Have you swam in sporty water and felt like your body was about to roll over? Do you require a wetsuit to keep your legs at the surface of the water? Do you have to kick like crazy to keep your legs from dragging behind you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time you reframed your thoughts about your kick and started thinking about your legs as relaxing, rhythmic machines that give you balance in freestyle swimming.
I coach all of my swimmers in the art of kick in freestyle swimming strategy. The instruction includes when, how, and why they should use a 2, 4 or 6 beat kick for any event. My teaching helps the swimmer explore an underrated benefit of using their legs effectively – feeling balanced in the water.
There are two kinds of balance during front crawl swimming. Fore/aft balance or front to back balance is the balance required to keep your body aligned or parallel to the surface of the water. Side-to-side balance is how a swimmer rock ‘n rolls in a controlled manner while rotating every stroke and taking a breath. Using ones’ legs strategically will positively affect both aspects of balance while propelling one forward in the water.
Are you hesitant because you think you need to kick as hard as possible to clock a fast swim time? To dispel this myth, you only need to look at the 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 1500m, Katie Ledecky. In this 2019 video, you can watch her 2 beat kick. Underwater shots at 6:15, 7:16, 10:30, 14:42. Ledecky switches to 6 beat on the last 50m. (There is no underwater shot, but it starts at 15:28.)
A balanced swimmer can slice through water. A swimmer who effectively uses a 2 beat kick can feel the benefits of fore/aft and side-to-side balance. You, too, can efficiently use your legs and balance and fast in freestyle swimming.