The swim kick is one of the very important components of the freestyle stroke. There are 2 schools of thoughts regarding the swim kick. Some people argue that the legs should be saved for the bike and the run component of a triathlon. You should focus on your arm stroke instead. The other point of view is that kicking with the right amount of force preps your body physiologically for the upcoming bike and run. Hence, the importance of the kick.
The kick should be a gentle fluid flow, like a dolphin rather than a rough scissors motion. Your foot should only move up and down approximately 12 inches. Anything more will cause unwanted drag and make your underwater pull less efficient. Your kick should be like a flutter kick – one of a quick tempo.
Here are 4 key techniques to work on to improve your swim kick.
#1 Kick From The Hip
Many of us tend to bend our knees and kick. Your kick should come from your hip and not from your knees. This creates a large amount of drag and slows you down when you swim. Instead, keep your legs relatively straight and make sure that force is driven from your hip. Your knees will bend slightly naturally. So, you should focus on driving the force from your hip instead of focussing on keeping your legs straight.
#2 Kick Timing
There are 2 popular kick timings – the 2 beat and the 6 beat. 2 beats mean that your legs kick twice in one cycle. One cycle is 2 arm strokes. This means in a 2 beat kick, your right leg kicks as you left arm strokes followed by your left leg and right arm. In a 6 beat kick, your legs do not stop kicking. A 6 beat kick gives you more power. Often, a 2 beat technique is used by long-distance swimmers and triathletes. The 6 beat kick is used by sprint swimmers. A light flutter 6 beat kick is sometimes employed by distance swimmers as well.
#3 Point Your Toes
Photo Credits: Annie Emmerson
Not pointing your toes represents bad technique and slows you down dramatically. This is due to the drag created by your foot. When you do not point your toes, you are pushing water forward, hence slowing yourself down dramatically. Pay extra attention to pointing your toes when you kick. You can do this by doing kicking drills with a board. The sole objective of the drill would be to focus on pointing your toes, irrespective of speed and power.
#4 Work On Ankle Flexibility
Linking back to pointing your toes, a lot of us may have problems with pointing our toes due to limited flexibility. If you are a pure swimmer, ideally, you should be able to point your toes beyond straight. This will help you reduce drag and allow you to swim faster more effortlessly. However, if you are a triathlete, your ankle should be flexible but not too flexible. This is because flexibility comes at the expense of stability. Stability is important in the cycling and running leg.
Read More: The 4 Pillars Of The Freestyle Stroke