Dolphin Kick Freestyle – Michael Phelps swim technique

Michael Phelps has been finishing his IM and Freestyle races with Dolphin Kick freestyle, a swim technique we have been practicing at the Race Club for years. All sprint freestylers use a high stroke rate. Learning how to turn over the arms quickly is not always that easy. It takes strength, endurance and practice. At The Race Club, we have used the dolphin kick freestyle swim technique to teach swimmers how to sprint faster. With this swim technique, the swimmer uses the freestyle pull timed precisely so the hand enters the water with the down kick of the dolphin kick. When synchronized with a strong dolphin kick, this technique enables the swimmer to move very fast. When timed well, the dolphin kick forces the swimmer to use a faster pulling stroke rate.
When Michael Phelps uses this swim technique his stroke rate goes from around 75 to over 100, this could be the reason for his victory over Ryan Lochte. The dolphin kick freestyle was also used by Olympic Champion Michael Klim from Australia, in the final meters of his lead off 100 M freestyle on the relay at the Olympic games in Sydney in 2000. At that time, he spurted ahead of American Anthony Ervin and set a new world record.
For either sprinting or finishing IM or freestyle races, practicing the dolphin kick freestyle drill may boost your speed especially towards the end of the race when lactic acid and fatigue kick in and, like Phelps, it may help you win some races. Don’t try the dolphin kick freestyle technique in a race without practicing it first, but with a good dolphin kick, this technique can increase your stroke rate and speed. A faster stroke rate will usually result in a faster swim and will conform more with the law of inertia.

19 Responses to Dolphin Kick Freestyle – Michael Phelps swim technique

  1. Rory Coplan

    Thank you for the video!
    How would you introduce this to high school age athletes?

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Just let them practice it for short bursts. It is like riding a bike. Once they get the timing, they never look back. Great drill to teach shoulder-driven freestyle…and speed!

  2. Barry Garn

    what fins are they using?

  3. Jh.

    I really like the video. It is what my son has been waiting for. He’s 14; he has been puzzled and doesn’t understand why he can’t get his free strokes faster. He’s start using this drill. Gary, Where do you start to practice shoulder driven free style? Can you elaborate or consider doing anther video on that?

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      You can come to The Race Club for a camp or private session to learn this drill. We start teaching this drill at the age of 7 or 8 years of age.

  4. James Stuart

    So Phelps has been used this stroke whole 50m? Or just near end?

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Just using in the final 5 to 10 meters of freestyle in the race or at the end of the IM race. It is best done without breathing, so can’t start doing it too far from the wall.

  5. Dave Hill

    This is actually quite hilarious. After so many thousands of swim coaches telling their swimmers not to play water polo because it would “ruin their stroke” they are now copying the stroke. High elbow, quicker turn over, hips in the kick.
    Basically, play water polo to get faster. Hope you parents are listening.

  6. trump luistro

    is the judge of the race will not say DQ – disqualify for this kind of stroke. i hope you will give me an answer so that i can practice this. thank you…

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      You will not get DQ’d for doing dolphin kick freestyle in a race.

      • Jorge

        Is it ok,legal, to change from scisor kick to dolphin kick….??

  7. Ron Dienstmann

    Mr. Hall, the first thing that comes to mind here is the up-and-down motion of the body, taking away from a smooth forward-only motion. However, I noticed that you mention at some point that keeping the head high makes it more challenging. Is it a deliberate effort to avoid bobbing and more resistance/drag?
    Thank you

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Not really. I haven’t found that bobbing is a big issue with this technique, while there is always some. Looking forward (extending the cervical spine) during recovery, particularly with a fast stroke rate and high body rotation, impinges the shoulder joint. It is more of a bio-mechanical issue.

  8. Denitsa


  9. benoit

    Thanks for the vid and education Gary Hall Sr.

    In your video demonstration you mention that it is better to do this drill for short burst of speed and length without breathing.

    My guess is that this is drill uses the ATP-CP energy system.

    What is the recovery time between each set? (6sec effort for 20sec rest?) how many sets for a total of how much time doing the drill? What is the best moment to do this drill in practice?

    Best regards,


  10. Gary B.

    I’ve implemented Freestyle Dolphin for drills based upon your recommendation for faster stroke count. It worked and it also reinforces Butterfly dolphin. Typically, I use Sporti webbed gloves and Finis Zoomers with these drills. I also use dolphin kick for Backstroke drills. Lots of propulsion from dolphin on the back! Shoulders are older (58) so backstroke arm with dolphin is 1/2 beat (“windmill”). Dolphin just seems more efficient when the entire core is combined with undulation. Maybe our mammal sea-cousins know best. :-)

  11. Ricardo Rosa

    Could we see Phelps doing this? There is a link? Thanks…


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