The Importance of a Strong Kick

The Importance of a Strong Kick

When you ask an athlete why they don’t focus on kicking you’ll get a dozen different answers ranging from “I only do wetsuit legal swims” or “hello – I am saving my legs for the bike and run, duh”, or even worse “kicking doesn’t matter in triathlon.”.

News flash. Kicking does matter. Even if an athlete chooses not to kick HARD in a race there are opportunities when you’ll need to be able to turn it on. Rounding a buoy, passing that obnoxious swimmer who always seems to be perpendicular to you, or bridging a gap; a strong kick is a necessity.

I had the opportunity last winter to work with Gary Hall Sr. from The Race Club in Islamorada, Florida. If you don’t follow them on YouTube and social media, I highly recommend it.  We discussed the importance of the kick and actually did a test set to see how ‘effective’ my kick was.  Turns out it wasn’t. And I’ve been swimming my whole life.

Here’s a super basic summary of why the kick can be such an asset to a triathlete:

  • Both the kick and pull provide forward propulsion
  • The pull contributes greater to frontal drag than the kick does and those forces slow the swimmer down
  • The net speed of the kick is greater than the net speed of the pull in a ‘reasonably good kicker’
  • Even the use of a strong 2 beat kick will help offset some of the speed lost due to frontal drag

If you’re like most athletes who swim ‘uphill’ with legs dropped, working on your kick at minimum once per week (meaning 80% of the sets are kick oriented) will help not only lift your body it will also help reduce the impact of the frontal drag that your pull creates.

If you’re a swimmer and recognize the importance of kicking how do you incorporate that into your training routine? Adding a 400 kick straight to each workout will NOT do it. Think about an what it takes to have an effective kick – it is tight, quick, and its constant. It is a lot like running in the sense that there are no breaks unlike in cycling when you can coast.  We need to train the legs to be able to kick for a very long time without eating up loads of our precious glycogen stores.  In order to do that we need to be training the legs to handle constant kicking at a high level. Here is a main set you can do to work on your kicking endurance and strength. You may need help to get out of the pool after this one…

Warm up 500-1000 of choice

4-6 x 200 kick with Finis Alignment Board and Snorkel :20 rest

4 x (50 kick with board and snorkel, :10 rest 2 x 25 swim with HARD kick :10 rest)

100 easy swim

10 x 30 wall kick :05 rest

100 easy swim

4 x :45-1:00 deep water upright kicking :15 rest

100 easy swim

300-500 kick with snorkel and board

200 cd


If you’re looking for more invaluable information on kicking and stroke mechanics in general, check out entries linked below from The Race Club – great stuff from a bunch of really great coaches!

Swimming Kick Speed Determines Baseline Swim Speed

Myth #6: When it comes to swimming fast, kicking is overrated.