darian Townsend, who has this turn down pat!

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5 years ago

Everybody has long forgotten the bucket turn. Still faster than this. Want a great pullout. Bucket turn is a flip as well if done correctly…and allows a last second breath.

Not an IM\'er
Reply to  Dave
5 years ago

The bucket turn was before my time in swimming, but I do agree with your comment on the last second breath. Timing and breathing can be a huge challenge on this turn. Efficiency is super important. If you can’t do it quickly, you end up underwater for a long time which in turn can hurt your pullout in to your first length of breaststroke.

Reply to  Dave
5 years ago

A bucket turn is what most people now call a Suicide Turn and i have it mastered and am now working on the crossover turn.

5 years ago

If you watched the last Olympics in Rio, you’ll noticed the Japanese swimmers did this, and they
did well with it.

Josh Davis
5 years ago

So important for highschoolers and even college swimmers to master this turn. I don’t think one can ever reach their potential in the IM without the crossover flip turn. I see some young kids doing a backflip/gainer turn and it makes me confused who’s teaching them. Nobody in the finals at NCAA’s or the Olympics does that turn, the best only do the crossover flip turn. Thank you Darian and A3!