Fast turns - the secret to a faster lap

Fast turns - the secret to a faster lap

The time to perform a lap consists of several components. You can calculate lap time using following formula: Lap time = Underwater time + Turn time + (stroke count / stroke rate).

TurnTime Formula
Figure: the laptime breakdown.

In our previous blog we discussed stroke efficiency, which consists of stroke count and stroke rate. In this blog we take a closer look at turn time and why it is important to pay attention to this parameter.

Turn time is an important aspect of your total lap time. Turning is the process of changing direction at the wall to keep swimming continuously. It’s a technique that is used in every stroke: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Often, swimmers wrongly use the walls as a moment of rest. By doing this, your overall lap time will increase, which will set you back from accomplishing your full potential. You can use the walls in such a manner that they decrease your turn time and thus decrease your total lap time.

Figure: In butterfly and breaststroke, turn time starts when you touch the wall.

There are two main variations of turn technique depending on which stroke you are performing. For butterfly and breaststroke, turn time is defined as the time between touching the wall with your hands and your push off. This is also known as an open turn. For backstroke and freestyle, turn time is defined as the time between  initiating your tumble turn and your push. We call this a flip turn.

Figure: For all strokes, turn time ends at the push off from the wall.

Why train your turn time?

By performing one continuous motion, a good turn will prevent you from having to stop at the wall. This will save you a lot of time, which can be very precious when doing a race. Therefore, improving your turn time will improve every lap, which will result in you improving your personal best. Keep in mind that a fast turn time needs to result in a good push off. This push off will be the start of your new lap. A fast turn time should thus be executed in a controlled manner. At the end of the turn, your feet should be positioned in the right way against the wall in order to initiate this perfect push off. We will go into this in a later post. A strong push-off will benefit the rest of your swimming course, and again, improve your lap time. Besides this, having a good turn time will offer several advantages.



The first and most obvious advantage turn time offers is that it makes you faster. This is mainly the result of a good push off, which comes after a good turn time. Besides this, a turn is a very efficient way to keep swimming without interruption. Moreover, it allows you to build endurance. Because you swim uninterrupted without resting, the time you normally take to stop at each wall can be eliminated. Other than the above, a good turn time can benefit breath control. During a turn, you do not have time to stop and take a breath, which means that if you train your turn time, your breath control will automatically improve. The ability to control your breath will be of use during your race, and it will allow you to swim at a much higher level.

How to train turn time ?

An efficient way to train and get a fast turn time is to use a tumble drill. While swimming a lap, add turns without a wall at every 12.5m point. Start of to do so by tucking in your head and knees to create a rotation. Try to get as much rotational momentum as possible out of this. The aim is to make the rotation as fast as possible. Depending on what stroke you are performing, your rotation will go forward (backstroke and freestyle) or backwards (butterfly or breaststroke). Attempt to generate an amount of rotational speed that results in two rotations instead of one. ​ In later blogs we will go further into detail on how to perform the perfect turn for each stroke.

Take home message.

Having a good turn is very important during a swim. This will lead to an improved turn time, which will benefit you during your race. Your rotation should be controlled and fast. When performing a turn, make sure to also focus on your push-off, because this will result in speed for the rest of your upcoming lap. Use a different turn technique depending on which stroke you are performing.

Swimtraxx One offers you turn time information in real-time. This makes it possible for a swimmer to track the rotational speed of every turn during their swim. You can now focus on perfecting your turn time without having to collect any data yourself.

Thank you for your interest in this blogpost. Be sure to keep an eye out for new blogposts as we will regularly be adding swim specific content. We have some tips and tricks scheduled as well. If you wish to stay updated about our news, subscribe to our newsletter below and never miss a thing.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Back to blog