Freestyle Swim Drills – 6 Kick 1 Stroke

The 6 Kick 1 Stroke drill is one of the most transformative freestyle swim drills we teach at the Race Club Camps. Ultra Marathon Swimmer Lexie Kelly and World Champion Junya Koga demonstrate this classic drill also known as ‘6 Kick Switch’ at the Race Club training grounds in Islamorada, Florida. This drill teaches two very important swimming techniques, body rotation and a relaxed wrist on the recovery. By placing an imaginary string from your shoulder to the sky the swimmer is asked to ‘touch the string’ on the recovery forcing a vertical position with the body. Swimmers that keep the wrist stiff or the fingers clenched together on the recovery can not recover the arm muscles for the next pull nearly as well as with a relaxed recovery. Junya Koga shows us another variation of these freestyle swim drills by sculling when his arm is out front.

It’s not the position on your side that gives you speed rather the quick rotation to the opposite side that creates a coupling motion with the kick and pull that makes them more powerful. Once you’ve mastered the 6 Kick 1 Stroke drill, move onto the 6 Kick 3 Stroke drill using the same arm recovery motion, the same body rotation and the same wrist relaxation for 3 successive strokes followed by 6 kicks on your side. Using these 3 freestyle swim drills; Body Rotation Drill, 6 Kick 1 Stroke Drill and 6 Kick 3 Stroke drill you can transform your stroke into a stronger more efficient technique leading to a faster freestyle.

15 Responses to Freestyle Swim Drills – 6 Kick 1 Stroke

  1. Anupa

    Really Nice Techinques

  2. Ikedichi Kanu

    Dear Gary,
    It appears to me that Junya has a stronger (or more obvious) surge kick when compared with Lexie’s. The timing of the kick in relation to the hip rotation and catch is also different for both. Junya’s kick seems to drive his hip rotation while Lexie’s seems to originate from the core and shoulder throw…. Any reason and larger implication for these minute differences?

    • Gary Hall Sr.


      The surge kick is really used only with a hip driven or hybrid freestyle. If you look at Lexie’s kick at the very end when she is using a shoulder-driven technique, the three down kicks of each foot are all about equal and hard. The surge kick is much more apparent with the 6 kick 1 stroke drill as it is effectively a very slow hip driven freestyle. Notice that even when the stroke rate is slow, the swimmers snap the body quickly to the other side, as the speed of the body rotation increases the force of the underwater pull and kick. Generally, the surge kick in freestyle occurs just after the hand enters the water with the opposite foot. In backstroke, the surge kick often occurs with the foot on the same side as the entered hand.

  3. Gill Melton

    Really like these drills. I am going to try them tonight at training,
    Many thanks Gill
    Check out Facebook page Island Bay swimming

  4. Sharlene Jones

    Love these drills. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. So many of us swimmers out there would be just ploughing up and down the lanes with hardly a clue without it. Cheers!

  5. George Harris

    Hi, Gary, I am confused – some of the swimmers do more than 6 kicks per stroke. Can you please clarify- if the exact number of kicks is crucial for this drill? How crucial are fins on legs for this drill? Another question: I think Phelps’ coach has variation of this drill with hand in the air moving to front back and to front – is this same or different? Please comment. thanks.

    • garyhallsr

      In my opinion, the two most important techniques that are being taught with this drill are body rotation and learning to relax the hand/wrist on the recovery. It really doesn’t matter how many kicks a swimmer takes between strokes, but a minimum of six is nice to give them time to fully rotate on to the other side. I like to create an imaginary string coming from each shoulder upward and have them get the elbow to the string, pausing there to dangle the wrist. Bob Bowman’s drill sounds like a variation of this drill.

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  7. Kermit Yensen

    Hi Gary, Have been following you in one way or another for 40+years.

    I understand your point about making a forceful entry. But one of the issues we have with our age group swimmers is the delay between entry and catch. I am concerned the 6 Kick 1 Stroke drill reinforces this delay, particularly if they do a bit of sculling with their hand while it is out front. Please advise.


    • garyhallsr


      If one is trying to teach a swimmer to do shoulder-driven freestyle, the 6 kick/1 stroke drill is not the drill for it. However, it is important to remember that before one can do a technique correctly fast, one must begin with the technique slowly, then medium then fast.
      98% of all women use shoulder driven freestyle for all distances, but it is important to learn the importance of head position, pulling motion and coupling energy while going slowly. Once they get it, turn up the rpm volume using dolphin kick freestyle or the tempo trainer. Either work very well.

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  9. Hamid

    thx so much for your help

  10. israel

    hello, why the arm stroke with the right arm does it with a high elbow and the left arm has the straight arm, that’s good, it has some scientific explanation or it’s just personal style


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