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Drill of the Week - Body Dolphin with Board

Posted by Glenn Mills on Feb 26, 2013 08:16AM

Here's a quick drill we use with our age-group swimmers to teach a more stable body dolphin.

Why Do It:
Teaching young swimmers butterfly typically comes with a lot of up-and-down movement, so to stabilize that, we use a kicking drill.

How to Do It:
 Get a small kickboard, and have the swimmer LAY the hands on the board instead of grabbing it.
2.  Have them kick dolphin kick while holding the board out front with the arms in "Position 11."
3.  Keep the head down until they need air, then allow them to lift the head for a quick breath.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
There are three key points in this drill to keep your eyes on.  First, the hands resting on the board stops the swimmers from pushing down too much.  Second, watch for the head and chest to be stable, and the hips to be breaking the surface.  Finally, try to keep the feet under water in this drill so they're not driving too much from the legs.

Archived Comments

Responded Feb 26, 2013 03:31PM

Great for age group masters too. Great focus points for me. Wanna try this when snowing is over. Thanks Glenn!

Responded Feb 26, 2013 04:21PM

Great idea Glenn. I will use it today. This will stop swimmers from doing the "hula hands"!

Responded Feb 26, 2013 04:52PM

I can feel clearly a difference performing this drill with or without a board. I can do it pretty fair without board. Though I can swim butterfly, the drill is very difficult for me : it takes me twice the time (and many many more kicks) to get to the wall.
What is my problem ? What should I work on ?

Responded Feb 26, 2013 05:09PM

You're a great inspiration Steve. I was just trying to figure out what you do in your lessons, with a group of 40 little kids. This seemed to help quite a bit.

Responded Feb 26, 2013 05:11PM

Camy... my suggestion would be to feel the kick coming from the abs, hips, and allow it to ripple down the legs. Let the feet snap without the knees bending too much. The more stable the front end, the more you're learning. Also, some of these drills, many of us go pretty slow. Don't equate ownership only to speed. Not sure if that helps, but hopefully it's something.

Responded Mar 01, 2013 03:36PM

After doing this, and doing it with my masters team, I can add another focus point: keep kicking when you take a breath...and keep the breath low and quick.

Responded Mar 04, 2013 04:20PM

I am new to coaching and I have been told that you should not use a kickboard when doing fly kick. Because it can put pressure on your back and can cause damage.

Responded Mar 05, 2013 12:55PM

Jeremy, I would tend to agree and, personally, don't use boards with my kids. However, I think you need to look at why the board is being used vis:
'Teaching young swimmers butterfly typically comes with a lot of up-and-down movement, so to stabilize that, we use a kicking drill.'
So, in this case the board stops them driving too far down. The caveat, in my mind, is that the swimmers need to do the drill properly, flat and slowly, and not trying to drive the head down in the 'old fashioned' porpoising type of movement. If they do that then they certainly risk putting strain on their back (in my opinion).
I'd suggest try it yourself to feel how it feels.

Responded Mar 05, 2013 01:18PM

Wow... who said using kick boards can "cause damage" to your back?

I'm 51, been using kick boards for 46 years... no back trouble at all. Not saying you said it Jeremy, but whoever propagates this language is very alarmist. I know thousands of swimmers who have used kick boards very effectively over many, many years, in teaching and training.

The absolutes some people use when teaching and coaching should all be thrown out the window and if anyone says NEVER, or ALWAYS in their instructions... walk away.

Responded Mar 05, 2013 02:26PM

I gave this drill to 70+ masters swimmers last week and this week. Only one of them mentioned that it was straining her back (she had back surgery last year), so I told her to not use the board. I do think that this drill (dolphin kick with face in the water and hands flat on the board) puts less strain on the back than dolphin kick with a board and with the head UP.

Responded Mar 05, 2013 04:04PM

Glenn, I agree. I think it might be a British thing but, certainly, it is what is told to teachers and coaches over here about butterfly kick, no problems with any of the other strokes. However, as I said in my previous post the old way of teaching the dolphin action, at least over here, was a very exaggerated 'porpoise' type motion as opposed to the way it is currently swum more like a stone skimming across the water. I seem to remember there was an underwater type dolphin drill on goswim a few years ago with a board out front and similar comments were received then (of course it could be my old and addled brain playing tricks). And, as you say, never say never. you coach what needs to be done.

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