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by Scott Bay

January 20, 2012

A toe-tapping kick drill

We can probably all agree that kicking makes a huge difference in swimming across all distances and abilities. One of the things we have struggled with in our program is explaining the necessity of kick sets for our triathletes and our distance and open water swimmers. I adopted a few thoughts that I learned from the excellent speakers at the World Clinic.

Sometimes, poor kickers just need to be brought up to the level where their kick is not hurting them. Some of our triathletes tend to resist kicking. When they do kick, it is usually to maintain a body position. If we just coach them to at least keep their feet out of the way of their swimming, it helps them make a lot of positive changes.

The drill is called tapping the toes. We encourage them to just lightly tap the toes on the top of the water. Very small kicks and close to a six-beat kick. What we found by having them do this is that they also started to relax the neck and have a more efficient aquatic posture. Additionally, they started to spend a little less energy trying to overpower the kick sets.

The most common feedback was they did not feel like they were working hard enough, but the clock did not lie. They ended up faster over each interval.

It takes time to change some old habits, but in the end it was certainly worth it for the triathletes. They felt fresh coming out of the water still ready to race, like they saved their legs. Additionally we worked on transitioning back and forth from tapping to a bigger more propulsive kick to either speed up to drop someone or to get back on pace.

For distance and open water swimmers we have been having them transition to toe tapping after a good strong breakout. Solid off the walls with a powerful kick, then drop it back to tapping, especially for those swimmers that can pull faster than they can swim. We also have them transition back and forth to drop someone or get back on pace, similar to surging in running.

In the end this is a drill that takes some time to master, but for most it helps with position in the water and making the best use of the energy you have.


  • Technique and Training


  • Freestyle
  • Kicking
  • New Swimmers
  • Stroke Technique