Swim session: Improve your turns

Gain ‘free speed’ for next season by perfecting your pool turns this winter


If you think turns aren’t important in triathlon swimming, think again!


Investing a little time learning how to turn efficiently can give you significant ‘free speed’ gains in both the pool and open water. By working on your streamlining and body position off every start and turn, you’ll quickly improve both your swim times and overall technique. Performing tumble turns requires you to both focus on your breathing and become slightly hypoxic out of each turn, which will improve both your fitness and breathing control. Similarly, practising open-water turns (i.e. no wall touch) in the pool is great skill practice for the open-water season.

In this session, you’ll progress from simple grab starts and turns into touch/tumble turns. No-wall open-water turns are used for a more physically challenging contrast conditioning set. Whichever turn you use, focus on good momentum into the turn, a fast but technically correct turn and then super-streamlining and leg drive into your full stroke. 

Know your turns!


Grip the top of the wall, pull your legs into the wall with bent knees, then push off the wall powerfully under the water
with great streamlining.


Place one hand flat on the wall with your body side on, absorb your momentum into your arm and plant your feet onto the wall to push off powerfully.  


Completing swim sets with dead turns in the lane without touching the wall is great conditioning and also encourages a good leg kick through open-water turn



+15secs rest after each rep

8 x 25m grab start (push off into super-streamline position, glide, kick for 5m then breakout and swim)

8 x 50m grab start and turns (as above on start and turn)

4 x 50m performing 3 somersaults on each length



Only progress to next stage once you’ve nailed the previous step

8 x 15m performing a somersault at the t-mark

8 x 15m somersault onto your back and place your feet against the wall

8 x 15m as above, pushing off on your back

8 x 15m as above, pushing off on your back, then corkscrew onto your front 


+30secs rest after each rep

8 x 100m no-wall turns at aerobic tempo pace


4 x 50m as: 25m front crawl into tumble turn; 25m backstroke from turn

Adapt for beginners

Focus on the technical aspects of each turn with the goal of ‘breaking out’ into the first stroke under the 5m flags, with great streamlining.  

Adapt for Ironman


Work on last-5m speed into the turn and strong fly kick out of the turn, accelerating into the ‘breakout’ and with no breathing on first stroke.