How to Breathe When Doing a Flip Turn in Swimming

Take adequate breaths before you get to the wall so you're not oxygen-deprived before the turn.
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In the evolution of a swimmer, there often comes a time when he wants to add a flip turn to his repertoire. For the competitive swimmer, a well-executed flip turn can mean faster race times. If you're working on your flip turns and haven't figured out how to manage your breath, you'll need to do some work both in and out of the pool.

Out of the Pool

To develop good breathing habits in the pool, "Yoga Journal" recommends doing breath work out of the pool. This type of breath work typically means a short inhalation followed by a slow, deliberate exhale. While in yoga the focus is on nose breathing, for swim-related training you can breathe from your nose and mouth. Take a quick inhale for about one second, then practice breathing out for double that time. As that becomes natural, practice breathing out for three seconds, then four, moving up to as many seconds as you can manage. During the final 20 percent of the exhale, try to push the remaining air out with force, to make more room for the new breath.

The Approach

To maximize the amount of air you have before you enter the turn, coach Terry Laughlin recommends taking two quick breaths during your final arm strokes. During a freestyle stroke midpool, you might breath every three to five strokes. Before the turn, though, Laughlin recommends turning your head quickly and getting a short breath of air on the final left and right stroke. Since this can be tricky just before the turn, Laughlin recommends trying it midpool first, taking the consecutive breaths and then somersaulting in the middle of the water to practice.


As you execute your turn, you're going to be deprived of air for a short time. Depending on the speed of your flip turn, your body might be deprived of a new breath for as many as five seconds -- all the more reason to execute a fast and effective flip turn. This is where your yogic breath work can really come in handy. Resist the urge to panic, and breathe slowly and steadily out of your nose and mouth as you make the turn. Blowing out will also help you keep water from getting into your nose and mouth as you flip.

The Push

During a race in which speed is the goal, swimmers typically want to take advantage of the "streamline" push off the wall before they start stroking, since that straight arms-straight legs position reduces drag and is generally faster than stroking. Since this means more time underwater following the turn, it means more time holding the breath. The key here is to get a good push off the wall, which will propel you faster to the surface for your first breath. Continue to use the slow and steady exhaling technique, extending your arms overhead with your biceps squeezing into your head and legs and arms as straight as possible. When you make it to the surface, take a breath during your first stroke; follow it with another breath on the following stroke, if need be. Before you make it to the other side, ensure that you're getting enough breaths in to recover before the next turn.

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