Here at SwimSmooth we have a different viewpoint on kicking for amateur swimmers and triathletes.
This may comeas a surprise, but you’re not looking to get much or any propulsion from yourleg kick. Elite freestyle swimmers with world class kicks only get a smallfraction of their propulsion from their legs (about 10-15%). Most triathletesand amateur swimmers get next to no propulsion from their kick.
Kick from thehip with a relatively straight leg.
Ourconclusion is that you shouldn’t be looking to get propulsion from your kick.For most triathletes it’s simply not realistic.
so, i ignoremy kick?
No, far from it. You still need to work on yourkick technique. That’s because there’s more to kicking than propulsion, youstill need an ‘effective’ kick. What does ‘effective kick’ mean? :
– Your kickshould lift your legs up to give you a good body position.
– Your kick should be low drag.
– Your kick timing should drive your rotation,not hinder it.
– Your kick should be low effort so it minimisesenergy use.
Mosttriathletes don’t have effective kick technique. Making your kick more effectivewill reduce the effort required to swim and boost your speed by reducing yourdrag.
what willgive me an effective kick? there are 4 key technique elements:
1. Kick from the hip
Many swimmers bend their knees too much whilstkicking – we call this kicking from the knee. This creates large amounts ofdrag and is probably the number one reason for a swimmer’s legs to sink low inthe water. Instead of kicking from the knee you should kick from the hip with arelatively straight leg. See the animated clips:
Triathletes can have a real problem here.Cycling and running involve developing power from the knee and it’s easy tocarry this habit across into the water. As soon as you bend your knee youpresent your thigh as a blunt object to the water and you push the wateragainst the flow.
With good kicking technique, you can bendyour knee a little on the down stroke but this shouldn’t be a ‘driven’movement, it’s just a slight movement from a relaxed knee. As described in thetips below it’s best not to think about bending your knee at all, instead thinkabout kicking from the hip with a straight leg – a very slight knee bend willhappen naturally.
2. Plantar flexed feet (Pointing Your Toes)
Plantar flexion is technical jargon for pointing your toes. When you swim youshould always have your toes pointed, this presents a much lower profile to thewater. Not pointing your toes will push water forwards when you kick, slowingyou dramatically.
A flexible foot that can bend beyond straight.Great for kicking with. Mmmmm.
Many triathletes have poor ankle flexibilitylimiting how much they can point their toes. In an ideal world you want to beable to flex your feet beyond straight.
If you have a background in cycling orrunning (especially running) then you’re likely to have stiff ankles such thatyou can’t achieve a straight foot. This will be hurting your kick technique andslowing you down when you swim. See our tips below to develop a bit moreflexibility in your feet.
Becoming as flexible as Charles is notadvisable for triathletes as it reduces ankle stability which can lead torunning injuries. However, improving your ankle flexibility a little so you canpoint your foot straight is achievable. It’s very desirable because it willreduce your drag and you’ll slip through the water much faster.
The timing of the kick is something that we don’t normally think about much asswimmers. We have a variety of kicking speeds open to us as we’ll describebelow – 2, 4 or 6 beats. The key to good timing is that when the hand entersthe water at the front of the stroke, the opposite leg should kick. In 2 beatkick this is the only kick, in 4 and 6 beats there are other kicks in betweenbut the kick on opposite hand entry is the important one for timing.
一般人游泳时不会考虑打腿的时机。打腿分为2 4 6 次，好的打腿时机是你的手入水的时候，另一侧腿打水。在二次腿时这是唯一的一次打腿，但4 6次时中间还有其它的打腿，但是手入水时打异侧腿是很重要的时机。
If your timing is wrong you won’t behelping your body rotation with your kick – you could even be counteracting it.For more information on this important swimming technique, see the AdvancedLevel Mr Smooth Presentation.
Most swimmers kick with the correct timingnaturally, unless you know you have a problem don’t be too concerned abouttiming – focus instead on pointing your toes and kicking from the hip, this ismuch more likely to be holding you back.
more about kicking – 2, 4 or 6 beats?
In 2-beat, you kick twice for every cycle (a cycle is 2 arms strokes countingboth arms). This is a slow kick speed that many distance swimmers and skilledtriathletes use.
2 4 6次腿？
A 6-beat kick is 6 kicks per cycle. This isa traditional flutter kick technique that most swimmers use. The power in thekick can be varied dramatically, you can use a very light flutter to distanceswim economically or increase the power dramatically to sprint.
The 4 beatkick is a hybrid that some swimmers employ. It tends to happen naturally forsome swimmers doing ‘just what feels right for them’.
Which kick technique should you use? Fornovices and most intermediates we suggest you do whatever comes naturally andnot be too concerned with the kick speed. For you it’s more productive to focuson kicking from the hip and pointing your toes than worrying about timing andhow many beats you are using. Don’t try and change your natural kick speeduntil you are sure you a kicking from the hip and pointing your toes.
For strong intermediates and advanced swimmersyou can experiment with different timing to see what suits you best. Fordistance swimming and triathlon a 2 beat kick is the most energy efficient oncethe frantic swim start has died down. However, a 2 beat kick is not foreveryone, many women and shorter men find it hard to make a 2 beat kicktechnique work for them – it just feels too slow. If a 2 beat kick doesn’t feelright for you, don’t try and change to one.
Scissor kicks, cut them out and you’ll go a *hole* lot faster. (Taxi for SS!)
A scissor kick is a very large opening of the legs, normally when a swimmergoes to take a breath.
They hurt you because of the enormousamount of drag they generate – it’s a bit like opening up a parachute behindyou.
Scissor kicks normally come about in your stroke technique due to a problemwith your balance in the water. We’re land mammals and it’s instinctive for usto move our legs and feet to keep our balance. We do the same thing in thewater – scissor kicks are a natural unconscious reaction to keep your balancein the water, most of the time swimmers don’t even know they’re doing it.
Note. Some Scissor Kicks come about when a swimmer is trying to develop anoverly long stroke.
An overly long stroke is one that’s too long and slow. Because the swimmer’sstroke rate is so slow there’s a long time between strokes which makes it hardto balance in the water.
This balancing act often causes scissor kicks. For these swimmers, increasingtheir stroke rate (ideally with a Wetronome) often removes the scissor kick –even if they didn’t know they had one!
our 4 top tips to develop an effective kicktechnique
1. Stretch Your Ankles
If you feel you have stiff ankles, you can perform some gentle ankle stretchesto improve your flexibility. Do not force these. Do them little and often andgradually your flexibility will increase.
Perhaps the best way to stretch your anklesis to use fins (flippers) regularly. They force you into using a plantar flexed(pointed toes) position and provide some stretching force to your ankles. Overa period of time they will develop and maintain your ankle flexibility.
You can use fins for kick sets, drills andthe occasional fast swimming set. You don’t want to use them too much butwearing them little and often will improve your kick by stretching your ankles.
If you are buying fins, we recommend youget something mid-length and floppy, e.g. USA, UK, Australia.
4. Use the Kick Off The Wall Drill
Use the kick off the wall drill to develop your kick technique.
Use this technique to re-program your kicking action:
Simply perform a torpedo push off from the wall but keep your arms out in frontof you and your face in the water, kicking vigorously for about 15m or untilyou run out of air. Then stop and swim gently back to the wall.
When you are kicking off the wall you needto focus on the following things:
1) Point your toes as in tip 2.
2) Kick from the hip as in tip 3. Focus onyour imaginary coin and keep your knees relaxed.
3) Point your toes slightly inwards sothat your big toes almost brush together.
Perform this drill 3 or 4 times in a row,kicking vigorously off the wall focusing on those three things. Then try a lapof steady freestyle swimming – not thinking too much about your kickingtechnique except just tapping your big toes lightly together. You should findthat the kicking action you’ve just tried sticks for a while. Remember, you’renot looking to feel extra propulsion, you’re looking to feel higher in thewater with less drag – a sensation of slipping through the water with lesseffort. If you’re used to kicking hard this will feel very easy.