Dolphin Kick The Fifth Stroke

The development of a fast dolphin kick depends on several important nuances. Although the propulsive force is generated by the top of the feet during the down kick, the power to do so originates from the combination of a large undulation of the hip, a strong core, hip flexors and quadriceps muscles. The force is delivered with the right amount of knee bend and finally, and most important, extreme plantar flexibility of the ankle. It is the latter ability that creates the larger surface area to be pushed backward in the water.

While the up kick produces no direct propulsion by itself, it does play an important role by creating a vortex of water behind the feet, moving in the same direction. Then, on the following down kick, the motion against the moving stream of water creates more powerful propulsion to move the body forward.

To be an effective dolphin kicker, there is no rest period. The legs and core must move continuously first in one direction, then in the other and with much effort. No one has ever captured the nuances a great dolphin kick pictorially as well as Richard Hall in our newest #Swimisodes release, featuring Olympic champion Roland Schoeman. The Race Club is very proud of this release, perhaps our best ever, and hope you enjoy it. Here is to #thefifthstroke! Watch Swimisodes.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

4 Responses to Dolphin Kick The Fifth Stroke

  1. Paul C. Ho

    Up kick produces no direct propulsion? I have been asking my students to kick hard on the up kick from their hips because I thought up kick was propulsive. The body will move forward when you kick down as well as when you kick up. Was I wrong? Or, is the purpose of up kick mainly to get ready for a better down kick?

  2. Gary Hall Sr.


    After writing this article, I stand corrected. The upkick produces about 20% of the total propulsion, while the down kick produces about 80%. What confused me is that the foot during the upkick is moving forward in the water, so I thought that it should be providing no propulsion. However, the water is moving forward behind the swimmer faster than the foot, which enables the foot on the up kick to propel the swimmer without moving backward. In other words, the foot is moving backward relative to the water. A strong upkick also helps strengthen the next down kick. Sorry for the error.

    • Paul C. Ho

      Coach Hall,

      Thank you very much for your answer to my puzzle. I love your instructions. Thank you for your good work to improve the swimming world.

      Paul Ho

  3. Pingback: The 5th Stroke – Commit Swimming Blog

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