Since the age of 9 I have been competing in the aquatic environment, along the way I have been able to work with some top coaches and teachers who have guided me on to achieving fast competitive swim times and swimming more efficiently.
Thinking back to how I was taught (many years back) I don’t think it was ever the case that there was much focus on leg kick and streamlined body position. Shame really because both are very important in becoming an efficient swimmer which will form the focus of this two part blog:
Part 1) Kicking- The power of your legs will drive you through the water. If the legs are kicking in the right direction, in an up and down motion, this will help to power the arms out of the water and move your body forward or backwards if you are on your back.
Part 2) Streamline body position- This is extremely important when moving through the water. If your body is lopsided or moving from left to right then this will slow you down, it could lead to injury or lack of strength on one side of your body.
Part 1 Tips and Tricks on Kicking
Kicking can seem an easy task to accomplish however, help to form the real power behind the arm strokes and can actually becoming a challenging and stressful process to adopt correctly. From my experience teaching most children/adults when in the water seem to do this thrash around kicking style which makes more mess than movement. The common fault is that learners kick from their knee! This is bad news for you guys as you won’t be moving anywhere anytime soon.
First of all, to overcome this try to visualise your legs kicking up and down from your hips in a straight position (not bending your knee), this will help your brain and body think about that kicking motion. You can try using your arms by putting them in front of you and doing the up and down motion. Yes you will look like a bit of a loon but this little guidance could help you create some beautiful movement through the water. The aim is to keep your legs straight but allow a small flexion from your knees.
Now that you are focused on kicking from your hips with straight legs you can begin to focus on the next element essential to kicking, ankles. Like most things in the water, staying relaxed is the key here, so with the ankles this is a must. Power, flexibility and using the term “floppy ankles” are going to generate movement kicking on your back and front. (Think about a boat- the legs are the motor and ankles are the propeller.) If you are still struggling with this movement then think about flicking your shoe off when you were little (or like me sometimes still do it for target practice) you will soon enough be powering through the water like a salmon up stream.
Here are a few practices to get you on your way:
Put yourself in a floating position on your front near a wall, grip the sides with your hands, put your head down and start the alternate up and down motion, your foot should be relaxed in this movement and the downward kick too should feel harder as this is where most of the power comes from, but a great tip here is the upwards kick should be where you work the hardest. If you are confident enough blow slow bubbles, this will help in later stages, if not hold your breath but please don’t kill yourself. It’s always good to get the ball rolling. (REMEMBER NEVER KICK FROM THE KNEE)
After you have practiced this for a bit (and not put half the pool water on the side) you should then be up for making a little trip down the lane.
I will be talking about body position in the next part of this series in more detail but this practice will help you for now…Place yourself, your bottom and one foot resting close on the wall. The other foot should be flat on the floor and not on tippy toes (This may vary on how tall you are and how deep the pool is.) Put your arms out in front of you in a straight position, your hands should be on top of each other and focus on squeezing your ears so that you like an arrow slicing through the water. This is called streamlining. Take a breath, put your head down between your arms and push off the wall, once you’ve glided for 2 seconds start your excellent kicking position.
Set yourself targets in the water. Make it achievable. Aim to kick to 10m, then 15m and soon you will be strong enough to do a whole length. Once you’ve cracked this and now starting to race lane swimmers, you can use a float to develop strength and distance as you will be able to kick with your head out of the water. See the next blog to find out more on streamlined body position.