Home‎ > ‎SwimTip‎ > ‎

Developing Your Kick

posted Mar 21, 2012, 12:42 PM by Pat Windschitl   [ updated Mar 21, 2012, 12:53 PM ]
Now that we've covered in the last swim tip how great underwater butterfly kicks are, I thought we should discuss how to make them great. One of the first things we work on developing in swimming is the kick. With our youngest age groupers to our newest high schoolers hours and hours of training goes into breaking the bicycle kick and changing it to the long legged, toes pointed flutter kick we all strive for. 

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your kick. 

With both flutter kicks and dolphin kicks it's important to practice slowly in the beginning to engage the proper muscles and not rely on the muscles you've already built up. When practicing fast it's important to maintain your form or you will build and rely on the wrong muscle groups. Lazy practicing may be easier and give you some results for the short term, but it will hinder you for the bigger picture. 

If you feel like you aren't getting enough out of your flutter kick, try locking your knees to test what muscles you are actually using from the hip area. Are you kicking using your quads, glutes, hamstrings, or your core? When you flutter kick you want to be sure to have a tight tension in your knees, and only allowing your leg to bend on the down kick. If you're doing the kick correctly, you will use your core and have a slight rotation in your hips that will make it feel like your body is slightly twisting. 

Here's a video from GoSwim that demonstrates this, and a few other points. 

In the flutter kick you always want to bring your legs back as strait as possible. Over bending your knees to bring your foot behind you can actually push the water the wrong way and could cause you to move in the wrong direction or create even more drag. If you feel a stutter in momentum, or it's just not there, you may be bending your knee way to much and slowing you to a crawl. 

With your forward/down kick you'll want to have a bend-and-snap just like as if you were trying to kick a soccer ball. This snapping motion is important as it puts the most amount of pressure on the water, giving you the most amount of forward movement. 

A goal flutter kick shouldn't let your feet come more than two feet apart for high school swimmers, and they should be even closer for our younger athletes. When kicking just the bottoms of your feet should brush the surface of the water, any higher than that and you will be kicking air and lose your balance. 

The dolphin kick is a whole other workout. With this you want to keep the same strait back, bend-snapping forward kick that we work on with our flutter kick. But now, when you lift your legs behind you you use your lower back to lift too, causing an arch in your waist and forcing your chest down. This motion is something we work on heavily with iron-man and superman butterfly drills. 

Here's an amazing video in Finish demonstrating a great underwater dolphin kick. Skip to the 13 second mark. 

Kicking down with a dolphin kick requires you to engage not only the bend-snap muscles in your legs but also your core muscles to keep everything tight and powerful. With this one you want to make sure you put pressure on both down and up kicks through the water. A great drill for this is kicking butterfly on your side, and doing this as much as possible. Feel free to drop your board during kick sets to kick on your side instead. 

Here are some great dryland activities that will help strengthen your kicks. 
  • Jumping, lunging and squats will help strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. 
  • Standing leg lifts: Balance on one leg and lift the other behind you.
  • Core: Any kind of crunches, planks, leg lifts are great to strengthen your core.
So, in review: 
Keep tension in your knees and don't allow them to bend on the back kick during freestyle. Snap your leg straight on the forward kick to apply the most pressure on the water as possible!

Good luck and have fun!
- Coach Pat