Secret Tip: Legs Propulsion

We are going to discuss the Legs in Swimming over 4 webisodes. There are 4 functions of the Legs in Swimming. This video is about propulsion and some of our favorite exercises to increase power in kicking. Propulsion is the part of the swim kick that allows us to move forward. When we generate power with our kick, we want to be moving in a forward direction, the fastest way to the end of the pool. With an efficient kick, we use the legs to move forward. With not so much efficiency, water and therefore energy is dispersed from side to side or elsewhere. Legs Propulsion is one function of the kick in our quest to swim fast.

18 Responses to Secret Tip: Legs Propulsion

  1. Aureliengabert

    You mean that’s we must do kick developpement set with a snorkel with body streamlined. Do you think that is a mistake to do kick set only with a flutter?
    What is the way to work on leg, during aerobic cycle for example do you think that it is use to do set like 10×100 @1’45 (slow pace, short rest)?

    • Garyhallsr

      Given how important dolphin kick is to all four strokes, it is a important to work a lot on dolphin kick, unless you are an triathlete or open water swimmer. As in flutter kicking, dolphin kicking must be generated from the hips and core down, not from the knee down, keeping a relatively tight streamline on both down and up kicks.
      We believe in dedicating a lot of practice time to improving leg strength, stamina and propulsive power. Doing a set like 10X100 on short rest may improve your aerobic capacity, but not necessarily your power. We vary our sets between aerobic and power/speed/strength sets to achieve both….plus flexibility and dry land exercises. Once or twice a week we will do an entire 4,000 meter practice with legs only. That’s how important we feel the leg strength is.

      Gary Sr.

      • Jim Munro

        Thanks for the e-mail/videos. I can definitely use some of the drills.

      • Lorenzobermudez7

        This 4000 meter practice you are mentioning, is it with fins all the way? What distance is a good kicking practice?

  2. Nico Messer

    We don’t say that kicking with the FINIS snorkel and alignment board is the only way to improve your kick. But it sure is the most “natural” way and what we think the closest you will get to kicking as you would in competition. With the Race Club we focus a lot on kicking in a streamlined position (both with the snorkel and alignment kickboard or underwater) as as well as side kicking to teach our athletes to kick both ways.

    Now kicking is an important part of training throughout a full cycle. And you probably can’t approach it the same way you do the “regular” swim training of your cycle. It takes a lot of work to get the legs in shape and usually the best athletes in the world built their leg strength and leg power over several years. We usually use fins for longer distance kicking to help an “easy” effort and have it go by a little faster but also to help ankle flexibility. Most of the time we do kick without the fins though it’s shorter distances and faster kicking.

    Just from the top of my head a set for you during the aerobic cycle could be something like 4 rounds of 200 kick with fins (with or without the board) on 3′ followed by 4×50 kick without fins where you’ll be descending the interval for 5″ on each round starting between 1′ and 1’15 depending on how fast your athletes are right now.

    Also a good way to measure their improvements over time is to time them for a 200 or 400 kick several times over the cycle/season/year.

    Let me know if you have more question and make sure to come back to our site over the next three weeks for the follow up on our legs series.

  3. Christiano Costa

    Congratulations! Nice video!

  4. Richard Charles Hall

    We’ve been working a lot with Daniel on straightening out his legs. We are having a difficult time and there is no easy way to get someone to kick with good technique like Gary and Sabir. We’ll be exploring some interesting techniques and training methods with the following week’s Secret Tips with Daniel…. trying to get him to kick like Lochte, Phelps and Natalie.

  5. Aureliengabert

    Thanks for your answer.

    During my aerobic cycle, there was a set of legs every 4 workout
    10×100 @2’00 , 4×50/2×100/200/2×100/4×50 base 1′ , 20×50 @1’00 or 55″, 5x(100+2×50)

    During my more spécific cycle on leg set every 4 workout like
    16×50 descend 1-4 … @1’15 , 9×100 @2’15 negativ split , 3x(100aero @2’15 +2×50 25sprint/25smooth)

    I think that i need to vary more my leg set with fins, snorkel… But i feel difficult to control my charge of work and to focus the effort on a good develloppement of spécific effort.

  6. James Stuart

    This video is so useful for me cos my ankles are not really flexible at all. I am trying copying that Asian-looking fella over exercise but I cannot do it but will try do it again as I am so determind to improve flexiblity of my ankles.

    • Nico Messer

      Make sure to go slow on this exercise. It sure is one of the best for ankle flexibility and will help you to improve your strength and kicking. But if you can’t do it right away then slowly work your way up there and help lift with your hands from the floor in the beginning.

  7. Lance Robinson

    Can I move in? ;) I cannot say thank you enough for sharing this series and all of the other useful tips and information that you do share. I have been considering a snorkel for some time now… it will be my next purchase. My shoulder is a little sore today ( call me old, but I take NO chances with my shoulders) so I skipped masters tonight in favor of a 3k kick workout. I hate using the run-of-the-mill kickboard for exactly the reasons you show in the vid, and with me, I still have a little belly to loose so until my core is rock solid it is a struggle to keep my back from bowing down while using the board. It’s those positional aspects that I am becoming more aware of as I swim and I make a conscious effort to correct them. I LOVE kick sets with fins! My legs are feelin it right now :) :) :) Speaking of fins, what is your take on monofins to strengthen that dolphin kick?

    • Nico Messer

      I might be able to answer part of your question regarding the monofins. I’ve competed in the 2009 Finswimming World Cup and been using them for quite some time now. And of course there’s the most famous example in Misty Hyman who was using the monofins as well.

      Looking at this from a swimmers perspective, I think what you’re talking about are the monofins by FINIS. I started out using those as well but have to tell you that those are not close to a “real” monofin. Not to say that the FINIS monofins aren’t any good…they’re for swimmers :-)

      No matter what type of monofin you’re going to use there is one important thing to think of. Just as doing regular fly kick most people bend their knees too much in order to get a strong kick. You really want to work on getting the strength and power of your kick from your hips…this will be key for using the monofin and taking away the benefits.

      Also, switching up workouts form time to time and trying out new things, will not only make practice more fun but also allow you to get a different feel for the water and learn new things (as long as you leave the stuff that doesn’t work behind and use the stuff that works to your advantage).

  8. Marc EVans


  9. SwimFanatic

    I’m a triatlete from Belgium and I must say that the kick is the most underworked part of our swim. Because we have wet suits who create lift for us and have to save our legs for the bike and run…

    But when you swim as smooth as these guys show in the video. Does it actually take away very much energy? I was comparing my heartrate in the water with a co-triatlete who is using a 6-beat kick, while I am using a 2-beat kick. We have about the same fysical condition. He’s my twinbrother and whe’ve been doing triatlon since our 16th, we follow the same training-schedules .

    My Brother has a Heartrate of 142, using 6 beatkickI have a heartrate of 154, using a 2 beat kick for keeping up with the speed he produces.

    We did this multiple times and everytime with the same results. You should do a research and make a video what is the most energysaving swimstroke for a triatlete!!!

    By the way, your videos here are great. Big fans from Belgium!!!

    Sorry for the poor English writing.

    • Garyhallsr

      Thanks! The key here is to get the legs fit for sustained kicking. That takes a lot of work. I don’t believe that getting the legs fitter for kicking will take away from the bike or run..but will make you feel stronger coming out of the swim!

      Gary Sr.

  10. Pingback: Myth #6: When it comes to swimming fast, kicking is overrated. The importance of kicking in swimming. | The Race Club

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  12. israel

    my athlete does not kick, I put him in just kicking exercises and he does it well and fast, but when he does full free style, he does not kick just the armful , he turns the matter over and I think that either it is a lack of coordination or he just does not want to kick , what exercises could do to coordinate and improve the number of kicks


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