An Ode to Kicking Part VIII
In the first 7 parts of this series on kicking, we’ve covered a lot of different topics with kicking, investigating the nuances that may not have been considered before. Those ideas can be found at the links below.
After all of those considerations, it all comes down to the following question.
What’s really important to appreciate and what changes should be made to training?
Here’s a quick rundown of what we covered, and what to do with the information.
Kicking is a skill that can and should be improved over time. Kicking is not just about grabbing a board and moving the legs back and forth. There is a definite whip like action that is going to be more effective when done well, especially when integrated into full stroke swimming.
Ankle mobility is foundational to effective kicking. Individuals with more flexible ankles and feet will have a greater potential. While bone structure is fixed, ankle flexibility can be improved IF it’s worked on consistently over time. Commit to it to make a difference.
Kick timing matters. When swimmers kick relative to the positions of their body and the actions of their arms. It is not just about HOW swimmers kick; it’s also about WHEN they kick. Some swimmers will figure this out for themselves. Many will not. If we want to see change, we need to facilitate the environment and the focus to create that change.
Comprehensive fitness must be developed. If swimmers want to sustain the skill of kicking and the timing of kicking throughout the duration of their races, they must develop the fitness to do so. As we’ve seen how the timing of the kick is intricately linked to the upper arm actions, a drop in leg speed is going to result in a loss of stroke rate. That means swimmers will slow down. Swimmers must develop the cardiovascular and muscular fitness to sustain race intensities for race durations.
And the big takeaway?
The ability to kick effectively for the duration of the race will improve performance. If coaches neglect addressing the contribution of the legs in a comprehensive manner, they will be compromising the improvement of their swimmers.
Our task as coaches is to ensure that we-
Improve kicking potential by improving the flexibility of the ankles.
Improve kicking skill by practicing HOW swimmers kick, both in isolation and within the context of their swimming.
Improve kick timing so that the contribution of the kick is helping swimmers go faster with less effort.
Improve the fitness of the legs so that swimmers can sustain the leg action required to maintain stroke rate and stroke timing throughout the duration of their races, with as little energetic cost as possible.
There is more to it than just kicking on a board. While this can be an important part of the process, it is just that, a part of the process. If we’re willing and able to develop a comprehensive approach to building the legs, our swimmers will be rewarded with more speed.
If swimmers can kick well, kick at the right time, and kick with great effort over the course of their races, they are going to go FAST.