Have you ever thought the word “loose” as a description for any part of your body would be a good thing? Or, something you should be working towards? When it comes to your ankles, this is exactly what you want to be striving towards. Loose ankles. That’s what you want in order to generate the best flutter kick for your freestyle.
Weird? Well, you’re right, it definitely sounds weird. But the mechanics make a lot of sense. And help ease those worried thoughts about what in the world I’m talking about right now.
Try kicking with your feet flexed the next time you hop in the pool. You will be surprised by the result because it is the exact opposite of what you want while you swim. What will happen? You’ll move backwards… not good.
When you allow your ankles to be loose and flexible you will actually see propulsion from your kick. The up and down snap of your ankle generates a quick burst of momentum that ultimately allows your kick to move you forward in the water.
Swimming with your ankles flexed (note, not just kicking as I was talking about above) creates a force that you have to pull against as you’re trying to move forward. Stiffness of your ankles almost creates a parachute that you have to pull behind you. This gives your arms that much more to fight against.
Think of a Chinese finger trap. When you try to pull both fingers out, it tightens and you get nowhere. Now imagine that same force – okay, not that much force – being applied to your body as you’re trying to move forward. No thanks, not something I want to inflict on myself. All this does is make you work against yourself and burn through your energy stores that much more quickly.
Another way to put it is that the looseness of your ankles is like the paddle for your kick. Just like your hand and forearm are the paddle for your strokes. If you don’t utilize your hand and forearm as a paddle to push backwards with, your arms simply slip through the water without actually working to propel your body forward. Same as if you kick with your ankles flexed/stiff. You won’t get the up and down snap of momentum needed to actually kick against the water, as opposed to just uselessly moving through it.
The easiest way to better understand what it is I’m talking about is going to make you the cool kid of your office. While sitting in a chair, keep one foot on the ground, lift your opposite foot and extend your leg. Then shake your foot around like you’re trying to get gum off of your big toe (or so I’ve heard, not sure this actually what I’d do if that happened to me…). Bounce your leg up and down, with your ankle relaxed, letting your ankle flick up and down. This movement helps you to understand how loose you want your ankles to be while swimming. You do not want your ankles to stay in a fixed position while you swim.
Lissa Henderson, Tri Swim Coach