There are a variety of ways to rotate in the water. You can somersault forwards and backwards, roll in an open backward circle, log roll sideways and you can switch direction by flipping back and forth. Rotations in the water can be very useful. A beginner swimmer needs to learn how to rotate from horizontal to vertical so that they can safely stand up again after swimming. For some people this might sound easy, but it is surprisingly hard to do if you are nervous and unfamiliar with moving in water. Fitness swimmers benefit from log rolling so that they can switch seamlessly from front crawl to backstroke as part of their workout. Competitive swimmers need to learn how to both log roll and somersault as part of a racing turn (tumble turns). Log rolls help to develop the front crawl stroke because getting used to the rolling movement helps you to reach further with the stroke and find a good position to breathe. All swimmers benefit from being able to switch directions quickly in order to swim back to the side if tired and unable to complete the distance.

Skills that help to improve Rotations:

Development of Rotations from Beginner to Advanced:


As a beginner swimmer (adult or child) learning how to stand up again after laying flat in the water should be a priority for safety and survival. Using noodle floats can help you to practice rotating without worrying about staying buoyant. To flip forward or backward, it helps to tuck the knees up because a tucked shape rotates quickly. As a foundation for future somersaults, learning how to do a tuck float is also worth practicing.


When a swimmer has learned how to rotate halfway (flip from front to back) and is confident to submerge the face, they can work on full somersaults. A somersault in swimming is always in the water, not somersaulting from the poolside into the water. Somersaults forwards and backwards are very similar, the difference comes from the direction of the arm pull. A nervous swimmer might bail out of a somersault halfway through or twist out of it so that they resurface facing a different direction to where they started. Improvers can work on making a somersault neat, tight and fast, resurfacing facing the same direction to where they started. Swimmers can also practice log rolling from front to back and from back to front. These can be done from a static floating position or using the momentum of a push & glide. Log rolls are improved by working on posture so that the swimmer is flat to the water surface throughout the roll.


At an advanced level, swimmers can practice an open back circle, which is a fun activity in itself and a foundation skill for future backwards diving in a competitive diving class. Swimmers can also incorporate somersaults and log rolls into racing turns (tumble turns) though this should be done under the supervision of a qualified teacher or club coach.

Skill-specific Hazards for Rotations:

Besides the general inherent dangers involved with water-based activities, Rotations have their own specific risks:

  • Rotating in water can cause water to be inhaled through the nose. Care should be taken not to choke on water
  • When performing somersaults or open back circles, swimmers may not be fully aware of their surroundings. Care should be taken not to collide with another swimmer, the pool wall or floor, or any submerged steps, ledges or seating.
  • Rotations can make a swimmer dizzy and disorientated, which can put them in difficulty in deep water. Fainting can occur if a swimmer is susceptible.
  • Tumble turns are higher-risk skills which should be practiced under the supervision of a qualified teacher or club coach.
  • A beginner, nervous swimmer may get stuck trying to rotate to the standing position. It is useful to have a buddy in the water who can safely assist the rotation if the swimmer is finding it difficult.
Share this post on social media: