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Update: Dolphin Kicking Stats from Russell Mark

posted Apr 12, 2012, 11:32 AM by Pat Windschitl   [ updated Apr 22, 2012, 1:26 PM ]
This morning USA Swimming hosted a seminar led by Russell Mark, a high performance consultant of the US National team. One of the more interesting parts was some data RM collected on the dolphin kick in the 100 back/fly from some of the top international athletes. 

Here's the statistical information:
This means the top athletes are all doing 5 full dolphin kicks every 2 seconds, and spending 6-8 seconds of each lap underwater!

And Some Basics of the Dolphin Kick

  • The power of the kick comes from the legs (quads)
  • During the setup and follow-through
    • Knees must bend slightly to setup the kick
    • Follow through and finish the kick strait with the kick in front of the body
  • Focus on whipping the legs to a full extension!
    • This is similar to kicking a soccer ball or football
  • The forward kick is always more propulsive
    • The back kick provides some propulsion but primarily serves to setup the forward kick. 

Updated notes from Russell Mark

• While I believe that hip movement is important, the propulsion is definitely coming from the extension of the legs.
• The knees must bend and drive forward in order to set up the kick. From that, the legs then whip forward to a complete extension. This movement is powered by the quadriceps. Just like kicking a soccer ball or football.
• It should be a forward kick, meaning that the toes should be in front of the body at the finish of the kick. See images below.
• For the duration of the leg whip, the core should be tense and locked in. With this core tension, the hips move backwards in a controlled manner…like it’s resisting the leg movement.
• The hip movement / core tension does two things: (1) provides stability for the leg motion and (2) makes sure the kick moves the swimmer forward (as opposed to up or down).
• Many swimmers move the hips back too much because that’s their focus. Too much hip movement prevents the legs from catching and whipping as much water as possible.
• Upper body movement varies among the best kickers. Sometimes it can help a swimmer get the legs and hips right. A swimmer can definitely bend the upper body forward too much, which is often caused by lifting the hips up too much to set up the kick.

The images below show the position of the legs at the finish of the dolphin kick. The toes are in front of the body line.

- Coach Pat