Friday, December 2, 2016

Like Background Music To Your Stroke

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One of our certified coaches in training Annemarie Munk says a good leg kick should be like "background music" to your swimming and it's an analogy we like a lot.

Unless you are an advanced swimmer with a strong catch and pull technique you should be aiming to swim with a light "flutter" kick. The legs are held nice and straight with the feet pointed and turned inwards so the big toes brush as they pass:

Technically this is called a 6-beat kick because there are 6 kicks in every full stroke cycle but you don't have to think about that too much. Aim for a light continuous flutter and the timing will naturally fall into place.

For the vast majority of adult swimmers the aim here isn't to create a lot of propulsion from your kick - that's an unrealistic goal. In fact studies have shown that even the great Ian Thorpe (who was famous for having an extremely powerful leg kick) only developed 11% of his propulsion from his legs[1]. So even at the Olympic level the benefits of a powerful kick are fairly modest.

Instead, aim for your kick to keep your legs and body high in the water to reduce your drag, whilst expending minimum effort in doing so. Of course even a light kick takes some energy but that's OK because you'll gain much more back from reducing your drag. What's more your legs will soon become conditioned to the continuous light effort and it will become barely noticeable.

But how does this feel when you get it right? As Annemarie says, a good way to think about it is as "background music to your stroke". Your kick is always present but never loud or intrusive. It has a constant light rhythm but is not overpowering. It leaves you free to focus on your arm stroke to press you forwards.

Swim Smooth!

[1] Toussaint, H. M., Hollander, A. P., de Groot, G., Kahman, R., & van Ingen Schenau, G. J. (1990). Power of leg kicking in front crawl swimming. In N. Berme & A. Capozzo (Eds.), Biomechanics of Human Movement (pp. 456-459). Worthington, Ohio: Bertec Corporation.

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