Swimming Techniques: How to do a Backstroke Turn

Learn how to execute the backstroke turn with this step-by-step guide.

July 31, 2016

Get more out of every lap by improving your power, speed and overall efficiency. A fast backstroke turn can help you change direction and start a new lap quickly and effectively, continue training without a stop-start approach and achieve a more advanced level of proficiency.


How to Do It


Step 1


Before attempting the turn, figure out the number of strokes it takes to get from the five-meter backstroke flags to the wall. Take this total and subtract one or two strokes to get the number of strokes you should perform before turning onto your front, leaving one full arm’s length away from the wall. Do this multiple times to find the number that works best for you.


Step 2


On your last stroke before approaching the turn, pull your leading arm through the water while rolling your body to this side to turn onto your front. As you roll onto your chest, pass your recovering arm diagonally across your body and enter it in the water above your head. This will help roll your body over and gain momentum into the turning movement.


Step 3


To initiate the turn, pull your leading arm backwards and drop your chin onto your chest. As your head moves downwards, your hips will lift into a piked V shape. Immediately tuck your knees into your chest to complete a somersault movement.


Your feet should rotate over your body and towards the wall, ready for the push off. Remember, a smaller shape rotates faster than a larger shape, so keep your knees tucked into your chest. Pull your hands from your hips towards your head to assist with a fast and efficient rotation.


Step 4


As your feet hit the wall, your knees and toes should be facing the water’s surface in order to gain the most power from your drive off of it. At this point, your back should be straight with your arms in a streamlined position, extended above your head. This will help you cut through the water.


Push off the wall onto your back by driving your legs and pointing your toes. Aim for a totally straight line in order to maximize your distance. Execute a dolphin kick before resuming your backstroke.



  • Try different stroke lengths to find the one that works best for you
  • Practice mid-pool turns away from the wall to master the somersault movement
  • During the rotation phase, gently exhale air to avoid water going up your nose
  • For a faster rotation, try using a dolphin-kicking movement as your chin presses onto your chest

And remember, practice makes perfect.