Freestyle Kicking Sets Part One

Improving your freestyle kicking technique will virtually guarantee that you will swim freestyle faster and there is no better way to accomplish this than to incorporate creative freestyle kicking sets into your swim training program. The speed of the freestyle kick is the baseline speed for your freestyle. The higher the baseline speed (kick speed), the faster you will swim, after adding your pulling motion and body rotation.
Some swimmers and coaches consider that the up kick of the freestyle kick is a recovery phase. This can be due to a lack of creative freestyle kicking sets. At The Race Club, we consider that both the up kick and the down kick are very important and both kicks need to be worked hard. Neither should be thought of as a recovery. In this Race Club Swimisode, World Class freestyler, Zach Hayden, demonstrates how to kick with the correct body position, using snorkel and alignment board, and a tough exercise we use to develop a faster freestyle kick, working the legs in both directions.
The technique of finding the best articulation (bend) of the ankle, knee and hip are also extremely important in developing propulsion, without causing too much frontal drag. Fast freestyle kicking is an art form, requiring strength and flexibility. We hope that this #swimisodes will help you improve your freestyle kicking technique and give you some ideas for freestyle kicking sets.

17 Responses to Freestyle Kicking Sets Part One

  1. Alex

    Dear Mr Hall,

    thank you very kind for your swimisodes and continuous effort making swimming more professional and popular; I’m watching and following on regular basis your precise instructions.
    One further question though on freestyle kicking leg motions bend and knee – for up kick knee bending slightly and for down straighten it semi-rigid out from the hips?
    Are there some angle restrictions important to consider? Thanks.

    Greetings from Vienna/Austria

    • garyhallsr

      The knee is only cable of flexing, although great swimmers have hyper-mobile joints, enabling them to hyperextend the knee. This gives them an advantage on the down kick motion. There appears to be a threshold angle of the knee bend on the up kick of about 60 degrees, beyond which the frontal drag forces of the greater knee flexion outweigh any additional force that can be gained on the down kick. Also great kickers (fly and free) will flex the hip on the up kick, dropping the knee lower in the water, which keeps the foot more in the water and pushing against the vortex. I believe this motion produces less frontal drag. The most important articulation, however, is in the ankle where more plantar flexibility results in more surface area of the foot pushing backward during the down kick.

  2. Thomas

    Dear Mr Hall! Love your videos. I am an age group coach, with swimmers between the age of 10 and 15. I, as you, prefer the vertical kicking instead of kicking with a regular kickboard. Do you prefer to have a kick-set in every practice, or do you have workouts with special emphasis on kicking trough the whole workout? And what is your preferred method of training breaststroke kick. Vertical here also?

    Greatings from Norway!

    • garyhallsr


      I love using vertical kicks for flutter, fly and breaststroke kick. Usually we will do the vertical kicks with breaststroke one leg at a time (eggbeater kicking), but it can also be done with both at the same time. Often we mix the vertical kicks with a hard swim in between each one. I would include a hard kick set in every practice but would dedicate one or two practices per week to virtually all kicking, with swim recovery in between.

  3. Gary Hall Sr

    I like kicking sets in every practice but would make kicking the focal point of at least two practices per week. I love mixing vertical eggbeater breast kick (one leg at a timr) with breast swims.

  4. Carey Family

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge Dr.Hall. Been listening, reading, and watching for years now. I think one of the most wonderful things that come of these is thought. They are very instructive but they also kick the mind into gear as well as the body. Great stuff, thanks again.

    • garyhallsr

      For me, the greatest stimulus for the mind is teaching. I want to be sure I have it right…or pretty darn close, so I really try to think through every aspect of what we teach. What is truly exciting about this sport is that we have so much more to learn!

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  9. Lee

    Dear Gary Sr.,
    Thank you for your outstanding work!

    I have been looking for anything you have said or shown on video concerning timing for the six beat kick and other kicking styles with respect to timing of the hand entry. Could you possibly provide some direction?

    • garyhallsr

      Yes…there are three down kicks with each foot during a stroke cycle in freestyle (hand entry to hand entry). The most forceful of the three down kicks occurs as the opposite hand enters the water. As the left hand enters, for example, then the right foot pushes down harder. Same for the right hand entry with the left foot. I call these two kicks per cycle the ‘surge kicks’ because they are timed to coincide with the fastest velocity point in the stroke cycle and help cause that to happen.

  10. Mohd Razali

    Dear Gary Sr,

    For freestyle kicking. What is different of kick?

    leg same level with water surface..dont go up.


    2nd leg must be up from water surface to make strong kick…

    Which kicking may help swimmer

    • garyhallsr

      In order to maximize the propulsion of the kick, the leg (knee) must bend to near 60 degrees from horizontal. That means that the foot must break the surface of the water. All fast kickers will create a boil of water behind them from the feet breaking the surface.

  11. Lori steauss

    Love your comments and videos!
    Just curious, how far out of the water are the feet supposed to come during the upkick in a good freestyle kick? How much foot is actually in the air? Should the water look white/ foamy?
    Thank you!

  12. Gary Hall Sr

    Great question. We often see the feet come too far out of the water. It seems that derive maximum propulsion the feet must break the surface but not by too much. In sprint kicking one should see a boil of water form behind the swimmer.


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