Encouraging More Adults to Swim
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Technique and Training

Alternative Kicking Drills

Kicking Rx for your long-axis strokes: become a better side kicker

Scott Bay | December 8, 2013

We seem to spend a lot of time on kickboards. That’s fine for many (and great for social sets), but kicking with a board can be uncomfortable, especially in the lower back. Besides the discomfort, ask yourself “When am I in that position when swimming?” Especially in the long axis strokes—freestyle and backstroke—where body position changes as you rotate side-to-side. Here are a few drills that’ll help you become a more effective kicker not only on your front, but also on your side.

Side kicking with a kickboard

Extend one arm out on the board and the other down at your side. Lie on your side with your head on your shoulder, stretching your body as long as possible. Begin kicking. Switch arms each length of the pool. If this drill feels too difficult at first, use fins. When you get more comfortable, stop wrapping your fingers around the edge of the board and just place your hand on top of the board in the middle. This takes a great deal of strength and balance.

Kicking only when you breathe

Many swimmers hesitate in their kicks when rotating to breathe or, worse, they do a very wide scissors kick when taking a breath. You can reprogram the brain to avoid that hesitation and help increase the propulsion of the kick by executing three to four fast kicks when you breathe, and ONLY kicking when you breathe.

Underwater kicking on your side

Kicking underwater on your side can be accomplished with or without fins. It’s great for developing a symmetrical kick: one there you can apply pressure to the water in both the down- and and upstrokes of your kick.

There are many other drills for kicking out there and in the beginning, doing them well is more important than doing them fast. Becoming a great kicker takes time and patience. You may have to give up some yardage initially, but it will pay huge dividends in the end.

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About the Author—Scott Bay

Scott Bay is a USMS-certified Masters coach and an ASCA Level 5 coach and has been actively coaching and teaching swimming since 1986 to swimmers of all ages. The Masters swimmers he currently coaches include national champions, All Americans, and world record holders, who have swum to more than 300 Top 10 swims and 30 world records in just the past 5 years. Throughout his career Bay has taught thousands how to swim or how to swim better. He’s also written numerous articles on technique and coaching and contributed to USMS’s coach certification curriculum. Bay presents at clinics across the country and has written an instructional book, “Swimming Steps to Success.” (Human Kinetics, 2015). Bay is the past chair of the USMS Coaches Committee, and the Head Coach of YCF Masters.

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