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Better Kicking

This item revised from a response to a 1999 Swim Magazine coaches poll asking how to improve kicking speed.

First, get rid of the kickboard! Moving faster through the water is primarily an exercise in decreasing resistance. Get on your side with the bottom arm extended toward the far end of the pool and the top arm lying on your side. Your nose should be pointed straight up and less than one quarter of your head — just your face — should be exposed to the air. “Lean” on your armpit, pressing your upper body toward the bottom of the pool. Your lungs are the only part of your body that really floats well and the harder you press them down the harder the water will press back up on you. Press hard enough to raise your hips to the surface, exposing a dry strip of flesh along that top arm. The result is a position where your arm, head, shoulders, hips and legs are all in a horizontal line at the surface — called a “balanced,” side-lying position. This is the most streamlined, least resistive surface penetrating position you can be in. Once you get a good feel for balance on your side you'll be a faster kicker who spends less energy!

Just an aside — When you kick with a kickboard you are teaching your body to kick “uphill” rather than in a straight line. Do you want to swim uphill?

Second, the best kickers have great plantar flexion (as in “pointing your toes”). While the ankle is the hardest joint to stretch, a consistent and persistent ankle stretching routine can really pay off! Great ankle flexibility puts your foot in a better position to deliver propulsive forces to the water and allows you to kick from your hips rather than just from your knees.

Just my opinion. I could be, and frequently am, wrong. v

© H2Ouston Swims, Inc. 2000

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Emmett Hines is Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1981, was a Senior Coach for Total Immersion Swim Camps for many years, holds an American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 Certification, was selected as United States Masters Swimming’s Coach of the Year in 1993 and received the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He recently overhauled his popular book, Fitness Swimming (Human Kinetics, publishers) and the second edition was released mid-2008. Fitness Swimming has been published in French (entitled Natation, pub. by Vigot), Spanish (entitled Natacion, pub. by Hispano Europea), Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong), Portuguese (Natacao Para Condicionamento Fisico, pub. by Manole)  and, soon, in Turkish and Italian. Currently Coach Hines coaches the H2Ouston Swims Masters group in Houston, TX and works privately with many clients. He can be reached for questions or comments at 713-748-SWIM or via email.

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