The tumble turn is a huge part of what separates the competitive swimmer from the everyday lane swimmer. It’s a great skill and impressive to the unitiated when seen in person, but most of us could use a tweak to our technique. Below are 5 steps to improve your tumble turns, but remember that whatever you may get from practising your turns in isolation, they will not become second nature if you don’t remember to turn properly every time you do a tumble – only perfect practice makes perfect!
1. go back to basics
Forget turning for a while, and go back to practicing forward rolls in the water. Its amazing how hard they can be! Practice getting our head down quickly and trying to roll all the way over without paddling too much with your hands. When you feel comfortable practice swimming front crawl into a forward roll. Aim to get your head down fast and rotate quickly.
2. spot the turn
Once you can spin quickly you need to determine the best distance from the wall for your turn. Initially practice swimming up to the wall, rolling over and standing up. This will allow you to see how close to the wall you can actually get. Experiment to find a comfortable distance for you – there is a bit of adjustment available in your knees, but you should aim to finish horizontal after the roll over, otherwise you’ll push off up or down. It’s an individual thing so make sure you are comfortable that you can start your tumble at the same point every time. Always aim to start the turn on a full stroke, never a half stroke or a glide, and get your head down fast.
3. plant your feet
Make sure you get the balls of your feet firmly planted on the wall, about shoulder width apart. Imagine you are about to jump off the floor, if your feet are too close together you will not use your thigh muscles effectively.
4. bounce off the wall
Practice spending as little time as you can with your feet in contact with the wall. Once they are planted drive with your thighs as though you were jumping. Don’t waste time turning onto your front before pushing off, push off on you back if necessary (Michael Klim did this very noticeably at the Olympics). Some people, such as Alex Popov in these photos, like to incorporate a quarter twist into their tumble so that they push off on their side. This is entirely a personal thing, but may work well for you. Many top swimmers have coaches specifically to train them to be better jumpers and hence get a faster push off from the wall. Practice doing Sergeant jumps to improve your speed off the wall.
Once your body is moving away form the wall, on front or back, get into a good streamlined position. One hand on top of the other, with your shoulders pushed up and the tops of your arms tight over the sides of your head. Keep your feet together and point your toes. If you can feel the water moving over any part of your body, then tuck it in! You can often travel up to twice as fast off the wall as you can swim so don’t start to kick or pull too early, and when you do keep the streamline; when you make you first arm stroke, keep the other shoulder and arm tucked into your head. Finally, don’t come up to the surface too soon, there is more drag from the water near the surface and you will slow down faster. However, don’t swim too deep or you will slow down before you can get to the surface and start swimming. Practise to find a comfortable compromise for yourself.