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Freestyle – Timing the Kick

Originally published October 7, 2006.   To see more underwater footage of Kaitlin Sandeno (and Erik Vendt), pick up a copy of their DVD Go Swim All Strokes.  It’s our best-selling DVD!

The other day, one of our regular posters had a question about "Front crawl kick timing". In reading it, and reading it, I certainly began to understand how certain things in swimming can be overthought, and overtaught.

Knowing when to kick on freestyle is certainly a skill that’s important to understand and accomplish in order to reach a certain level of proficiency in swimming. There are many different ways to say the same thing, which is pretty much what our poster was saying. We’ll take a look at Kaitlin Sandeno’s kick, and see if she answers the same question twice.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGEWhy Do It:
If the question is WHY focus on WHEN to initiate, or kick, in flutter kick, the answer is simple. The better you time your kick, the more power it has, and the more it impact it has on body rotation and the next pull.

How To Do It:
This is where it gets a bit tougher, and it’s really about focus at this point. You’re going to think one way or the other. The important thing is to think about ONE and NOT the other. It can get pretty confusing.

1. Start swimming freestyle at a relatively easy pace.

2. Focus on one of the following:
a. when your hand enters
b. when you start your pull, or
c. when you finish your pull

3. If a. when your hand enters. You’ll feel your hand enter the water and at that point, the opposite leg should be kicking down. Think of it almost like a corkscrew in the water, you’re twisting down the entire length of your body, hoping that the opposing actions will snap back to the other side, and help both the initiation of the pull, and the kick.

If b. when you start your pull. As your hand begins to pull down, you’ll be kicking the same side leg down. Think of it as trying to compress, or contract that side of your body to bring everything a bit more together, creating more power with each. It’s almost like doing a really stretched-out stomach crunch except that you don’t bend in the middle…that’ll mess up your balance.

If c. when you finish your pull. As your hand finishes the pull, you’ll be finishing the kick of the foot that’s on the same side as the pulling hand. Think of it as trying to slap your thigh as it finishes the kick. When it’s most extended, or lengthened, your hand will pass right by it heading into its recovery.

How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

Of course, all of this is ASSUMING you have a 4-beat kick, a well-balanced body, a total grasp of the freestyle stroke…and that you swim like Kaitlin Sandeno. For me, this is one of those things that can easily throw you off if you think about it too much. It reminds me of when my Father took me bowling. JUST as was about to start my approach, he’d say, "when did you start using a 5-step approach". In other words, I never thought about it until I thought about it…and thinking about it messed me up. In fact, I used a 4-step approach, and HE KNEW IT!

While I think for maximizing any athlete, these are the things that should be studied, getting to this point can be frustrating, just as our poster pointed out. It can lead you to think you’ve got a problem with your stroke, and/or how you do things. My philosophy is…if it feels bad or awkward, chances are good that it is bad or awkward. Put things into terms that you feel comfortable with, and then have a trained professional (or close friend) check out your stroke. Of course, comparing your stroke to someone like Kaitlin Sandeno or Erik Vendt certainly comes in handy for making sure your friend knows what he/she is talking about.