If you have tried to make your stroke as long as possible you might well have introduced a pause-and-glide into your stroke timing, we call this sort of swimmer an Overglider for obvious reasons! We've covered the perils of Overgliding previously on the blog but let's look at a knock-on effect that pausing and gliding can have on another part of the stroke.
The Overglider Kickstart
Overgliders are very focused on their efficiency in the water and are trying to lower their level of effort, in doing so many adopt a 2-beat kick style. This means that for every full stroke cycle (two arm strokes) the swimmer performs two kicks rather than the traditional six kicks of a flutter kick, the idea being that two kicks takes less effort than six.
If you have a distinct pause-and-glide in your timing then you are faced with the problem of re-starting your stalled stroke at the end of the glide. With a two beat kick this is a greater problem because not only is your lead arm stationary during the glide but your legs are stationary too! In this situation the Overglider commonly uses a distinct kick-start action to restart their stalled stroke.
Above the water this is hard to spot but from below it is very obvious:
The irony is that while Overgliders are very focused on lowering drag, many have introduced a very large source of drag with such a large knee bend showing their thigh and back of the calf into the water flow (at its worst in the third frame above). This in turn lowers their body in the water adding even more drag.
Stroke Style And Kicking
A two beat kick looks simple but it is very hard to perform well because it requires that many other parts of the stroke are well developed. A swimmer must have an excellent catch technique and swim with great rhythm and timing to integrate the two beat kick action into their stroke.Without these elements in place the kick-start action is caused and/or the swimmer sinks lower in the water in the gap between kicks.
- Only consider switching to a two beat kick if you are an advanced level swimmer with a good catch, rhythm and timing, potentially seeking to develop economy in open water events over 2km. Head Coach Paul Newsome did exactly this to good effect in 2009 in preparation for his English Channel swim in September 2011, but it wasn't easy and his stroke style changed considerably in the process.
- A two beat kick is best suited to those with a shorter punchier style such as Swingers.
- For those aiming for a long smooth stroke style, a light flutter kick makes much more sense. The continuous action will help you avoid the kick-start and it will lift you up higher in the water (ultimately lowering effort, not increasing it). Try it the next time you swim, be objective and see how you go against the clock with it.
- If you can feel yourself kick-starting in your stroke it's also worth giving your kicking technique a tune up, see here.