To Kick or Not to Kick

That is the Question


It is most frequently posed by a bicyclist who says his legs are so muscular they sink. Others ask why they go backwards with a kickboard. Many want to know how they can correct their wiggling from side to side. What is the timing of the kick and how many kicks per stroke is usually a single question.

The freestyle kick is overrated.
Although backstrokers, butterflyers, and especially breaststrokers can get 30 to 50% of their power from the kick, the greatest freestylers achieve only 10%. That little costs a great deal of oxygen, especially with an inefficient kick - oxygen which is better spent by arms. But then, wonít your legs sink? That is a matter of body position. Arch your back, being careful to keep your head down, and your legs will rise.

Timing: 2 beats or 6? Left arm and right leg?
Your body very kindly coordinates itself without micro-managing. When you walk, do you think left leg forward and left arm back? Your legs not only manage on their own - they compensate for your faults. When I see a wide kick, perhaps fishtailing, maybe low, I look first at the swimmer's head. Almost certainly it is too high and swinging sideways with each breath. By the time that movement reaches the feet it's a serious drag.

So, what to do.
Swim without kicking at first, until your legs learn your arms and head rhythm. Have someone look at you to see if your leg position is neat and tidy. If not, watch your head and look for crossover arm strokes. Once you've straightened out your stroke, give a small emphasis where it feels natural. It may be 6 times per stroke cycle. If it's not, most likely it will be an emphatic 1 and 4 with 2, 3, 5, 6 barely visible. If you bilateral breathe, it will be another rhythm. They are all okay; they all serve the purpose of keeping you on keel.

Watch out behind me!
Itís not the kickboardís fault. There can only be one reason why you kick backwards; you are pushing water forward. How can that be? Bent knees can do it and bent ankles always will. Use your hips to make your loose feet flop around like raggedy dolls. The only movement of the knees is made by the water on very relaxed legs. Hips and feet. Nothing else. Vigorous hip action drives floppy feet. This can be very difficult for bicylists whose feet work like pistons. Itís also difficult for them and runners not to use their legs vigorously. It can be done.

(New - A Facebook discussion group has been put up
by a swimmer doing the swim-one-mile plan. If you would
like to join or begin a discussion please go to FB 0-1650 talk
)

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