Race pool triathlons faster and turbo-charge your training swims by learning how to tumble turn

Tumble turns are a good skill to learn for pool racing, but make sure you’ve really nailed the technique before employing it in an event situation – the last thing you want is to fluff it up, lose time and hold someone else up. Bear in mind that if you’re tumbling and the person in front isn’t you could fly into their feet after each turn, even if they’re a faster swimmer on the straights.
Swim training for triathlon: how to tumble turn position 1

Go in fast

Many of us tend to slow towards the end of each length of the pool, instinctively gliding and reaching out for the wall on our last stroke. A good tumble turn works better with momentum, so make sure you maintain your front crawl speed in the last few metres. You can benefit from this with touch turns too – so practise taking speed to the wall with these to gain confidence before trying the tumble turn.

Start on the mark

In training, experiment to find your best point to start the turn – it will depend on your height and speed; many people use the ‘T’ on the bottom of the pool as a marker (beware pools with moving floors as the variable height can mess up your perception). Once spotted, begin your somersault by bringing your chin down as your lead arm comes down underneath you.

Swim training for triathlon: how to tumble turn position 2

Tuck under and roll

Your back arm stays by your side as your lead arm comes down and you tuck your head under. Bring your head down and curl your upper back, allowing the rest of your body to follow the lead of your head. Your bottom will come out of the water as you turn and you’ll naturally ‘fold’ at the hips. The natural momentum of your speed should see you through the roll – you don’t have to force it.

Curl up

As you roll, tuck your knees in so they’re almost touching your chin. You’ll need to use your arms help bring you round. You’re aiming to have the soles of your feet hit the wall while your knees are still bent, now facing up towards the ceiling. If you’re new to tumble turns, practise this somersault in the pool a few times first – use the deep end if possible to avoid collisions with the floor of the pool if it goes wrong.

Swim training for triathlon: how to tumble turn position 3

Plant your feet

Don’t uncurl until your feet are in full contact with the pool wall – the push-off is the fastest part of your stroke. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart so you can harness all the power in your legs and glutes. Bring your arms above your head, press your hands together in a hand-over-hand position to streamline your body. You should be breathing out through your nose to avoid water shooting up it.

Push off and twist

As soon as your feet are planted, push off from the wall. As you move away, bring your legs together, overlapping your feet slightly and pointing your toes. Think about travelling through the smallest possible hole in the water. As you push away and streamline your body, rotate to end up on your front again. As you become more practised, you can perform a half twist during your initial front roll.

Swim training for triathlon: how to tumble turn position 4

Butterfly kick

Once turned, make the most of your push-off by keeping your head tucked under your outstretched arms, as if you were diving, and legs clamped together. If you can, perform a couple of strong dolphin kicks – like you’d use in butterfly – to propel you forwards as you come back towards the surface. Otherwise begin a strong, shallow kick. You’re aiming to come up just past the 5m flags.

Swim again

As your head breaks the surface of the water again, begin your front crawl stroke. Don’t allow yourself to slow down by gliding too long. If possible, avoid breathing on your first stroke to maintain as much speed as possible. With time and practice, your tumble turns will speed up so the whole process takes just a second or two – and you’ll be saving more than that on your 100m splits.