How Much Time Does a Tumble Turn Save in Swimming?


There are many ways one can improve his lap timing. A crucial one is how you turn around at the end of a lap. You must have heard people saying tumble turn can save time. But how much?

A tumble turn aka. flip turns can save 2-3 seconds depending on how efficiently it is executed. It is useful in competitive swimming when one has to do multiple pool laps. Seconds saved from each lap will add up and make a good overall save at the end of the race.

What is a Tumble Turn?

Tumble turn is the technique of turning around faster at the end of laps without changing the pace of swimming. It is executed in three steps:

  1. When the wall is approximately 1 meter away, take a deep breath, tuck your head down and do a front roll while exhaling the entire time.
  2. Touch the wall with your feet having the knees bent all the way down and push yourself away as hard as you can.
  3. Place both of your hands on top of each other in an upright position to penetrate through the water and rotate yourself 180 degrees to get back to normal position.

After the roll, your body will be facing up the pool. You will have to rotate yourself 180 degrees to get back to front crawling. You could also do a few backstrokes before you rotate if that is something you would like.

Breathing before starting to roll and exhaling the entire time when rolling is the key to not have water getting up the nose. If you end up inhaling water during the act, it will get very uncomfortable.

YouTube video
Video Creator: Fiona Ford

Tumble Turn and Flip Turn Are the Same (Don’t Get Confused)

It was back when I was reading blogs about flipping and turning in the water for the first time. I immediately noticed some writers were talking about tumble turn, while some others flip turn. I end up searching the difference and looking up videos of both.

Tumble turn and flip turn are interchangeable words. They both refer to the same technique where you do a roll at the end of the pool and push yourself away with the legs. There is basically no difference in the technique, so if you somehow have this question in mind.

Is Tumble Turn Faster than Open Turn?

The open turn is another way of turning in the water. In this method, one reaches the wall with his hands and then pushes away from the walls by straightening the legs from a bent position.

Open turns are slower than flip turns. It is because you have to slow down quite a bit in the process. You also end up using both your hands and legs for making a single turn. In a flip turn, there is no use of hands and you create a good spring force with your legs which throws yourself back harder.

As I stated at the beginning of the article, a flip turn will save you usually 1-2 seconds to an open turn. It can be a 3-second save when it is done properly by the book. Practice is the way to make it better over time.


Should Open Water Swimmers Learn Tumble Turn?

There are no competitive benefits of learning tumble turn for open water swimmers who are preparing for typical triathlons. The swimming part of triathlons is held in rivers or oceans usually where you will not have a wall to take advantage of push-off.

However, there are pool triathlons, for example, the ironman, where you have to do 169 lengths of a 25-yard pool for completing 2.4 miles (4224 yards). Saving one second in every turn will sum up to 168 seconds which is 2 minutes 48 seconds. You can save more than one second using a proper tumble turn.

Although it comes down to which competition you are preparing for, learning a flip turn can always give you some confidence boost and make your legs stronger underwater.

Is It Worth Learning Tumble Turn?

The most general advantage of learning tumble turn is that it is a great swimming skill. It will make you more comfortable in the water doing rolls and could improve your breathing. That goes for all swimmers, competitive or non-competitive.

For open water swimmers, it is not a must-have skill but for pool swimmers, it is one of the best time-saving techniques that they can master. If you are preparing for pool triathlons, make sure to put this in your basket as soon as you can.


That goes without saying, a tumble turn will take some practicing before one actually sees the benefit. You have to make the rolling and the pushing technique right. Most people who know tumble turn will vouch that it works.

Beware: Tumble Turn Might Not Be Allowed in Some Competitions

Different competitions have different rules. You, as a participant, are bound to follow them to stay in the game. Tumble turns can sound tempting but you have to know beforehand whether it is allowed or not. Also, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to do tumble turns.

In races like freestyle or backstroke, tumble turns are permitted. You can take advantage of this to improve your lap timing. In fact, it is highly advisable that you do it. Be certain that some of your competitors will use tumble turns to their advantage.

On the other hand, races like butterfly or breaststroke usually do not allow tumble turns. The judges want to see that both of your hands have touched the wall, otherwise you will be disqualified. Maybe it’s because it makes the job of judges easier. But there is one other reason.

When you are doing butterfly or breaststroke, unlike freestyle, a large portion of your body hangs low in the water. From that position, it takes more force to do a front roll, and therefore, there is no time benefit of tumble turns. Don’t be surprised if it is the other way around.