Olympian Ryan Lochte can kick 50 short course yards (scy) using underwater dolphin kick (UDK) in 20.8 seconds, when converted to meters that equals 23.1 seconds. Now consider that he swims 50m backstroke in just under 27 seconds.
It would seem that kicking is quite significant to peak performance in swimming…
Olympian and World Record holder Alexander Popov could kick 50m freestyle in 27 seconds, when his WR for 50m was 21.64 secs.
When ESPN did a study on Olympian Rebecca Soni’s breaststroke they found that her kick provided around 100 lbs of propulsive force, while her pull provided about 20 pounds of propulsive force. While not many have the propulsion in the legs of Rebecca, the truth is that most of the propulsion from all good breaststrokers comes from the legs, not the arms. The key to a fast breaststroke is to develop a strong kick and to reduce frontal drag after the kick.
If there is one skill that most differentiates the fast swimmers from the not-so-fast swimmers, it would be the strength of the kick. As a triathlete, one of the biggest dilemmas, given the limited amount of swim training time you have, is how much time and effort you should spend trying to improve your kick. I believe focusing on the legs is one of the best ways to improve as a swimmer.
By doing dry-land stretches and focusing more on your legs in training, your swim will get faster. Having your legs in better kicking shape will not only help your swim time, but will give you more confidence to finish the bike and run faster.
At The Race Club, Hall coaches two full workouts a week entirely dedicated to the legs.
Since swimming a lifetime best (21.32) in the 50 long course meter free at last year’s European Champs, French star Florent Manaudou has been almost unstoppable. In December, he broke the World Record in short course meters, and in 2015 he has yet to lose a long course final in the 50 free.
Manaudou ran that streak to 6-straight meets on Friday at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome by posting a 21.64 and breaking the Meet Record.
The way Manaudou has been so good is a little contrary to the trend we’re seeing in men’s sprint freestyling: he’s doing it with big underwaters. This is not something new for him: when he won Olympic gold in 2012 in this event, he was the last swimmer up.
How important is a powerful kick? Here is China’s Tao Zheng (Lane 5) swimming to a new world record in the 100m BK in a time of 1:13.56 (long course). You decide….
Gary Hall Sr. wrote a two part article on the importance of the freestyle kick:
- Part 1 – How to Build Stronger Freestyle Kick Mechanics
- Part 2 – Why Strong Freestyle Kick Mechanics Really Matter
A link to The Race Club page on developing ankle flexibility: Power Your Swim Kick
If the kick provides the momentum to each stroke, timing for the pull, and the stability across the core maximizing the power of the pull, then why are athletes resistant to dryland leg workouts, developing flexible hips and core through stretching, and challenging themselves with massive kick sets?