Tumble Turns: A basic guide for Instructors

Tumble turns are an important skill for young swimmers to master – especially as they start to increase distances and perform repetitive sets of 50m or 100m and beyond in their sessions.  This skill will allow swimmers to keep moving without interrupting the flow of the class group by having to touch the wall and go again.

It is a skill that helps achieve maximum practice time within a lesson and assists in improving the speed of young swimmers as they start to work on timed sets.

As always, skills should be broken down and added to as each element is mastered.  By following these simple steps your swimmers will be using tumble turns in no time.


  1. Somersault to streamline stand

Line swimmers up all together (double arm width apart) and simply get them to practice a somersault and finish by standing with their arms in the streamline position.  Repeat until mastered.


  1. Somersault to streamline feet on wall

Swimmers should start from a position where their hand is almost touching the wall or end of the pool. Tumble and aim for feet to touch the wall.  If swimmers’ feet hit the wall squarely encourage them to push off in a streamlined position.  Allow swimmers to push of on their back in these early stages of learning to tumble turn. Focus on using their feet and legs to push off from the wall with power.  Repeat until mastered.


  1. Add a twist, push and streamline kick

Once swimmers hit the wall with their feet consistently and they can push off with power in a streamline position, add a twist so they push off on their side and rotate on the push off to face the bottom of the pool. Repeat until mastered.


  1. Swim freestyle from flags, tumble turn with twist, streamline kicks out to flags.

Once swimmers are competent at this skill allow them to practice it as a relay in 2 or 3 lanes if you have pool space. Swimmers can race each other for fun and it will allow them to understand they should approach the wall with speed to help get a powerful push off as they head in the other direction.


Many swimmers find this skill difficult at first. Here are some tips you may find useful when teaching tumbles turns.

  • Encourage swimmers to “hummmm” as they practice the somersault. This can help avoid swimmers getting water up their noses.
  • Encourage swimmers to tuck their legs up to their bodies in a tight ball when attempting to somersault in the water.
  • Sometimes holding a kickboard in each hand will assist in learning to tumble.
  • Swimmers occasionally struggle with flipping their legs over – physical manipulation in the water may be required for swimmers to feel how their body should be moving through the water.
  • A pool noodle or lane rope can be an effective teaching tool for helping swimmers to understand the tumble turn. Practice tumbling around the pool noodle or rope to return to the starting position.  This allows swimmers to feel their bodies and legs follow the same path as their head for the full rotation of the somersault.


As with any new skill, teaching tumble turns will require lots of patience, practice and repetition.  Each individual step may take several lessons for swimmers to get it right.  Make sure you allow time for learning each step in your lesson plans and practice, practice, practice until it is perfect!


The following under water photo sequence shows a competent swimmer practicing turns after swimming from the flags and returning to repeat the process.







What are some activities you have found helpful when teaching tumble turns? Share in the comments section below.


To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!


Laurie Lawrence


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