Improving Your Kick - Tips for Swimmers & Triathletes
Monday, August 29, 2016
When you're distance swimming, the kick is important for balance and rotation. It isn't for forward motion, so you need flexibility rather than big muscles. The kick should originate from the hips, but it's a subtle movement and most of the performance comes from the ankles.
An energy efficient kick comes from a slight bend in the hips and knees, but a large flex of the ankles, because the power comes from that whipping movement. Triathletes often lack ankle flexibility, because it's not needed for running or cycling.
Practise doing kick sets with ordinary, black rubber fins, to stretch your ligaments, tendons and ankle muscles. Focus on generating power from your ankles. At first, this'll make your ankles hurt – but a little initial pain means you're doing it right!
In addition to kick sets, stretching is essential. Find a soft surface and sit down on your ankles for about 30 seconds each time. Once you're able to do that, lean back on your ankles for more 30 second sets. This is easy to do on a carpet while you're watching TV.
The other problem is timing your kick, as you goal is to get strong rotation from one side to the other rather than forward propulsion. To achieve this you should be doing one 2-beat kick in conjunction with your pull.
Swimmers who don't have a solid kick often struggle to achieve a 2-beat kick. And I've seen a 4 or 6-beat kick do the same job as a good 2-beater. I've also had guys who can't do the 2-beat kick tell me they don't need to improve their timing and so what if they use a few more kicks?
The point is that you're using your quads too much in a 4 – 6-beat kick and these are big muscles that use up a load of oxygen and calories! If you want to develop a highly efficient swimming style, you must avoid wasting energy.
So, with a bit of targeted training with fins and stretching you can change an energy-guzzling kick into an energy-efficient kick that will serve you well in endurance swimming and triathlons!