Swimmers are SO focused on producing power with the hands, arms, and upper body that they sometimes forget to finish the job, which means taking it all the way to the TOES.
We’ve all heard about the importance of "finishing the kick" in breaststroke, but let’s take it one step further. It’s not just about slamming the feet together. It’s about making sure the feet create as little resistance as possible AFTER they’re together.
There are several ways to position the feet to create minimal resistance during the glide and recovery.
Some swimmers are able to overlap the feet, hiding one perfectly behind the other. This creates a sharp point at the back of the stroke. This is a great way to guarantee that you’re getting the absolute MOST out of your kick.
Some swimmers can actually put the soles of their feet together, in the way that a sea otter or seal might do. (As you can imagine, this tends to be very effective!) If you have to strain to get to this position, it’s probably not worth all the effort. But if you can do this fairly naturally, this position is worth experimenting with, because it helps you to really finish the kick.
Other swimmers — Amanda Beard, for example — point the toes inward. Even though some great swimmers don’t bring both feet completely together, they do point their toes enough to make sure the feet aren’t dragging and creating more resistance.
This swimmer has found that it’s easier to keep his toes pointed when the feet are just a bit apart, rather than lying side by side. White it appears that this swimmer is not completing the kick, the fact that his feet are pointed and are high, behind the body, means there will be no added resistance in this position.
Four different styles. One goal: Minimize resistance by pointing the toes. As you experiment and decide the best way for you to point your toes at the finish of the kick, think about the following:
1. Your ankle bones stick out a bit farther than you might think. By finishing the kick with your feet slightly staggered, you’ll avoid smashing the bones together, and will save yourself some discomfort.
2. Make sure the surface from your shin, along the top of your foot, and down to your toes, is as flat as possible. You want to be sure there is no bend in the ankle to disrupt the water. By pointing your toes this hard, you create a nice flat edge, and the water slips right on by.
3. Point your toes completely. In fact, you may even think about curling them UNDER to make sure they’re not disrupting any water.
4. Make sure you finish your kick before you point your toes. This focus point comes from NCAA Champion and 2008 USA Paralympian Dave Denniston, who ways that if you start pointing your toes too soon, you lose your hold on the water. Hold the water until your legs are completely extended…THEN point the toes.
Taking It to the Next Level
Of course, all this takes time and lots of practice. You may even get some new cramps when you try this…those nice arch-of-the-foot-can’t-wait-to-get-to-the-other-end-to-push-off-to-get-them-out kind of cramps. LOVE THOSE! You know you’re working it when those happen.
One way to help increase your ankle flexibility is to sit on your feet as often as possible. Don’t sit on them for so long that your legs fall asleep, but try a few minutes when you watch TV or before practice. Also, check out this series of ankle-flexibility exercises — one of the most popular drills on the Go Swim website. Ankle flexibility is key to all the strokes, and by making sure you get into the habit of finishing your kick, and pointing your toes, you will make this technique point a permanent part of your stroke.
For more views of how elite swimmers finish the kick, pick up a copy of the following Go Swim DVDs:
Breaststroke with Dave Denniston
Breaststroke Drills with Dave Denniston & Staciana Stitts
Breaststroke with Amanda Beard
Breaststroke with Brendan Hansen
All Strokes with Kaitlin Sandeno & Erik Vendt