Work those walls

Walls, walls, walls. Most of us are guilty for not putting enough into our turns. I’ve known masters swimmers who didn’t view their turns as important, admittedly I’ve been one of these people. It’s also an issue with Junior swimmers and while I try to instil good habits and awareness into the swimmers I coach, it’s a lot harder to get masters swimmers to change their ways. Ultimately most of us aren’t using the walls to the best of our potential and we are leaving easy seconds behind. Personally, with my own swimming, I have changed things and am continuously trying to change. It’s not easy and I keep catching myself falling into bad habits especially when I’m tired or if I’m not focused while sprinting. Below are some things to think of and work on the next time you hit the pool (I’ll cover the other turns in other posts, here I’m just going to cover the freestyle tumble turn).


I’m sure we’ve all allowed ourselves to do one if not both of the following on our approach to a turn: taken our last pull a little too far out and glided with our arms by our sides, or lifting our head and making a full body dolphin kick into the tumble. Instead we should try to maintain our speed into the turn with the last pull initiating the turn, bringing the head from swimming position to tucked in without raising it first.

Tuck & Roll

As with the approach, habits creep in. When you’re swimming thousands and thousands of meters per week that turn becomes a chance of a slight reprieve. We don’t tuck as tightly, we don’t flick over as fast as we can, and most of us from the 90’s will do a sort of half sideways roll with our flip so that our feet hit the wall and we are already on our side. The fastest way in and out of a turn is to make your flip straight over the top and tuck in as tight as possible. Resist the urge, especially when tired, to do a lazy half tucked in flip, leaving most of your legs slap the water. Keep the knees tucked to your chest until it’s time to place your feet on the wall.

Push, Glide & Kick

This is where all our good work can come undone. If we don’t streamline well enough we will barely get a couple of meters from the wall. Mobility issues aside, it’s very easy to get into the habit of not streamlining correctly, especially when tired. Simply putting your hands over your head does not mean you are streamlining, you need to make your body as narrow as possible to minimise resistance. As you place your feet on the wall you should already be putting your arms into position for your glide. Your body should look as if you were about to do a jumping squat. You should be on your back at this point and will push off directly from here. There are a few ways to get to your front from this position, a twist with fly kick, or push with a twist (try this on dry land, get into a squat position, jump up with a twist at the same time to land facing the other way), or as some people do, simply use your feet as a rudder to direct you around. Personally I haven’t gotten the hang of that last one. You should be able to fit 2-4 dolphin kicks in before you switch into your regular flutter kick. The timing of all this is something you need to work yourself, some swimmers will work better with more kicks, some with less. Some swimmers will do better with large kicks, others with smaller ones. While working out what’s best for you keep in mind that you can’t begin the kicks too early or it will kill your speed and you can’t continue them for too long or you will have lost all your speed before you begin swimming.


So the next time you go swimming try to think about what you are actually doing during your turn as opposed to what you should be doing. Especially when you are midway through your sessions or when you are beginning to tire. – Mike

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