While pulling actions are often the topic of seemingly deep intellectual conversation, the kick is usually just the opposite.
Most swimmers and coach assume kicking comes down to kicking hard, and kicking hard for as long as you can.
However, there is actually some nuance to great kicking.
Rather than just a 'hard', you want an effective, constant kicking action.
Now, an effective and constant kicking action can have a VERY different meaning depending on the context.
Regardless, kicking should be effective, and it takes SKILL to kick effective.
Secondly, whatever kicking pattern you choose, it needs to be constant and consistent.
In the past, sprinters have been characterized by a significant kick, whereas distance swimmers have had a much more subdued kicking action.
This is no longer the case as many of the fastest distance swimmers have had a significant kicking action throughout their races.
However, in the context of triathlon swimming, this is largely still true.
After all, there’s a bike and a swim to be done!
Beyond ensuring that your kick is consistent, the following concepts are very helpful for improving your kicking.
If you can accomplish these three tasks, and execute them during your leg training, you should develop a very solid kicking action.
Above all else, remember that kicking is a SKILL, and it needs to be treated as such.
Kick long. As much as possible, keep your legs long when you’re kicking.
The goal here is to reduce the amount of kicking that comes from the knees.
While you don’t want to overdo it, most swimmers kick far too much from the knees.
Kick from the hip. If you’re not going to kick from the knees, the range of motion is going to have to come from the hips.
Try to exaggerate the range of motion coming from the hips.
In combination with the previous concept, it might feel like you’re kicking with stilts.
Boil the surface. Some swimmers have their feet way to low, while others have them much too high.
Try to keep your feet moving right at surface level, trying to ‘boil’ the water as opposed to making a lot of splash.
The best way to work on your kicking skill?
The key is to focus on kicking in BOTH directions, ensuring that you keep the legs stay relatively straight.
Avoid letting the knees bend, and if necessary, look down to make sure you’ve got it set up correctly.
Once you’ve got a feel for it, try swimming a couple laps where you keep that same feel.
Keep going back and forth between swimming and kicking.
In the next installment, we’ll take a look at a critical skill that most swimmers and coaches never even consider, much less actually attempt to improve.