Artemis Aquatics: How To Do a Tumble Turn

Artemis Aquatics: How To Do a Tumble Turn

How to do a tumble turn

A successful swimming performance is ultimately measured by the least amount of time taken to cover a set distance. Tumble turns are integral to a successful race and – performed well – can be the difference between touching the wall in 1st or 8th place! In this piece, Jorden takes us through how to execute the perfect turn.

Swimming starts and turns are important skills that swimmers dedicate a lot of time practising. The aim of a perfect tumble turn is to execute a coordinated change of direction whilst maintaining speed and stroke cadence. Swim meets take place in long course (50m) and short course (25m) pools – swimmers with great turns certainly benefit over their competitors in the short course format.

At the time of writing, the short course season has just wrapped up here in Australia, and we also witnessed 19 year old Minna Atherton from Brisbane breaking the World Record competing for London Roar in the 100m Backstroke in the short course format at the International Swimming League meet in Budapest. Minna is a phenomenal swimmer and showed the true extent of her short course talents over the course of this meet.

On day 2 of the competition, Minna recorded a time that was only .09s away from the 100m backstroke world record when she swam the backstroke leg of the medley relay. Thirty minutes after that relay swim, she took to the blocks for the individual 100m backstroke and became the first woman to swim under 55 seconds in the 100m backstroke to claim the world record. Watching Minna’s race, her underwater skills were executed to perfection, attacking her turns with confidence and gusto to shave off those valuable (milli)-seconds!

There are a few elements to a great tumble turn. They include:

  1. The Approach, or “IN” component;
  2. The tumble turn, or FLIP; and
  3. The underwater and breakout, or the “OUT.”

I often refer to the turn as the “in and the out” as when measuring this for an outcome and number, we look at the time it takes to travel from the flags to the wall (5 metres), then from the wall to the 10 metre mark – the out. This all then adds up to a total time.


The turn as whole is about maintaining speed in and out of the wall. When swimming into the wall you need to approach the wall at speed. You can’t go into the wall slow as it makes it harder to turn, maintain body position in the water and then transfer yourself in the other direction. So, for a freestyle and backstroke turn the approach starts just as you are at the flags. As you approach the wall your second last stroke needs to be strong and powerful. The last stroke propels you into the tumble turn.


On your last stroke you are starting to turn. You should be positioned just past the black T on the bottom of the pool. Using that last stroke dip your head downwards, plunging towards the wall, whilst slightly submerging the body. As the last stroke pulls to your side and you are submerged, follow the arm with your head. It is important to follow the lead arm with your head because this will allow your body to fold and your legs will follow. From there your arms will meet each other and form your streamline. In that streamline position your legs will be in a bent position, spring loaded like you’re ready to jump as high as you can. Pushing with all your might away from the wall, you should naturally twist into position, making sure to hold this glide until you begin to feel that you are slowing down.


As you begin to slow down in your glide it’s time to begin your dolphin kicks under the water. Using your hips to create the movement and not trying to kick by bending the knees, powerfully kick yourself towards the surface. Just before we reach the surface start to freestyle kick. At that same moment start the freestyle stroke, pushing yourself on that angle between forwards and upwards. A well-timed breakout will propel you neatly forward without popping up to the surface like a submarine or ploughing through the water like a plough through a veggie patch.

To summarise the key points:

  1. Fast swimming into the wall.
  2. Tight flip and strong push off the wall.
  3. Well timed breakout to carry the speed.




Jorden Merrilees, Merton Squad Coach

Jorden is a current member of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team. His experience stems from a love for all water sports and 14 years of competitive swimming.