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by Abbie Fish

November 22, 2018

Make your turns faster by avoiding these speed-killers

Although open turns seem like they would be simple to execute, there are a few technical errors swimmers sometimes make. Here’s how to fix them.

The Long Turn

All swimmers have done an open turn in which they’ve miscalculated how far they are from the wall and must do dolphin kicks to get to the wall. This is because they made a mistake with their stroke count in training or misread how far away the wall is in the race.

To avoid this, you should know your stroke count depending on the race distance. You’ll have a higher stroke count in the 50 butterfly than the 100 and a higher count in the 100 than the 200 because you’re trying to maintain a higher speed in shorter races. Without knowing your stroke count, you’re going into the turn, hoping for the best outcome.

Repeats in practice with a consistent stroke count will help ensure this mistake doesn’t happen during meets.

The Pull-up Turn

Swimmers who train in a pool with low gutters might be guilty of performing a pull-up turn. This turn happens when swimmers use the gutter to help them through the turn by grabbing the gutter and bringing their body into the wall because of their strong grip on the gutter. This promotes pulling in and then up to breathe prior to pushing off.

Swimmers who pull themselves up during an open turn are wasting time and adding variability to their push-offs. Swimmers need to push off directly backward in an open turn, but if they’re too high above the water during their open turn, they must push their bodies back under the water. By combining these two directions (backward and down) to an open turn, they increase the probability of an inconsistent push-off.

To ensure you’re not performing this type of turn, try hitting the wall (even in a low-gutter pool) with all 10 fingers. Don’t wrap your fingertips around the gutter and do your open turn. If performing a proper turn is hard, keep practicing until it isn’t.

The Breath-Before Turn

You should avoid breathing going into a turn because you’ll get a breath of air in the open turn anyway and because breathing on your last stroke slows you down.

When swimmers breathe prior to an open turn, they must drop their hips toward the bottom of the pool and then bring them back up toward their chest instead of keeping them in the direction they’re going. This adds drag that slows them down prior to the wall. When you perform an open turn, your speed goes to zero, but decelerating prior to that isn’t necessary and should be corrected.

The simple and easy fix is to practice without taking a breath right before the open turn. This allows you to carry the momentum you’ve built up to the wall and still gives you a chance to breathe right before you push off.

Watch Abbie Fish discuss how to fix these mistakes in depth in this video analysis. In case you missed it, she also discussed three ways to swim a smoother butterfly.


  • Technique and Training


  • Breaststroke
  • Butterfly
  • Turns