Friday, April 30, 2010

Are You Kicktastic?

When they swim freestyle, everyone has to kick to some extent to keep their body position high in the water. But generally, as distance swimmers and triathletes, we're looking to minimise the effort we put into our kick.
The propulsion from leg kick is very small; even if you have a fantastic leg kick technique it's unlikely to be more than ten percent of your overall propulsion. It's much more efficient to spend that energy on arm propulsion instead - you'll move much faster through the water as a result.


Many swimmers - we call then 'Kicktastics' - are very kick-dominant in their stroke. Subconsciously they are relying on their kick for propulsion and swim with a continuous, powerful leg kick. Rather than the arm stroke leading the kick timing, with Kicktastics it's the other way around. Their kick very much comes first!

How to spot one: Other than the very strong kick, they often have a slight pause or slowing in their arm movement as the hands enter into the water at the front of the stroke - this is their arm timing falling in line with the kick timing.

If you feel you are a little Kicktastic, here's a very simple exercise to help you take that leap of faith from lower body to upper body propulsion:

Using a pull buoy between your legs, perform 15m of the Scull #1 drill from our DVD Boxset. This is a simple but very effective sculling exercise at the front of your stroke, tuning into a light pressure on the palm of the hands: 'feeling the water'. Then after 15m, enter into full stroke swimming - still with the pull buoy - feeling that pressure on the palms of your hands and focusing on pressing it backwards to the wall behind you. After approx 20m of swimming like this, part your legs slightly and release the pull buoy (be wary of any other swimmers in the lane!). Carry on swimming as you were when you had the pull buoy - focusing on that light pressure on the palms of your hands. Of course, you will need to kick slightly without the pull buoy but keep the focus on your arm stroke - giving you the feel of arm led propulsion.

Relevant link: Our webpage all about kicking.

Swim Smooth!

2 comments:

mintcake said...

I shall try this when I am swimming tomorrow. Good one, I'll keep you posted.

Adam Young said...

Hi Christophe,

An interesting viewpoint there. Some swimmers do kick to keep their legs up but this particular type, kicktastics, either consciously or sub-consciously kick hard for propulsion. We know this because balance drills make no improvement with them. Also, when they want to swim faster they kick harder, which wouldn't happen if it was just about keeping their legs up - in fact the opposite would probably happen as moving faster creates lift itself.

However, if we work with them on their catch and pull, and most importantly, if we work on the psychological leap of faith required to move from lower body to upper body propulsion, then the leg kick does drop away quite naturally.

I hope that helps with your own coaching!

By the way, is that you demonstrating your drill?

Cheers!