Butterfly - Vertical Kick

Mar 18, 2004
Butterfly - Vertical Kick

Had enough touchy- feely, blissful drills to last you a while? Then grab a BIG WEIGHT, clasp it tight to your chest, and work on your dolphin kick.

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 - Watch Kevin Clements demonstrate all aspects of a 200 IM.

This is a very tough drill, so make sure you don't overextend yourself by starting off with too big of a weight... you'll see what happens if you do.

Why Do It:

This is a great drill for teaching you how to harness the power in your entire body. You'll quickly realize that if you simply use your legs to keep your head above water, you'll need gills .

To demonstrate this drill, we went to the top. Kevin Clements (North Baltimore Aquatics Club, and Auburn University), US National Champion in the 400 IM at the February 2004 Indoor Nationals, shows how to begin to develop a powerful fly kick.

How To Do It:

1. Pick up a good size weight and hold it close to your chest. Cross your hands and curl your shoulders in to make sure the weight won't move.

2. Start dolphin kicking. As you do this, try to stay as vertical as possible. Don't lean forward or backward, but keep your legs under you. You may find that your legs alternate from taking a few kicks behind your body - to taking a few kicks in front of your body, but the goal should be to have them directly underneath your body.

3. Pay special attention to finishing your kick with your toes pointed. Keep your legs flexible and make your movements fluid and continuous throughout all phases of the kick.

4. As you power your feet forward, don't force them to always be directly touching each other. They have to stay on the same plane, and they MUST move in perfect unison to be legal, but they are allowed to be a bit apart.

If you've bitten off too much weight, you'll probably be leaning back a bit. Notice how this swimmer's legs are in front of him as he struggles to stay above water. He's looking for an extra bit of leverage from his back, and is leaning on his lungs for an extra bit of buoyancy.


This subtle, improper move allows you to do the drill for a longer period of time, but you're not doing it absolutely correctly. As a result, you can actually mis-train your muscles, so it's not a good idea. If you notice this starting to occur... drop the weight, and hold your hands out of the water. This is plenty tough, and loads of fun, too.

How To Do It Really Well (The Fine Points):
Sure, swimming pretty is nice, but it's not going to win a National Championship. For that, you'd better know how to harness real POWER from your body. Training your body by using a bit of resistance is a great way to learn an efficient, useful technique. This drill demands that you use your entire body, and initiate your kick from the core of the body, rather than just the feet.

A good way to build up to what you see Kevin doing on this video (he's holding a 20-pound weight, by the way), is to start with no weight at all. Simply cross your arms and focus on staying perfectly vertical. If even this is a challenge, you can start by wearing a flotation belt or by hugging a kickboard or pull buoy to your chest. Once you can do four to five reps of 30 to 45 seconds each, with a bit of rest between each rep, you're ready for more of a challenge. Try simply lifting your fingertips out of the water. Once you can do that easily, then hold your palms out... then your forearms.

Only when you really can lift your arms out, and stay fairly vertical, should you even BEGIN to grab a weight. When you do, make it light. You've already seen what can happen if you use too much too soon. Even though we're going for RAW, WWF, TESTOSTERONE-DRIVEN, SCREAMING-FITS-OF-RAGE type of intensity here... we're still focusing on proper technique.

Be aware that you're practicing something you'll use in your stroke. The goal should never be MORE WEIGHT... or even ANY WEIGHT. The goal is to maintain PERFECT FORM, no matter how little or how much weight you use.

Enjoy, and thanks, Kevin. This looks like FUN!

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