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Swim Kicks: Close To The Surface - But Not Breaking It

What Are Appropriate Swim Kicks

In a previous post I shared my frustration about parents and others teaching students to splash their feet inappropriately. But I realize that I haven't shared exactly what are appropriate swim kicks.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Many coaches get upset with their charges if they see too much splashing of any kind, not just from kicking. I had one coach say to me, with a strong sense of frustration, when I commented about the improvement in speed that had been obtained by one of his competitors; "They'd be swimming a whole lot faster if I could get them to eliminate that @#%***! splash".

A good efficient kick should be close to the surface but not breaking the surface. Yes I know that if you look at elite swimmers competing it often looks like they are doing lots of splashing but if you look closely you can see that it is not actually splashing. Rather it is more a boiling or bubbling.

Image of feet kicking toes up just below the surface of the water. These swim kicks cause the water to excite but not splash
Toes Up Below The Surface

Image of swim kicks toes down. The heals do not exit the surface of the water
Toes Down Kicking No Splashing
If you are teaching very young children I have found that it is important to talk to them about bubbling the water. The reason is, it's actually possible to get children to freak out with the idea that they are in boiling water.

Image of a swimmer doing backstroke and their feet are sinking as they swim
Feet Sinking in The Water 

The Problem

The problem however, with saying that a beginner should be taught to kick under water, is that if a teacher emphasizes kicking underwater too much the student gets the idea that they should be kicking deep underwater. This is just as incorrect as splashing the water with your feet.

Deep kicking means that a swimmers body position is on an angle in the water instead of horizontal. the greater the angle of the swimmer in the water the greater the resistance to the swim. The more horizontal a swimmer is in the water the more streamlined they are and the less they have to contend with water resistance.

So an efficient kick is not one that splashes a lot of water but one that disturbs as much water as close to the surface with out breaking the surface.  A swimmer with an efficient kick has minimal bend in the knee and filipy floppy feet. Straight legs sounds good but there should be a small amount of bend in the knee both to generate a strong disturbance and therefore propulsion and stop over exertion on the leg muscles)



  1. I think you mean "breaking" the surface. Braking is what a car does.

  2. Tanya said...Re" the now fixed title: "Kick Close To The Surface - But Not Braking The Surface"

    I think you mean "breaking" the surface. Braking is what a car does.

    Great pick up Tanya. You gotta laugh. Maybe I was trying to "Stop" myself from using the wrong word. Clearly it didn't work.