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by Holly Nukols

May 30, 2013

A two-beat kick is an essential tool

Establish a Two-Beat Kick

A two-beat kick in freestyle is an essential tool for stroke improvement, endurance swimming, open water swims (hello triathletes!) and all-around efficiency. Stroke timing, “downhill” momentum, and energy optimization are targeted in the two-beat kick.

A two-beat kick is nothing more than one kick per single arm stroke. But “Hold on!” you say, “How can slowing my kick possibly propel me like Sea Biscuit?” Like pulling with a buoy, kicking is secondary to reducing leg drag where speed is concerned. A two-beat kick trains you to minimize drag, pop your hips up, initiate core rotation from the hip drive, and integrate your torso and tail timing to sync like a Swiss clock. All are important skills for both pool and open water swimmers alike.

A good place to practice a two-beat kick is during a pull set. Typically, we don paddles of various shapes and sizes while tucking a pull buoy between the thighs. Paddles school the arms to enter and pull more cleanly, while adding muscle tolerance and power from the greater surface area. Downhill momentum is simulated by the beloved foam chunk propping up the hips. Unfortunately, the flattering float actually deflects from whole-stroke efficiency.

Very simply, sinking hips don’t stop sinking just because the upper body is strengthened. Using a pull buoy can restrict the hip action, impeding a whole body connection when pulling. Retiring the buoy reveals balance and timing weaknesses. Legs want to drop because our lungs float like a balloon while denser weight bears down at the tail end of our teeter-totter. Arms quickly tire when they slip through the water without the leverage of body rotation. Rather than fix this puzzle, pull buoys only mask it temporarily by giving the legs an unnatural equivalence with the lungs. A two-beat kick can effectively address these challenges.

How to Do It

The next time you do a pull set, leave your pull buoy on deck and swim with these focus points. Do 4 X 200s pull with a two-beat kick, changing focus each 25 yards in the following order:

  1. First 25: Focus on the down-kick and leave the leg down. Think: right down-kick, left down-kick, etc. Notice alternate arm and leg are both down at the same time.
  2. Second 25: Focus on how the nonkicking leg automatically rises to the surface in response to other leg down-kicking. Feel it float up without effort.
  3. Third 25: Feel how the hip naturally rises to the surface of the down-kicking leg. Feel one hip rise to the surface and then the other, with each down-kick.
  4. Fourth and fifth 25s: With a patient lead hand, focus on how the down-kick actually spears the opposite recovering arm to entry. Focus on the right-side entry for one lap, and the left-side entry the next lap. The key to this entry is to spear to a target that is 6 to 12 inches below the surface in line with your shoulders.
  5. Sixth and seventh 25s: Focus on a patient lead hand anchoring a hold on the water, and feel leverage of a rising hip from the same-side down-kick connecting with your pull. Focus on right-side connection for one lap, and left-side connection the next lap. The key to anchoring is to keep your wrists higher than your fingertips, and your palm facing back.
  6. Eighth 25: Focus on a sharp, compact thrust with each down-kick, picking up the pace, for a faster, steadier, and more powerful hip drive. The key is creating a quicker body rotation with hip drive, while pulling your body strongly past your anchored hand. Stay tall, eyes down, head in line with your spine (NO chin-up!) as you slip through the water.

A two-beat kick drives your entry and leverages your pull in sync with the speed of your body rotation. It truly instructs your stroke to connect to the almost effortless power of the core. Think of it as plugging into your power center! 


  • Technique and Training
  • Open Water
  • Triathlon


  • Freestyle
  • Kicking
  • Breathing
  • Stroke Technique
  • Drills