Power Your Swim Kick: Forward Motion

This article was written by Gary Hall Sr. for Triathlete Magazine. See article on Triathlete.com

swim kick

There is no quick and easy solution to becoming a fast kicker. Similar to your bike speed, the kick speed is often proportional to how many miles or meters of kicking you do. Yet, if you are patient and willing to work on ankle flexibility, leg strength and fitness, all of which are important, your kick will steadily improve. So will your baseline swimming speed.


Not all fast swimmers have strong kicks, but most do. Those faster swimmers who do not use a six-beat kick (six kicks per stroke cycle) have very fast stroke rates (85–100 strokes per minute) and are extremely fit in order to maintain that pull rate for longer distances.


Chances are, given the choice of getting fit enough to hold that kind of stroke rate versus improving your swim kick, you will have more success with the latter. Because most triathletes have slow kicks,the upside of improving the kick is much greater.

In the last two issues, I have shared some ways to increase ankle flexibility and leg strength. Given that with the six-beat kick, your leg stroke rate is six times faster than your arms, it would serve you well to dedicate at least one entire practice per week to improving your kicking leg fitness. Below are some of my favorite kicking workouts. (Note: I prefer using the Finis Alignment Kickboard and snorkel if possible.)

Just remember, using your legs more for the swim does not necessarily mean you are wearing them out for the bike or run. The truth is that the legs need to be fit for all three disciplines, and all three disciplines require very different motions and training. Getting your legs fitter for the swim will make you a faster swimmer and therefore a better triathlete.

RELATED: Power Your Swim Kick: Flex Appeal

The Workouts

Kick Set #1
Warm-up 400 (200 drill/swim, 200 choice)
Kick 4×200 (with board and no fins) on 4:00
Kick 4×200 (with board and fins) on 3:30
Swim easy 200
Wall kick (hold on to wall and let legs kick horizontally behind you) 5×1:00 with snorkel (45 sec all out, 15 sec rest)
Swim easy 200
Vertical kicks 5×1:00 (45 sec holding forearm and hands out of water, 15 sec rest)
Cool-down easy 200 swim

Kick Set #2
Warm-up 400 (200 drill/swim, 200 choice)
Kick 800 with fins (use board and snorkel, 50 easy/50 blast)
Kick 800 without fins (use board and snorkel, 25 easy/50 hard)
Swim easy 200
Wall kick 5×1:00 with snorkel (45 sec head down/15 sec rest)
Swim 200 easy
Medicine ball vertical flutter kick (8- or 10-lb ball passed to swimmer from deck with swimmer in deep end catching ball with two hands above head) 20–30 times, repeat three times with rest
Cool-down easy 200 swim

RELATED: Are Kick Sets That Important?

Kick Set #3
Warm-up 400 (200 drill/swim, 200 choice)
Kick 3×800 (1. Every 3rd lap hard. 2. Every 2nd lap hard. 3. Hard 800 with fins)
Swim 200 easy
Kick 10×50 with fins, alignment board and snorkel and a Finis small parachute behind you to increase drag, 20 sec rest
Swim easy 200
Kick 20×25 on 30 sec (alternate 25 moderate/25 fast with board and snorkel, streamlined no fins)
Cool-down easy 300 swim

6 Responses to Power Your Swim Kick: Forward Motion

  1. Pingback: Secret Tip: Legs Lift - The Race Club | The Race Club

  2. sanuj

    i just found a website who just copy your article http://triathlon.competitor.com/2014/01/training/power-your-swim-kick-forward-motion_92970 it is exactly same as your article

  3. Hagit

    i read the article and i didnt understand the meaning of “on 4:00”? in the drill Kick 4×200 (with board and no fins).

  4. Cuong Tran

    Hi, I am learning swimming and found your blog and webpage very helpful. Does “kick 4×200 on 4:00” mean “in 4 minutes, do 4 reps, each rep kick 200 times?” Thanks.

    • garyhallsr

      No, it means kick 200 yards or meters 4 times on a 4 minute interval. As your kick gets faster, you can shorten the interval and take less rest.


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