Kicking is amongst the first techniques learnt by new swimmers, after breathing and buoyancy, because it’s essential for the balance and propulsion in the water. The key to a good kick is to not bend the knees too much and to keep the ankles flexible. This allows the swimmer to leverage the upward phase of the kick and gain in speed.
In this article, we explain five exercises to improve your leg technique in front crawl but also backstroke since the leg movements are similar. Some of the exercises use pool equipment. Don’t be put off by that, they are easy to use and WeSwim volunteers can help swimmers get access to the equipment.
Exercise 1: Wall Kick
Lie horizontally on your front and hold the wall or just push it with straight arms while kicking. You can also do the same exercise on your back, and for breaststroke leg technique too. This drill enables you to focus on your leg movement and speed without thinking about your buoyancy as you are supported by the wall.
Exercise 2: Slow Kick
You can do a length using a kickboard, or holding onto your volunteer’s hands. You can either leave your head above the water or train to put it under the water and out when you need to breathe. Simply kick in slow motion, that is with bigger and slower movements than you would usually do. This enables you to focus on your legs, and to become fully aware of the different stages of the movement, starting from the hip and spreading all the way through the ankle in a relaxed way, both on the upward and downward phases of the kick.
Exercise 3: Vertical Kick
Keep yourself upright in the water. Start kicking your legs to keep the head above the water and try to keep your kicking constant. If you have fins, you can put them on to make the exercise easier. For a greater challenge, raise your hands above the water or put them alongside your body.
Exercise 3: Correct Movement
This drill exercise is particularly useful for swimmers who struggle to find the right angle to bend their knees. On your back, hold a kickboard with your hands just above your knees and start kicking. You should move forward with your feet always at the surface without hitting the board with your knees.
Exercise 4: Side Kick
Hold a pull buoy in your right hand and lie on your right side horizontally in the water. Your head should be just half-way above the water so that you can breathe. Kick until you reach the end of the pool, and then come back in the other direction on your left side.
Exercise 5: Tombstone Kick
In this drill, you hold the kickboard vertically half-way through the water so it provides some resistance. This one is a bit harder and you’ll move more slowly, but it will develop strength in your legs. For a little extra difficulty, don’t use a kickboard and keep your arms straight in front of you.
Next time you go to a pool, whether you are a confident swimmer or supporting a disabled person in their swimming, you can benefit from these exercises to improve your leg technique!