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Flip Turns

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Written By: Kevin Zacher

Over the last few meets, we noticed that several of our swimmers were not effectively using their hands to help them “get over quickly” on their flip turns during freestyle races. When asking the kids how they could use their hands to help flip quickly, many of them looked at me like, “what?!? you are supposed to use your hands?!?”. I couldn’t believe it! So, we have incorporated a few drills to help the swimmers learn how to use their hands during the flip turn.

In the first drill (as shown on the video), a swimmer needs two kick boards, one in each hand. They should lay face down, in a prone position; the entire body floating at the surface. Hold the bottom of the kick boards, fingers on top, thumb on other side (squeezing or gripping the kick board between the fingers). The fingers should be on top (above the water); the kick boards should be at your sides, next to your hips. Initiate a summersault and press down against the kick boards with the hands. Use the “press” to help summersault quickly. Finish with the hands in front of the shoulders, kick boards pointed up towards the sky, thumbs facing the shoulders. Do this several times, getting faster each time.

For the second drill, the swimmers should use paddles (big paddles ok for this). Again, float in a prone position, face down. Hands (paddles) should be palms down, at your side, next to your hips. Initiate the summersault and press hands/paddles against the water to propel yourself around. Finish with the hands in front of shoulders, palms facing your head. Do this several times, getting faster each time.

The final step we do is to transition to normal flip turns with a focus on using the hands (pressing against the water) during the summersault. We usually do something like 12 x 25 from mid pool. First 25 slow and deliberate, executing the flip turn (specifically using the hands) well. Second 25 at 75%, with good execution. Third 25 fast, with good execution. We constantly remind them to “use the hands” through this set.

After getting this down a couple of times, we also added in doing underwater flip turns with a focus on using the hands to get around quickly…this was pretty helpful!

We have been doing this for several weeks and are starting to see better turns in training. Again, we are consistently reminding them and going through the above drill progression at least twice per week as a reminder.

I hope this is helpful to those of you reading!!

Swimming Background:

Coach Kevin grew up swimming in southern Oregon at Roseburg Swim Team. He qualified for and competed at Junior Nationals in high school.

Kevin went on to swim at Iowa State University. ISU won the Big-12 Championship in 1995. Kevin is the school record holder in the 400 IM and was team captain during his senior year.

Kevin’s best event was the 400 IM, ranked 74th in the world in 1996.

Personal Coaching Philosophy or “Why I Coach”:

Coach Kevin enjoys coaching and helping athletes reach their potential. Through swimming, Kevin learned a faced obstacles and challenges, learning a lot about himself and learning skills to be successful in life. Kevin got into coaching to provide that same opportunity to others. He truly enjoys helping swimmers achieve their goals, whatever those goals are. Coach Kevin believes that to get the most out of the sport, the swimmers need to “want” to come to practice every day. Providing a positive and encouraging environment at the club is important in making that happen. If you come on deck during a practice at SCSC, you will see the swimmers training hard, but, more importantly, you will see them smiling and interacting with their friends and teammates in a positive manner.


Coach Kevin has helped swimmers achieve success at the highest levels. Below are some of those accomplishments:

--Coached Taylor Ruck to 2 Bronze Medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and a Gold Medal at the 2016 FINA World Championships

--Coached three swimmers to the FINA Junior World Championships (7 Gold Medals)

--Named USA Swimming National Team/Junior Team Coaching 2012 - Present

--Served on coaching staff for FINA Junior World Champs and Junior Pan Pacific Champs

--Head Coach of National Junior Team Camps and National Select Camps

--Coached numerous National Junior Team athletes over the last 12 years

--Won several Junior National Team Championships

--ASCA/Arizona Coach of the year three times

--Helped over 200 swimmers to NCAA Division 1 swimming programs

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