How to Do an Open Turn for Swimming

Imagine you’re lap swimming in a lane with a few other people. Every time you go to the wall for a turn, the other swimmers catch up to you. How frustrating! Open turns can actually be way trickier than they seem. If you’re swimming laps and wondering how to do a better open turn, follow the advice in this guide.


Start at the Wall

Before going through an actual turn, let’s break it down. Start at the wall. Float on your stomach with both your hands placed on the gutter, shoulder-width apart. Stretch your body out with your arms straight — make sure you lock your elbows — while looking down. If you need to, lightly kick freestyle to keep your body afloat.

Elbow, Knees, & Freeze

Tuck your legs in near your belly, swing them up, and place your feet on the wall. You should feel like you’re driving your knees in toward the wall. This will put you into a tuck position as quickly as possible. As your feet land on the cross, your knees should be pointing upwards toward the surface. This will help you push off straight, getting you off the wall faster and more efficiently.

Hot Tip: Strengthen Your Core
As you swing feet to the wall, tighten your core to speed up the turn. If you’re still feeling slow, try some core strengthening exercises. Crunches, sit ups, or dolphin kicks can go a long way in strengthening the necessary muscles for a turn.

While you swing your legs up, you should simultaneously shove your elbow back. If you shove your elbow back hard enough, it will turn your shoulders. This can be either your right or left elbow, depending on which you’re more comfortable with. For the purposes of this guide, we will use the right elbow.

As you are learning these steps, pause with your feet on the wall and your elbow back. This will help you breakdown your turn, identify what you need to improve, and think about what to do next. Only pause while learning this move. Once you get the hang of it, take the pause away.

Straighten Your Arm

Take your right elbow (the one you shoved back) and straighten out that arm so that it’s on the surface of the water. Your fingertips should be pointing toward the cross at the other end of the pool, ensuring that you push off the wall straight.

When it comes time to leave the wall, your arm will be ready to greet your other arm into a streamline. Many people forget this step, and tangle up their bodies as they try to leave the wall.

Watch Your Hand

Now for your left hand that is still on the wall. As this hand leaves the wall, it should slice in over your head. Bend your elbow, move your hand over the crown of your head, and then slice into the water with your fingertips. You might find it easier to slice in next to your ear — like you were combing your hair.

Hot Tip: Straighten Your Back
You’re not in a good position to leave the wall if your chin is tucked, your butt is low, or your body is curled up as you dunk yourself down. As you push off, straighten your back and relax your neck. With your back parallel to the pool floor, you’ll push off much more smoothly.

The straighter your hand goes over your head, the straighter you will push off the wall. As your hand passes over your head, watch it go by. This will help you dunk under the water and push off straight.

Make sure you don’t turn your head to the side when you push off the wall. You should be looking up at your left hand. Looking to the side tends to cause an arched back, pushing you off crooked.

Push Off on Your Back

Although in a full turn you are supposed to push off and twist onto your stomach, at this point you should practice how to push off straight without the added complications of twisting over.

Try pushing off in a streamline on your back and see how straight you go. If you go crooked, review your steps: Did you turn your shoulders when you shoved your elbow back? When you straightened your arm, was it pointing at the other end of the pool? Did you slice your other hand in over your head?

Push Off & Twist

Now that you’re pushing off straight, let’s modify the previous step. It’s time to practice twisting onto your stomach. Start on the wall in the position you were in during Step 4. Your feet should be on the wall, with your right arm outstretched behind you. As you leave the wall, watch your hand go back as before. Dunk yourself under the water as you straighten out your body.

Leave the wall on your back with your shoulders slightly tilted to the right side. After you leave the wall, roll onto your stomach. If this does not feel smooth, keep practicing the twist. Think about your shoulder angle and your head position.

Keep in mind that if you look forward as you twist, your back will be arched. Keep your neck stiff as you twist to ensure correct body position.

Tie It All Together

Roll through these steps a few times until you feel comfortable with each part. It’s a lot to remember for a turn, so break it down. Once you feel that you have the steps memorized and that you’re executing them well, tie them all together. Practice the turn over and over again. Soon it will feel so natural that you won’t have to think about the steps anymore.

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