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5 Steps to Master the Freestyle Kick for a Triathlon Swim

2016/7/21 10:44:05

While a strong freestyle kick can help when sprinting in water, it will only serve to slow you down later during a triathlon. Since you have to be on your feet and use your legs after you get out of the water, you'll want to preserve your legs as much as possible while in the water. Kicking too much or too powerfully in the water will only drain your legs later on.

That's not to say your kick isn't important. Without a kick, your freestyle will fall apart. Kicking is crucial for balance and hip rotation in the water. The trick is to make your freestyle kick work for you, not against you.

Many swimmers have a kick that actually slows them down rather than speeds them up. If your legs do any of the following, you're probably slowing yourself down, too.

  • Swerve back and forth, creating a tremendous amount of drag and resistance
  • Sink in the water, forcing you to use more energy to move forward
  • Scissor kick, throwing you upper body out of alignment

Also, if your ankles are inflexible, they could be acting as anchors in the water.

More: 5 Kicking Drills for Better Body Position

If you tend to do any of the above, it's time to work on the basics of your kick. Here are five things you must practice to improve your kick and make your triathlon swim that much easier.

1. Focus on the opposite end. One way to fix some of these problems, particularly sinking legs, is to ignore your kick and focus on the front end of your stroke. Keep your head down, look at the bottom of the pool, and your hips magically will be at or closer to the surface oft the water. Fix the front end and your legs will literally straighten out as well.

2. Widen your stroke. If your legs swerve back and forth, you are most likely crossing over or coming too close to your center axis with your hand. When you do this, you throw your body off balance so that your legs slide to the side to help balance you out. To fix this, focus on having a wide stroke. Imagine that your hand is entering at the 2 and 10 position, not at the 12 o'clock position. Then stretch your hand out toward the corner of the lane. Do not stretch is out directly in front of you. 

Widening your stroke might feel like you're pulling the water around a barrel. Although you may feel awkward at first, chances are your hand position is better aligned and able to keep you and your legs moving in more of a straight line.

More: 4 Lessons From a Swim Clinic

3. Improve your rotation. Swimmers who scissor kick typically under rotate their bodies and swim flat in the water. To fix this, focus on rotating your hips to face the wall. Drills like the shark fin drill, hand entry drill, and even doggie paddle freestyle can help improve your rotation. This will help relax your kick and improve your overall freestyle.

4. Stretch your ankles. If you have feet that point forward in a flexed position as you swim, you may be suffering from the dreaded runners' kick. Many runners develop tight, inflexible ankles, and this is detrimental to swimming. Your feet act as anchors and drag as you try to move forward. The best thing to do is stretch your ankles daily. You can also practice kicking in the pool using short fins such as Zoomers. These will force you to kick the proper way and work on your flexibility in the process.

More: Are you a Swimmer With a Runners' Kick?

5. Practice upright in the water. Do this with the vertical kicking drill. Get into deep enough water so that your feet aren't touching the bottom when you get into a vertical position. Let go of the wall, cross your arms, and kick in place in a vertical position (keep in a straight line), pointing your toes and keeping your chin above the surface of the water. Get your power from your quadriceps in this drill. Try 20 seconds at a time. 

Note that kick boards weren't mentioned above. They don't actually help improve your kick because they prevent you from working on balance in the water. Unless you just want a break from staring at the black line for a bit, or you want to be social with your training buddies, stay away from the boards.

Follow the steps above and put your kicking worries to rest for good.

More: Drills to Improve Your Swimming

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