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Tumble turns

My swimming is coming along slowly (from virtually nowhere when i started) to the point where i can swim 1500m crawl in the pool.

However i am still not tumble turning. I tried doing it last night at the end of my session and didn't make a very good job of it i.e. bad timing, positioning water going up my nose and surfacing way too early and losing speed.

This of course is a very long-winded way of asking if anyone has any tips on how to perform a good tumble turn?


  • I'm by no means an expert on this as my tumble turns aren't exactly perfect but i had brief instruction on tumbles turning at the very end of a swimming course i attended early this year, i kind of figured out the rest myself by watching people in the pool and on youtube.

    Here are some points i concentrate on:

    I tend to wait until I'm roughly 1.5 arm's length away before turning

    i make sure my head is tucked tightly into my chest before turning

    i kick off the wall facing upwards before turning at my hip back onto my front to restart the crawl

    All as fluently as i can.....not very!!!!!

    I'm sure there are much more experienced guy on here from swimming backgrounds that could help more and I'll be watching this thread with interest.

    I hope this help,


  • ardkeenardkeen Posts: 152
    Why bother man. They improve your pool speed but not open water speed and if you are working on endurance they can push your heart rate up further than the optimum. Anyway for each their own.
  • tony btony b Posts: 57
    I agree w ith ardkeen - I used to want to get the hang of tumble turns but now I've tried them I realise that they take as much practice as other aspects of swimming to perfect. What's the point in spending valuable practise time on them if almost all of your triathlons (maybe) are in open water? Sure, they look cool in the pool and that's important to some but they're not going to improve your triathlon time.
  • I agree with ardkeen unless your going to swim competitivly in the pool they're unnecessary. I got great benefit out of getting a good clean entry touch turn with good glide to get me past the 5m red zone on lane dividers before starting to swim again.

    That said I must confess to learning to tumble turn but just to impress in the pool if i'm honest. I rearely ever use it. The main thing I found difficult was missing the big breath at the wall.
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    As you can see, cheezypees, most people don't see the use of tumble turns for triathletes, and I'm one of them. I can do them, I learned them in sports school when I was 14 years old, but I rarely use them. I only use them when i swim a 1000 metres test to make sure I get the best time I can. But for people who train for open water swims, they are of little or no use.

    Having said that, feel free to try and learn them anyway if you want to. We learned them by breaking it down in pieces. For example, first practise the tumble part. Swim towards the wall and try to find the right distance to tumble by trial, so you dont hit the wall with your head or tumble too soon and look like a fish on land[:D]. Just practise the tumbling part first until you get it right. Work on the turning part once you get the first step right, before you can mash it together.

    From then on it's just repeating and practising that makes it better and more natural.

    It's harder on the breathing in the beginning, but practising will help this. Oh ye, blow air out of your nose when tumbling for the water entering problem.
  • I think you missed the point here guys!

    Cheezypees simply wanted a rough guide on how to tumble turn not every reason why he doesn't need to know!!!

    There are many pool based tri's around as we all know and tumble turning can in some cases take a second or more off your length time when executed well....so why not learn?!?

    I believe you can never know too much and its always an advantage to have the option!

    Personally, i only tumble turn in the pool if i have a pool based tri on the near horizon for which i need to practice, i otherwise touch turn. I'm not trying to show off, i simply want to maximise the turn in a pool race situation!

    I'm sure most triathletes would rather know than not so given the option.

    maybe some people dont wanna look like a circus act in a busy pool while learning to tumble turn? i consider more vein !!!

    I say learn to tumble turn because you'll always have the option.


  • Well i never! Cheers for the advice everyone. I'm all confused now :-)

    The reason i thought i should start doing tumble turns is because of the big breath you get at the end of a length (as TriHard mentioned) when you just touch turn. I figured it was cheating because i am giving myself a little rest each length.

    Thanks for the tips Bristol Newbie, i'll have a go at those at the end of my session tonight.

    I'm doing 2 pool based tri's next spring so tumble turns would be useful for that but i'll take the general consensus advice and mostly leave them for pool tri's and time trials, i'll stick to normal turns for general training.

    If anyone had seen my first attempts at tumbling they would know that this is definitely not a vanity thing!!!
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    I agree that it's better to know how to do them though, cause then you've got the option to do it. But alike the other guys I think there are more important things to learn. That said, there are some tips how I learned them in my previous post, so everybody feel free to ad your tips and comment. I guess thats more important to cheezypees than looking at us yapping at each other[:D].(I hope this is correct English).
  • Well said Bristol newbie! Ive recently mastered tumble turns and its great to swim 1000-1500 non stop (well almost, until my foot slips on the wall) Although its taken a while I dont think it has anything to do with looking likea circus act or being vane.

    Watching other swimmers (if they execute it properly) makes the swim look so much sleeker, and encourages you to control your breathing more which is surely a benefit in pool or openwater swimming?

    Cheesey peas...as benny says break it up a bit. start by doing lengths with a tumble every 3 or 4 strokes, no wall involved just get the tumble right, tuck your chin in and think of your head as a heavy weight, your body will follow. Then think about using the wall.
  • Know you've all nearly exhausted this topic but was suprised to read that tumbling will not help endurance / open water training. I've just started training for IM & am forcing myself to tumble. I've read that not tumbling gives a false sense of your level of endurance because of the extra breath you get at the end of each length.

    Would be good to know what other people think?

  • Totally agree with you badgerfinney, thats more or less what I was trying to say also.In OW swimming you dont stop for a big gulp every 25mtrs.
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    On the other hand, just dont take that big gulp of air. Just touch turn and go without sucking in all the available air in the pool. Just a matter of trying not to cheat. (same as not pushing off the wall so that you float 10 metres and swim the rest 15).
  • I realise that the debate has been raging on for a few weeks now, but I would like to put in my point of view too. I have been swimming for about 15 years, initially just to race in the pool but clearly now for triathlons. Tumbles are, I believe, an essential part of training. If they are done correctly, they keep the continuity and the pace of the swim. Whilst tumbling in a pool is different to swimming open water, I would say that they maintain the rhythm of the stroke and actually simulate swimming open water much better than turning round at the end of each length. They are worth practicing for this reason alone; make them fluent and natural and they mean that all of your pool time beomes about endurance training, not swimming 25, pausing, swimming 25, pausing etc. Hope this makes sense to all. Practise makes perfect...and using a nose clip to start with can help too as this stops you from breathing out through the nose when rotating and therefore loosing air for the push off.


  • Just to throw my tuppence worth into the debate.

    Good for training as tumbleturning mimics open water swimming better as you keep your rythmn and breathing and dont get a wee break at the end of each length.

    REMEMBER a quick butterfly kick as the last kick will help you to initiate your turn as helps push your shoulders down and your legs up.

  • I've mostly been concetrating on perfecting my beer drinking technique over the last week but i'll head back to the pool this week and try and apply the tips i've read in this thread. Cheers everyone and hope you all have a top New Year's Eve.
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    Hey cheezypees,

    here's a link to a 3-stepguide for tumble turns.


    That's of course if you still need it.

  • Thanks Benny, that looks very helpful.

    I've managed to do a few TT's now. A bit rough and ready so far but i'll keep working on it!
  • Small one – but breath out through your nose as you're doing the turn. Saves on the ice cream headache burn in you nostrils.
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    Here's another link with some video footage on how to do tumble turns: www.beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=1388

    Good luck with it guys.
  • i suppose the good thing about turning in this fashion is that you clear the people that socialise at the ends of the swim lanes by kick off their groins
  • insideinside Posts: 22
    Save your time and energy - Tumble turns are not allowed (in UK triathlons at least)


    Or should I say - you would be better off using the time to perfect the "pendulum turn"

  • BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    Got to laugh at gaterz! While I'd never intentionally kick anyone, I have used an agressively splashy tumble on occasions to help people understand that 'Fast Lane' is not equivalent to 'Socialising Lane'.

    Tee hee.

    To add to the debate/advice... I find my most productive tumble turns are when I really slow it down and think about it: Tumble; Plant feet; Straighten back and arms; Push; Roll onto front. That video link posted earlier in the thread is a good'un for this. When I slow it down I surface about 5m from the wall.

    Also, I try to take two arm strokes BEFORE I take my first breath.

    As to the the should you/shouldn't you debate... I still struggle with the Oxygen deficit from tumbling, so I don't do it as often as I should. I also find it hard NOT to take a big breath when touch turning. I'm trying to tumble more and more because of this, and because I like the unbroken fluency, and because I do quite a few super-sprint events and tumbling knocks off 1s per length.

    After all, we're triathletes, right? Anything that makes training MORE difficult has to be good. [:D]
  • insideinside Posts: 22
    Bopomofo wrote:

    As to the the should you/shouldn't you debate...

    and because I do quite a few super-sprint events and tumbling knocks off 1s per length.

    Sorry but it isn;t a debate - you shouldn't because it is against the rules and if the referee sees it - it is a straight DQ

  • Still a useful aid in training, inside. A lot of folk cant openwater train this encourges constant rhythmic breathing without sneaking in the odd reast and gulp as already stated.
  • bennybenny Posts: 1,314
    Must agree with hound dog here. Knowing this skill is not a waste, there are good benefits in it. Gulping air at the end of each lane can be avoided, but nobody does it unless you tumble turn.(I catch myself cheating sometimes too if I don't do the tumbles[&o][;)]).
  • inside wrote:
    ORIGINAL: Bopomofo

    As to the the should you/shouldn't you debate...

    and because I do quite a few super-sprint events and tumbling knocks off 1s per length.

    Sorry but it isn;t a debate - you shouldn't because it is against the rules and if the referee sees it - it is a straight DQ

    Every pool based triathlon i entered last summer had competitors doing tumble turns! The only tri that stated it wasn't legal was the warwickshire tri in straford upon avon in sept 2007!

  • insideinside Posts: 22
    Bristol newbie wrote:
    ORIGINAL: inside

    [quote]ORIGINAL: Bopomofo

    As to the the should you/shouldn't you debate...

    and because I do quite a few super-sprint events and tumbling knocks off 1s per length.

    Sorry but it isn;t a debate - you shouldn't because it is against the rules and if the referee sees it - it is a straight DQ

    Every pool based triathlon i entered last summer had competitors doing tumble turns! The only tri that stated it wasn't legal was the warwickshire tri in straford upon avon in sept 2007!


    It is not the organisers who allow it - and tbh they probably don't even care - It is the BTF/BTA who formulate the rules and police them (or not as you have pointed out) through the race referee.

    I agree many people do waste time by hanging on the wall. 2 seconds per length is 30 secs

    A better bet is still the pendulum turn - less chance of coming a cropper with a fussy referee.

  • I'm lucky not to have been disqualified in previous races[&:]! I'll to try the other turn if its illegal!!

    How do you do a pendulum turn? do know any links that demonstrate it?

  • insideinside Posts: 22
    I don;t know if penulum turn is the right term. Presumably, someone will charge you 300 quid for a days course to do one properly.

    Years back old our old club coach used to have us do endless sets and thats what he called them

    Swim up to wall as hard as you can, touch with right hand and throw that hand back over your body above the water and this will rotate your body around, push off with your legs against the wall. Left hand never goes near the wall, just keep that out the way

    (Obviously reverse if you are left handed)

    He reckonned they were almost as fast as tumble turns

    I will have a look around your tube etc and post a link if I can find one

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