Give Yourself a Leg Up in the Swim: Work Your Kick

swimming kick technique triathlon ironman

From jayhem’s Flickr

As triathletes we are often urged not to kick. “Save your legs” is a most often used refrain.

And while it is totally justified – I use it myself – this should not mean that you totally neglect working on your kick.

Within swimming itself, there are varied styles, approaches and opinions: 2-beat, 4-beat, 6-beat, etc. You should experiment with your kick to determine what works best for you.

  • Practice the speed of your kick (1 per arm stroke?), and how hard you kick (i.e. effort per kick).
  • Refine your technique – do you currently kick too wide, thus breaking your streamline?
  • Use general kick sets to strengthen your legs and help recover after a long bike or run.

An improved kick can help:

  1. Raise your body in the water. Rather than being a drag, a decent kick technique can help raise your legs, hips and entire streamline. Use your legs to help your upper body.
  2. Balance in the water. As you rotate your hips and core, your kick can help you avoid over-rolling, and assist in driving the arms forward as you reach at the front of the stroke.
  3. Finally, if your kick is strong or efficient enough it can help drive you forward, although in triathlon you don’t want to be employing the powerful 6-beat kick of a 50m freestyle sprinter!

So, how on earth can you improve your kick?

Incorporate kicking into your drill work, e.g. kick more on catch-up, do plenty of 6 kick, 1 pull.
Do kick sets in their own right rather than being an afterthought. Perhaps at the end of a session (e.g. 8x 50 on 10 seconds rest).

Mix it up – do breaststroke kick (will help stretch out the groin). Kick on your back. Use fins.

Stretching will help your kick. Sit on your ankles to improve foot flexibility and help streamlining. Stretch out tight calves and hamstrings. Squats and leg weights will improve leg strength in the water, as well as on land.

With some time and investment, your kick should improve in a matter of weeks, which should in turn improve your swimming in general. Just remember not to overdo it on race day.

What is your biggest difficulty with kicking? Drop a note in the comments below and I will address them.

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