The freestyle kick, or flutter kick, is very important to new swimmers and triathletes. While, it’s been mentioned in several places that kicking isn’t important, I’m here to argue the opposite; it’s very important!
As a new swimmer, I can venture a guess that your lower body is dragging you down as you swim. In fact, I can almost guarantee it. So what gives?
In freestyle, it’s important that your body is high on the surface of the water, this Is what we call good body positioning. In order to get better body positioning, you have to kick. In addition to better body positioning, the kick adds propulsion to your freestyle and helps you go faster.
So how do you flutter kick? It’s a simple kick really. The legs stay parallel and work like scissors. One leg kicks up, while the other legs kicks down. A lot of this kick movement is coming from the hips and the legs stay fairly straight and you kick. You want to avoid overtly bending your knees while you kick and just let the knees bend slightly as the kick is driven from your hips.
The kick really is a “flutter” rather than a “bicycle.”
You may see some professional swimmers with a barely noticeable kick, and think, well they don’t kick, so I don’t need to. But the difference is in their body positioning. Through kicking, they practiced holding their bodies high on the surface of the water. This is why it’s so much easier to swim without kicking using a pull buoy as an aid – higher body positioning. But that has to be practiced with the kick before you can do it without a pull buoy.
It’s important to note that stiff ankles can hinder your flutter kick and this is common amongst runners. Practice with fins and stretch your ankles to improve their flexibility.
The best ways to improve your kick are to start by holding onto the side of the pool and kick your legs out behind you. You can do several sets of two to three minutes until you are ready to move on to work with a kickboard.
When using the kickboard, hold on to the sides and breathe as you would while swimming freestyle, only you aren’t using your arms. Think about getting your feet to break the surface of the water and make quick little fluttering kicks. If you find that your legs and rear end are still stinking make an effort to push downward more on your chest and head.
Remember, body positioning is key and we want you high on the surface. As with anything, practice is the key. Get out there and practice that kick!
Beth is a running and triathlon coach from Florida who began her journey through health and fitness as a high school swimmer. After leading an unhealthy lifestyle while in college she made changes to get back in shape. Since then, she's completed numerous marathons and triathlons and finished her first full Ironman in 2014. She's also a freelance fitness writer and blogger. Her passion is fitness in all forms, though she enjoys running and swimming the most, and she believes in doing what makes you happy and healthy.
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