3 TIPS TO UNDERSTANDING FREESTYLE KICK TIMING
In freestyle swimming, proper kick timing can completely change the rest of your stroke.
Proper coordination of your legs with the rest of your body will set the stage on how you will perform when you are training or racing.
If kick timing is implemented correctly, you will feel an uninterrupted continuous rhythm. When the timing feels right, you will feel it. In swimming, each movement happens for a reason.
Kick timing is a common challenge for swimmers. In my years of coaching, I have worked with swimmers of all levels: beginners, triathletes, master swimmers, age group competitive swimmers, challenged athletes, runners, marathon swimmers, and open water swimmers.
I have come across a significant number of swimmers that have displayed a disconnected kick and never even had a clue it was affecting their performance. There are many other swimmers who just naturally had the timing right from the beginning and were unaware they had this connection.
Swimmers often adapt to a specific kicking pattern due to a consistent routine and developed habits. If you do something for so long, your body learns to adapt to that movement over time. A swimmer may think they are swimming well. However, once made aware of incorrect kick timing, they may find opportunity to improve.
When swimming any of the four strokes, the entire connection of movement develops from the core and hips. For freestyle, the kick has to connect properly otherwise you will feel a constant interruption in your rhythm and timing.
When it is connected properly, you will significantly reduce energy output and drag. Subsequently, you will increase efficiency, power, and rhythm.
You may be wondering: What is kick timing? Why is it important? I will discuss kick timing, it’s importance, and provide you with three solid practice tips to help you implement this skill into your training!
WHAT IS KICK TIMING?
For those who are not familiar with this point of freestyle. It is the timed coordination of which leg becomes an active mover within the stroke cycle.
A stroke cycle is the pathway of one hand entry to the next. Kick timing is when the coordination of the kick aligns with the rest of the body correctly to aid in forward momentum and connection.
There is a root base to kick timing that has to be hardwired (consciously at first followed by subconsciously later) in order to connect properly whether you relax your legs and don’t really kick much, or you want to turn up your pace and have more of a flutter kick.
There are three different categories of kick coordination in freestyle. The number is based on how many kicks per stroke cycle. A stroke cycle = 1 arm entry to the next. Below are the three different freestyle kick patterns and what they are typically used for:
TWO BEAT KICK
Priority: Efficiency | Active Freestyle Recovery
Used for marathon swims, distances races of 1500m or more, and triathlon swims. Also used as an active recovery in interval training.
FOUR BEAT KICK
Priority: Efficiency & Sustainable Speed
Middle to long distance open water races, 400m – 1500m Olympic distance events.
SIX BEAT KICK
Priority: Speed, Power, Stability Practice for Novice Swimmers
Short sprint events of 50m to 200m, final 200 to 300 meters of an open water event, and using this kick to establish timing for novice swimmers.
Bottom Line: Learn how to channel all three depending on the circumstance. Each pattern has a unique purpose. Learn by observation and practice at your own pace!
Here is a video demonstrating all three kick patterns so you can see how they are relative to each other:
WHY IS KICK TIMING IMPORTANT?
As mentioned above, kick timing is the binding agent to your stroke- whether you are conscious of it or not. As in any other sport or movement such as a baseball pitch, golf swing, boxing punch, etc – they all rely on timing and coordination of the lower body to provide connection, power, and efficiency.
In freestyle, if you do not have a connected kick, the rest of your technique will feel uncoordinated. This will make the rest of your swim more challenging whether it has to do with breathing or distance traveled per stroke.
Points of disconnection are either from kicking with the wrong leg OR kicking with the correct leg BUT it is either :
ALLOWING PHYSICS TO WORK TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Newton’s Third Law of motion states that “for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”
When you kick down with one foot at the correct time, your body will naturally rotate to the opposite side.
If you kick down with the same side, you will fight against resistance, which leads to a complete disconnection across the body.
For example, running. Naturally you swing the opposite shoulder with the opposite leading leg to provide balance, connection, and power.
Kicking on the same side is the equivalent of running while swinging the same arm forward as your leading leg.
It feels completely awkward and provides no benefit to your stride. The reason why you naturally run correctly is due to the movement pattern that has been already hardwired as a child.
There are a few practice tips you can do now to better understand the coordination in your own practice.
HERE ARE MY TOP 3 PRACTICE TIPS TO UNDERSTANDING KICK TIMING
TIP #1: Understand the feeling by just walking: feel the connection from opposite arm swing to opposite leading leg.
TIP #2: Practice out of the pool: one kick rotate to your other side in front of a mirror
TIP #3: Isolate one diagonal side in the water until you master it, then switch.
Now that you have a better understanding of kick timing, you can now use these practice tips either at home or when you go to the pool. Remember, the key to proper kick timing is connecting all the way through the opposite leg to the opposite leading arm.