3 Different Types of a Crossover Turn

The Crossover Turn has made strides in the last decade of being the ‘Fastest Turn’ out there for the Backstroke to Breaststroke transition. The funny part is this type of turn was a progression from the many different styles of Backstroke Flipturns dated back to the 1970s. Little did I know the rabbit hole I was about to go down about this turn. A big thanks to a few people who commented on my “Bucket Turn” video, enlightening me that there was more than one Bucket Turn!

When I grew up swimming (in the 90s), I was taught the Bucket (or Suicide) turn for my back-to-breaststroke transitions. This turn is essentially the one where you hit the wall and go into a backflip before pushing back off.

Suicide Turn

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Who still rocks a Bucket Turn for their BK to BR transitions? ⠀ ⠀ This turn became popular back in the 90s, as people thought it was faster than your traditional ‘Touch and Go’ turn…⠀ ⠀ Reality is — it is, but it comes with a huge oxygen deficit that you really cannot make up for! ⠀ ⠀ The turn, itself, is super fun to complete — but I don’t recommend this turn for anyone, anymore! Holding that pullout afterwards gets realllllll tricky (as you can see) 😬 and I’d rather make sure my swimmers get enough oxygen on the wall to HOLD their pullouts and that FASTER speed for a longer period of time, versus get LESS oxygen on the wall and pop up sooner! 🙌🏻

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When I uploaded this video to Instagram, I got quite the backlash from some older coaches and swimmers who were taught a Bucket Turn for a Backstroke Flipturn in earlier years. I had no idea that type of turn existed in Backstroke. I immediately Googled that turn, and the portal to the rabbit hole opened. It makes so much more sense to me now why the verbiage for the post was confusing, so for ease in our new series, I will be referring to my regular Bucket Turn as a Suicide Turn.

Now, we see a lot less of the Suicide Turn. One of the main reasons the Suicide Turn isn’t taught anymore is because of the amount of time it requires swimmers to hold their breath. With the newer and more improved Crossover Turns, swimmers still benefit from a flip, BUT they don’t have to hold their breath for as long – going straight into their pullout.

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Abbie Fish explaining the crossover turn to a young swimmer.

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Crossover Turn History

As I said above, the cool part about the Crossover Turn is it’s NOT new! You can see in this video from the Finals of the 200 Backstroke in the 1972 Olympic Games – both the Suicide Turn and Crossover Turn were present but for a different transition:


The rules for Backstroke turns have changed since then, stating that you don’t have to touch the wall with your hand before transitioning to a new lap. So, we have moved away from these turn styles and are now using the regular Backstroke Flipturn.

Why Are There So Many Crossover Turn Variations?

My honest answer: I think it’s a really hard turn to teach, and not many coaches know how the turn works, technically. I’ve been teaching more of the Backstroke Flipturn (with a hand touch at the wall), but I quickly realized my swimmers created multiple versions of the same turn – with the same teaching. It took me auditing my group and realizing – depending on the turn style, I may see some of my swimmer’s arms, heads, legs – or any variation of the three outside the water during their interpretation of the Crossover Turn! So further down the rabbit hole I went!

The 3 Crossover Turn Styles:

1.) The Backstroke Flipturn Modification:

As I stated above, this is the type of turn I’ve been teaching the most. This was actually the style I was taught at the end of my swimming career, and physically, it made the most sense for my body to do.

To perform this type of turn, you have swimmers come into the wall – hitting the wall with their top arm and crossing it over their body. The goal is to have a deep touch on the wall with their hips still angling up, so technically, they’re still on their back. From there, swimmers get their final air change before rolling AWAY from their open armpit to their stomach and pushing off.

Backstroke Flipturn Example:

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2.) The Bottom Arm Spin Turn

The second style of Crossover Turn is one of two types of spin turns – the main difference being the hand that touches the wall. On this type of turn, swimmers come into the wall like they’re finishing a Backstroke race and hit the wall with their bottom arm. From there, they spin their feet back towards the wall while bringing their knees into their chest. It’s a sideways flip-turn, and then they push off. This type of Back to Breast turn is often called a ‘Touch & Go’ turn as well!

In this type of Crossover Turn, you see most of a swimmer’s body outside the water. It’s the bottom arm that hits the wall, which causes a swimmer’s head to rise above the surface—along with their arm and knees during the spin.

Bottom Arm Spin Turn Example:

Look at Lanes 3 and 5!

3.) The Top Arm Spin Turn

A while back, Chloe Sutton was making some YouTube tutorials for Swimmers, and I came across her Crossover Turn video. I noticed it was similar to my Backstroke Flipturn style of Crossover Turn, but the body did appear to be different. Well, that’s because this turn is a blend of the first two, where swimmers hit the wall with their top arm (instead of their bottom) and then perform the same spinning motion as a Bottom Arm Spin Turn to get off the wall.

For this type of turn, you see little to none of the body come up compared to the Bottom Arm version of it. It’s very obvious how deep the body stays below the water in the video below.

Top Arm Spin Turn Example:

So which one is right? Well, it’s up for debate. Stay tuned for Part II of this series, where we discuss the Pros/Cons of each of these Crossover Turn Styles!

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No lies, I’m pretty proud of myself for this one.

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

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