Coach Pete

Expert advice for Swimmers, Triathletes, and Coaches

Breaststroke/Butterfly Turn


When performing a breaststroke or butterfly turn, your goal should be to get in and off the wall as quickly as possible. How fast you can turn depends largely on how quickly you can get your feet onto the wall. Consider the wall to be like a hot stove, if you hang on to it you will get burned

The breaststroke and butterfly open turn can be broken up into three distinct phases:

  • chest slap
  • hip slap
  • hand recovery close to the cap


Chest Slap – After both hands simultaneously touch the wall, one arm is immediately brought back into the body with the elbow pressed against the ribs and the hand slapping the upper part of the chest, close to the shoulder (Some coaches modify the positioning of this arm).

Hip Snap – Draw your knees up quickly toward your chest and the wall with toes pointed. Both chest slap and hip snap movements are performed simultaneously. This causes the shoulder of your recovering arm to drop in the water while your hips rotate to allow you to place just your toes horizontally on the wall. While your legs are brought under the body, the head and shoulders are brought straight back, looking up toward the ceiling or sky.

Hand Recovers Close To the Cap – The hand that remained on the wall will recover close to the head as if you were saluting to the official standing over your lane. Continue to drop back until your feet are on the wall and your hands meet in a streamline.

Push off the wall with your toes only, as if you were jumping rope. Your heels should never be placed firmly on the wall. When pushing off, your feet are planted on the wall, parallel with the bottom of the pool. This will help you to push off more on your side, since pushing with the toes pointed down causes a lot of resistance. As you push off, you will twist the body in a corkscrew motion onto the stomach. Your feet must push off with your shoulders past vertical and with your chest facing the bottom, as you hold your streamline tight by squeezing your arms against your ears.

There are two common errors in doing breaststroke and butterfly turns: the “spin like a top turn”, and the “pull-up turn”.

If you “spin like a top” when you turn, it may be because you are rotating your head in a “no” motion and rotating your shoulders horizontally through the water. To correct this, keep your eyes on the wall until your feet are on the wall. The speed of the turn does not depend on how quickly you get your hands on and off the wall, but how quickly you get your feet on and off the wall! Once your feet are on the wall, bring your head back into your streamline looking upward rather than turning your head to the side.

Pulling yourself up out of the water as you turn , probably means that you are grabbing the lip of the wall and pulling your shoulders and chest up and out of the water. This turn will cause you to lose most of your momentum, since you want to get “in and out,” not “up and down”. When your hands touch the wall, rather than pulling yourself up, immediately bring one of your elbows back and drive your bent knees and feet into the wall.

April 15, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Very interesting and helpful, coach!
    I’ll try to apply this to my turns!

    Comment by Yoel Lapscher | April 21, 2009 | Reply

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