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Aerial View of a Pool

Kick It

What's Your Kick Style?

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Despite what many people might think, kicking is essential to swimming. It stabilises your body in the water while keeping your hips in line to reduce drag, and accounts for a huge part of your propulsion as you swim. No matter what stroke you are swimming, your kick plays a key role not only in your pace and speed, but the overall rhythm of your swim. In Freestyle and Backstroke, I find that the tempo of your kick is intrinsically linked to how fast you can move your arms, which can ultimately make or break your performance. In Butterfly, each dolphin kick is essential to keeping the flow of your swim going, especially in an event as grueling and mentally straining as the 200. Though kick is most important when swimming Breaststroke, as the arms are only used to set up your kick, which provides almost all of Breaststroke’s power.


The real question is, what works best with how you swim? As swimmers, we each have unique physical traits that can influence not only what events we are best at, but how best we should go about swimming them as well. In Freestyle, swimmers commonly keep their cadence with six beat kick, meaning that they kick six times for every stroke cycle they do. All levels of athlete can be seen using a six beat kick when they swim, from Olympians, all the way down to young age group swimmers. It provides the benefits described above in a way that is always useful, no matter how experienced or proficient you are, a six beat kick is always useful over the course of a swim.

However, a six beat isn’t your only option. Many people have lower, or even higher rates to their kick. Although different kick rates can also change how you have to swim. For instance, a two beat kick needs certain physiological changes in your stroke in order for it to work most effectively. Where you lose the more consistent propulsion of higher kick rates, you need to ensure that the power that comes from your arms is then smooth and rhythmic, with no pauses and continuous motion as you press through the water. In general, lower kick rates are better for longer swims, where you need to pace yourself and maintain your energy levels over the course of the race, and higher kick rates tend to come in during shorter sprints, such as the 50, or the final stretch of your event.


Although higher kick rates are harder to maintain, especially when they come in at the end of the race. In the finals of the 2012 Olympics, chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen’s gold winning performance came into question in the final leg of the 400 IM, when her kick rate rose from a six beat to an eight beat kick. A feat that allowed her to finish the final fifty meters faster than her male counterpart, Ryan Lochte, and according to John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association at the time, was something that is highly difficult to maintain for 25 meters, much less the 100 meters she did it for. 

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Traditional flutter kick is either 6 beat or 2 beat.


Which kick beat is best for you?

Research shows, to make the 2 beat kick style work effectively you need certain physiological elements in place in your stroke:


Swimmers need a good catch technique pressing the water backwards, effectively at all times.


An absence of a pause and glide in your arm stroke timing.


Good rhythm to the stroke, moving continuously from one stroke to the next


A developed kicking technique, kicking from the hip with very little knee bend.


Don't forget proper foot placement in the water. Heels should be at the waters edge and not lower than your hips. Motion of kick should resemble kicking a soccer ball.

Fartlek Kick Set

Fartlek is a swedish term that means "Speed Play." When used for swim training it can help develop fast twitch muscle fibers

3 Minute Kick~ Fly or Free

Moderate kick until you hear whistle - then sprint to the wall. Once off the wall return to moderate kick until you hear whistle again.

3 minute kick- fly or free

35 moderate kicks

15 sprint kicks.

Repeat until time is up.

3 minute kick~ any stroke

kick moderate to flags

sprint from flags to the wall

repeat until time is up.

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