Help My Shitty Swim Kick (and some other things)

>> Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yesterday, I went for a swim. I wanted to try some kick drills. I ran into Steve H and Julia when I got there, and they just got done with a “kick heavy” swim workout. So I did a version of what they did (only shorter, because I was running out of time).

After a warm-up, I did repeats of 200 free then 100 kicking with a kick board (with no break). Check out these shitty splits:

3:11, 5:12
3:17, 4:28
3:16, 4:21
3:17, 3:55

Yeah. 5:15 for my first 100 of kicking?!? FML. I’ve never really used a kick board before. Really. So there’s no wonder that my 100 kick got faster as I went - I was LEARNING how to kick!

Question: Do you have a good “build your kick” drill? Or do I just need to spend more time with a kickboard?

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I had a “friend” on Facebook invite me to a Twilight group.

Sorry all you Twi-hards, but I’m not interested in sparkly vampires. I un-friended this "friend" in a blink of an eye:

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If you’re a “health food foodie,” I want to let you know about an acquaintance’s new blog. Suzie Finger, a local duathlete and triathlete, just started a blog last month called Suz News. Catchy, isn’t it? I met Suzie at the first Gear West Splash-N-Dash. She’s the one in the black and red:

No, that’s a guy. No, that’s a guy too. Yeah, THAT one in the black and red.

I think she’s still finding her “blog voice,” but so far it’s all healthy recipes, hearty shakes, and some workout moves. I wanted to point out a workout she posted last week that I tried 2 days ago at the Y. It’s called the “3 Limb Balance Pushup On Medicine Ball.” Click here to go to Suzie’s post where she has 2 short videos showing us how to do the move. I tried it, and it’s great! (I did 25 push-ups twice per leg - 100 total; with a 20 second plank at the end of each set.) My lats got sore doing it (trying to stabilize everything, I think). I could feel it the next day, and I LOVE that feeling!

Welcome to the blog-o-sphere, Suzie! Have FUN with it! See you at the races this year!

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Finally, here are a couple of my recent Examiner articles:

• More on the science behind compression gear.

• How to get your wetsuit ready for tri season.

• Minnesota’s early season tri and du schedule (just updated!).

• And if you missed it about a week ago, check out photos from the “Ride of a Lifetime,” the record breaking indoor cycling class.


Bullet 8:48 AM, March 18, 2010  

I'm all ears if someone has some suggestions on how to improve one's swim kick. I'm all arms with just enough legs to keep myself in the right position in the water. So, by all means, let's hear it!

Steve Stenzel 9:01 AM, March 18, 2010  

Bullet, that is TOTALLY me! I have a pretty good pull, but a horrible kick. I just use my legs to help rotate, but that's about all.......

The Tri Runner 9:03 AM, March 18, 2010  

I've been terrible at kicking for years and it's hard to explain in a comment section but here goes.

My swim coach would tell me that the kick starts at the hips. You want to keep you legs straight and use your quads. If you start bending you knee you've basically cutting your power in half. Keep your feet and ankles lose like you are cracking a whip.

Other than that Practice, Practice, Practice.

But since I’ve started doing Triathlons I haven’t worried about have a 'Great Kick'. I figured I’d save my legs more for the bike and run and use my arms more to get me thru the swim.

That's my two cents. Good Luck.

Steve Stenzel 9:15 AM, March 18, 2010  

Yeah, Tri Runner, I've ALWAYS had similar sentiments on saving my legs during triathlons for the bike and run. I TOTALLY agree with that. But I still think I need to work on my kick more. I figure it's good to BUILD that strength, but if I want to hold back from kicking too hard during a race, then I'll hold back.

Thanks for the kicking advice!

Viper 9:50 AM, March 18, 2010  

Good call on the unfriending. There is no room for a Twilighter in my life. Except for the one I live with. But she knows better than to invite me to such a group.

itsallrelative 9:52 AM, March 18, 2010  

Not that I have a great kick - but i do know of a good drill workout for kick:

100 kick on your right side (no kickboard - holding right hand above your head, left hand on your hip)
100 kick on your left side (no kickboard - holding left hand above your head, right hand on your hip)
100 six stroke kick (right side for six kicks, left side for six kicks, alternate ad nauseum)

Lather, rinse, repeat. It really gets you to feel your balance in the water and how kicking can affect that - as well as getting you to focus on how a good kick would feel.

Another think I do on days when I have to watch the spawn: with flippers on in the deep end, just kick - attempting to keep my head out of the water...thinking about kicking from my hips and not bending my legs.

Good luck.

GoBigGreen 10:14 AM, March 18, 2010  

It's all relative is on the right track
you also need to have a keen awareness of your
midsection and core and the ability to keep your hips up.
So obviously plank work and TRX are sport specific.
But overall I think kicking is hard! It has only gotten easier as I do more of it.
And I think ( I am not a swim coach) your kick in longer events really is a two beat balancer ie don't use alot of energy. So your goal isn't to have the fastest kick but to not have tired legs exitting the water from kicking too much.
Did that make sense?:)

Pamela 10:42 AM, March 18, 2010  

Have you ever gone to Swim Smooth? Here's a link to some kicking advice - plus the site is awesome:

Kevin 11:22 AM, March 18, 2010  

I have always had a weak kick even in HS on the swim team. Try . Not sure if he has any kick specific stuff, but he does have dome good free stuff on his site and he's on twitter too

SSB 12:35 PM, March 18, 2010  

First, I have a terrible kick, people I swim way faster in regular intervals kick my butt in kicking. But, I'm getting better, Lose the kick board. Kick with your arms out in front of you, pushing your chest down a little, don't bend your knees too much (very very very little is all), scull or breath stroke to breathe. You feet (and knees) should stay below the water...when they don't, you aren't going to push any water, so you're not efficient.

During tris, you don't want to kick hard, but you want it to be efficient, and not slow you down. With a lot of attention to my kick, I finally got where I could swim faster than pull (this has to do with body position too, but my kick was slowing me down some).

Colleen 12:49 PM, March 18, 2010  

I love that you unfriended someone for sending you something about Twilight. I'm so with you!

I'm heading over to Suzie's blog now. Thanks for recommending it.

Oh, and I have no advice about swimming. I suck at kicking too! :)

Anonymous,  1:40 PM, March 18, 2010  

Dracula meets Frankenfeet? However briefly....

Freaks like you need all the friends they can get....

Anonymous,  2:06 PM, March 18, 2010  

Surprised you declined the invite actually

Mark Thompson 2:27 PM, March 18, 2010  

3 drills for you:

1. Keep you legs perfectly straight like scissors, kicking from the hips and ankles. This is a good drill if you bend your knees to much. If you can’t do this because of balance issues, push your chest lower into the water. Also keep the kick small, like 5 – 6 inches deep. You can do this on your back, focusing on keeping your knees in the water the whole time.

2. Focus on keeping your upper body perfectly still and kick with the hips and ankles. You may need to tighten your abs. This reminds me of staying straight on a bike while the legs do the work.

3. Kick at a ridiculously fast cadence, knees relaxed (a slight knee bend is ok, perfectly straight knees is uncomfortable). Focus on your big toe to count cadence. And if you can count, your kicking to slow. The kicks should also be really small, 3-4 inches at most and under the water, minimize splashing.

My 100 kick is about 1:45 (25 yd pool).

amybee 3:01 PM, March 18, 2010  

my kick is not very good either. I kick like a runner. I woked with Dave Cameron for a while (Mr. Total Immersion) who told me that most people coming to swimming later in life will never really be a great kicker.

I can live with that.

I'd like to improve my kick, so the goofy drills help. Dan (current Uber Coach) has me kicking with fins from time to time. Can't really kick from the knee with fins. I find I get charlie-horses, when I use the fins, though. Probably becasue I am kicking correctly.

Mostly, I'm happy I get out of the water having not drowned.

Jill Costantino 10:53 PM, March 18, 2010  

Steve - you clearly improved leaps and bounds just within that set. I don't know any quick improvements BUT think of how fast you are going to be if you can put the 2 together! (I have that problem when it is more than 300m, I tend to just start using my arms).

Kathy 11:29 PM, March 18, 2010  

I swam competitively from 11 through 25 or more and honestly, I can't remember much about kicking. Yeah, we'd have kick drills but in a race or stroke drills, we never put a lot of energy into kicks. I'm guessing you only do freestyle - for free, my kick is a one or two every 3 strokes kind of thing. Very slow and lazy and in long events when I was racing it was slow also. Again, this is for free. Nothing else. Not sure that helps or not...

bessertier 11:03 AM, March 22, 2010  

I know I'm a bit late, but I was a swimmer for 10 years and have coached for the past 4 years and have a few tips that no one mentioned.

- First get yourself some fins (if you haven't used them before, build your way into doing a full set with them because they will hurt your feet) Once you are ready, start doing shooters. that's where you kick all the way across the pool underwater - remember streamline!! The main point of the exercise for you is not so much to hold your breath, but to build the kicking power. So just focus on fast, powerful kicks maybe 150% of the size you usually kick at. Then move onto the regular kicks without the fins trying to work as hard as when you had the fins on (so a lot faster)

2 - find yourself some cheap shoes (preferably without thick soles)like those old tennis style shoes that if you stepped on a pine needle it would poke your foot. Anyways strap those bad boys on your feet and grab your kick board. Now, yes, you will look like that 80 year old that the lifeguards keep their eye on because you never know when they are just gonna pass out/slip under/have a heart attack... anyways you'll be incredibly slow but the added weight and the lack of power will really help when you take off the shoes and go again.

These aren't "sets" to do, but they're a sort of drill that will improve your kicks from 5:12... and 3:55 as well :)

Kristi Wagner 11:23 PM, March 25, 2010  

Your kick might not be the only thing needing improvement. If you are a swimmer who swims "flat" with no body rotation, your body will tend to fight with the water rather than move fluidly through the water. Here is what I would try: 1. Use fins and a board 2. Extend one arm fully into the water (think elongate) with your fingers touching the edge of the kick board (for support). You will then lie on your side in the water (with legs stacked on top of each other). The other arm will rest completely extended and flat against your body. Barely kick at all during this exercise. 3. After takeoff from the wall, wait a few seconds before you breathe out your nose. (by conserving breathing you can make a few more strides). Breathe out through your nose when you need to. Then turn your head just enough to breathe (your cheek should be touching the water). Swim to the length of pool. Guide with the other arm next while allowing the opposite arm to rest on your side. Once you are comfortable with this drill, put both components together (swimming on your side teaches you to rotate your body while swimming). Extend both arms fully using the board to balance (and then practice rotating your body, breathing, and returning your two arms back to the board). Good luck!

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