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Sneaky Little Ways to Get that Kicking In

Get your swimmers to kick more without sacrificing volume

Scott Bay | July 17, 2013

We all know there are four primary strokes. But did you know that kicking is considered a separate technique, and one that can really impact a swimmer’s speed? Regardless of whether you are a fitness swimmer, triathlete, or competitive swimmer, EVERYONE can benefit from being a good kicker.

When I was a kid, I was part of a group of swimmers who were poor kickers. (OK, we were terrible, actually.) Our speed came from muscling through sets using just our upper bodies. We avoided kick sets and would go from leading the lane to sucking wind at the back. Better yet, we could even fake a bathroom trip, an injury, or we’d just hide next to the wall to get out of these sets. Sound familiar?

Then I became a coach and discovered that kicking is one of the greatest ways to increase speed and fitness. Who knew?

Kicking gets a bad rap among some Masters swimmers, particularly those who fear they will lose fitness unless they swim a certain amount of yardage at every workout. Because straight kick sets take a little more time than swim sets, these Masters swimmers often shy away from kicking, thinking they won’t be able to hit that magical yardage number they think they must achieve.

For swimmers like these—and others who may be reluctant to complete kick sets because they aren’t as skilled or don’t like it as much as swimming—we try to first teach proper kicking technique. Then, instead of doing excessive yards of just kicking, we sneak it in, unbeknownst to the swimmers who would otherwise avoid these sets. Remember that these are adults, and they will just get out of the pool or ‘modify’ the set if they don’t want to do it or don’t see the benefit of doing the set. Therefore, you have to be surreptitious sometimes to get them to accept the training they need.  

Tips We Have Found Successful

Here are a few tips we have found to be successful for incorporating more kicking into our workouts.

  1. No wall turns. Our triathletes love these, especially when they are done long course. The object of this game is to have a longer swim set with the stipulation that all swimmers must turn at the “T” and are not allowed to push off the wall. The goal is for the swimmers to kick their way back up to speed.
  2. Timed wall kicking with sprints. For the swimmers that hate kicking and long boring sets, we have them kick as hard as they can on the wall for a prescribed number of seconds and then hammer out a 25, 50, or even a 100 swim.
  3. Shooters. When doing shooters, swimmers must hold a tight streamline and kick hard for at least 12.5 yards, followed by a hard, short effort to swim the rest of the length.
  4. Kick to the finish sets. Have your swimmers kick the last 12.5 yards on a streamline from your regular swim set.
  5. Six kicks per stroke (or 5 or 7 or whatever). We also do sets where swimmers are only allowed to kick when they breathe. It helps swimmers focus on the kick.
  6. Kicking with fins. For the novice kickers, using fins can be a great way to teach them to kick harder, faster, and to strengthen the core.

Hopefully, by incorporating some of these kicking ideas, you can help everyone improve their kicks while, having some fun and adding variety to your workouts. 

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Scott Bay

Scott Bay is an ASCA Level 5 certified coach and has been actively coaching for more than 25 years. Team Blu Frog Masters swimmers he currently coaches include national champions, All-Americans, and world record holders who have swum to more than 300 Top 10 USMS swims in just the last five years. Bay is also the chair of both the USMS Coaches Committee and the Florida LMSC, and is head coach of Father Lopez Catholic High School Men’s and Women’s Swimming.

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