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A constant, continuous kick is important no matter what style of freestyle you swim. But for the type of stroke I use - a galloping stroke -- a strong, constant kick is critical.
When I pause out front with the left arm, something has to be moving me forward; otherwise, I’m gonna stop. You can’t have a weak kick and do a loping stroke.
And you can’t have a weak kick and hope to be successful as a sprint freestyler.
Back in 2000, when I had a loping stroke but not very good body position or balance, I used my kick to balance myself. It looked kind of like this.
I would take a big kick and separate my knees and almost hesitate everything while I took a breath.
Now, my goal is to maintain good body position and to keep the kick small, constant, and continuous.
I use the kick to drive forward instead of using it to stay afloat while I go to air.
I try to keep the legs moving all the way through the stroke cycle -- and I use a 6-beat kick, which means I take 6 kicks for every stroke cycle.
In slow motion, you can count the kicks -- three on each armstroke.
Kicking is something I work on every day. I’m not naturally flexible at all, so I stretch ALL the time and really have to work on my ankle and foot flexibility.
Here’s one stretch that I do that seems to help.
It all comes down to pointing your toes, and this is something every swimmer needs to work on. If you weren’t given the gift of flexibility... and I wasn’t, for sure... it’s just one of those things you need to do because it’s going to make you better. You just have to do it.
Another thing I do when I work on my kick is to focus not so much on the quads or the lower part of the thigh, but on the hip flexors, the muscles in your pelvic region and upper thigh that act to pull the knee upward.
Obviously, you’re already using your quads because they’re a major part of your kick. But if I think about using my hip flexors, it keeps my kick smaller, tighter, and faster. If I think about my quads, it’s gonna make me kick big.
I concentrate on the hip flexors because that’s where the kick starts as opposed to it starting from the quads, which would make me kick too much from the knees.
You get power out of your quads because they’re the biggest muscle group in your body as opposed to your hip flexors, which are smaller. I just like to think of the kick as starting from the hip flexors and this gives me a tighter, faster kick
When I work on my kick, I sometimes use a board, but the best training for me is just fast swimming.
The best way to train is to train it how you’re going to do it -- as your body is moving and rolling and everything is working together -- as opposed to doing things separately.
If I’m working just on the kick, I like to kick on my side, with one arm out front and one arm by my side. This is similar to the kick I use when I swim, so a big percentage of my kicking is done like this.
Focus on keeping everything tight, and keeping your body in streamline. If you keep a constant kick, you’ll keep your balance and won’t need to use the hand too much to scull out front.
I also do some rotation-type kicking, with a drill called Six-Kick Slide.
I take 6 kicks on one side... take a stroke... then do 6 kicks on the other side.
This is a great drill for helping you develop a constant, continuous kick. It’s also a great drill for learning to connect your catch to your core, so keep this drill in mind as we go to the next chapter.