Want to take your swimming to the next level? If you want to swim faster freestyle, improving your flutter kick is a must.
For those who aren't naturally good flutter-kickers, I understand the argument against working on it. I've worked with triathletes and master swimmers who convince themselves that having a good kick is overrated. Not so.
Here is why you should be spending more time on the kickboard during your workouts:
1. Working your kick will help you keep your technique together
When swimmers lose steam near the end of a race, it almost always starts with their legs. Once the legs go, so does everything else. The arm pull becomes short and haggard, hip position in the water sinks, and overall propulsion goes crashing down. This also holds true for the tough sets in the middle of swimming workouts. A strong lower body will help you power through those challenging reps and intervals—all while keeping your technique in place, which helps you swim more efficiently, for longer.
2. A strong kick gives you better body position in the water
Swimming is performed in an environment that is nearly 800 times denser than air. As a result, swimmers are in a constant battle against drag. Although you want to pay attention to keeping a high elbow catch in your pulling motion, your legs can also end up providing a source drag. When your legs sag, so do your hips, and up goes the amount of frontal drag that you are trying to pull your way through. A strong, narrow flutter kick keeps your hip up and limits the drag your body exerts on the water, resulting in more efficient and faster swimming.
3. Fluttering helps create propulsion
For sprint swimmers, a strong flutter kick is critical. The kick is one of the main drivers of how well a swimmer can hydro-plane (skim across the surface of the water). Sprinters need a 6-beat kick that uses no recovery phase—unlike the arm, which get a brief recovery motion. This requires a great deal of leg fitness, something that can only be developed via dedicated kick work. With good leg fitness and ankle flexion, swimmers can generate propulsion from their flutter kick to boost their overall swimming speed.
The Best Part
You can improve your kick in an endless number of ways. You can hop into the deep end for some vertical kicking, strap on a pair of swim fins to really get the lactic acid brewing, or do like I do: grab your trusty old kickboard and kick your brains out.
Developing a strong kick takes time and hard work. It's not easy, and that's why it can be so tempting to brush it off as something that isn't critical.
But if you are serious about getting better, the next time you hit the pool, throw in a couple of leg-centric sets and flutter kick your way to faster swimming.
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