Freestyle Kicking Technique – Issue #119

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Freestyle Kicking Technique for Triathlon

Dear Friend,

The kicking topic came up in my local tri club’s discussion forum, and I wanted to address it here. Here is the original post:

“Another tri friend of mine and I were having an argument (however absurd it sounds) about the swimming portion of the tri. He insists that kicking drills are a great way to prepare for the swim and strong kicking is going to maximize your chances of leaving the water first. I say that kicking hard is only good to help align your body in a more parallel fashion and that is what a wetsuit is supposed to do, so it’s best to give your legs a rest (since they will be doing plenty the rest of the race) and minimize kicking, and concentrate more on pulling strength (Of course, if you want to clear the water of your competitors by kicking hard with the hopes that your heel will make contact with your face, he may be correct). Mind you, the swim is my best event in tri and I have been swimming competitively for a very long time, so I’d like to think that I know more than he does, but the war wages on and he insists that my thoughts are absurd. Can anyone shed some light on the subject so that I can rub it in his face that I am right?! 🙂 Or is he right and would an apology be in order instead?”

Well both parties here have good points! Kicking is absolutely 100% important on a triathlon swim!! You cannot have an efficient stroke without a kick (even with a buoyant wetsuit!). The poster is correct that kicking is mostly there to align your body (as well as help with balance) through your hip rotation. You really don’t get much propulsion through your kick.

However, the debating party also makes a good point- that kicking drills can help with your stroke, and that you must kick in a race! BUT, I think he may be a little off in how he’s applying his theory.

Kicking drills are only good if you are doing vertical kicking, or kicking on your side, and not using a board. The vertical kicking improves your actual kick while side kicking drills help your balance naturally, and allow you to use less energy on the swim than you normally would.

Also, not kicking at all, especially in the second half of the swim, is probably not a good idea. Considering you are about to get on a bike and use nothing but legs, getting the blood flowing in the legs beforehand may provide a bit of a warmup and help you to prevent cramping up later.

Always fun debating this stuff but the lesson here is, don’t rely on your wetsuit to get you through the swim! Your technique work in the pool will pay off.

Happy Holidays and remember to laugh at the water!


“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.”
-Doug Firebaugh

Freestyle Kicking Technique

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