In the individual medley races, there are a lot of transitions between strokes: fly to back, back to breast, breast to free where each swimmer could either gain or lose time on the opponents.

Usually, the most complex turn is the one from backstroke to breaststroke.

In the history of swimming, this turn has evolved into a very fast and sophisticated sequence of movements that is quite tricky to master for a lot of us. Even very good swimmers take a bit of coordination and time to learn it.

Here is a rundown of the turn evolution from the time it was required to touch the wall on swimmer's back to execute the turn.

turning is believing
turning is believing

Back to Breast Open turn or Touch turn

The open turn is basically very similar to a one-hand touch freestyle open turn with the only difference that you glide to the wall on the back.

The most important part here is to reach for the wall on a side, but still slightly leaning on the back. Then very quickly bring your legs to your chest. In other words basically, you are pivoting on your butt to make this rotation turn.

This turn is the easiest to master and when done well can be very effective.

The main advantage of this turn is that you get a lot of oxygen going into your breaststroke pullout, so you can make sure it is a long one.

Backwards flip turn or Bucket turn or Rolling turn or Suicide turn

The bucket turn requires a bit more skill, but it basically is just a backward flip with the touch on the wall. 

The main point to talk about here is that the start of the turn has to be with the palm touch way below the surface of the water. So actually the swimmer has already initiated the turn before the hand touches the wall. 

After that, again tucking your knees is the common element. 

One problem with this turn is that it requires quite a good lung capacity to execute the breaststroke pullout afterward. So unless you can hold your breath long enough to not cut the breaststroke pullout short, I would not recommend it. Hence the name "Suicide Turn" I presume :).

Cross-over Turn

This is the newest of the turns. 

If executed well, it is much faster, so in shorter individual medley distances such as 100 or 200, it would make more sense to learn it. 

However, if you look at it quickly, you will probably feel confused as to which hand touches the wall and on what side to flip your body onto:). 

No worries, the below video is very good at describing how it is done. I couldn't have explained it better. 

In short, after you touch the wall with your upper arm over your body (keep on your back slightly), you will need to drive your butt in the direction below the hand that touches the wall to complete the turn.

So in a way, it could be performed on a side or as a regular tumble turn depending on how coordinated the swimmer is.

Confused? No problem, the pool is yours and with time you will get it :). 

Maybe the below video will help. It has a more detailed explanation with a very nice commentary from Garry Hall Sr.'s Race Club down in Islamorada, Florida.

And here is one more. This one even has some dryland explanation for better visualization.

Third time is a charm :).

So, there you have it.

Backstroke to breaststroke individual medley transition explained. Good luck and don't be shy to let me know below your preferred way of turning.

Swim Advice Topics

How To Do Back To Breast Turns (Open vs. Bucket vs. Cross-Over) is part of the following categories: Swimming Videos, Breaststroke, Backstroke, Individual Medley, Starts and Turns and is meant for swimmers in: Level 4 - Advanced, Level 3 - Intermediate

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