Top 5 reasons you should learn the 2 beat kick in freestyle swimming

Reasons To Consider 2 Beat Kick Swimming

  1. The 2 beat kick is the most energy-efficient kick for long distances and open water. It can save precious heartbeats for a Triathlete’s bike and run. 
  2. Learning the 2 beat kick is the first stage of learning the proper timing of a 6 beat kick and a 4 beat kick. You should add each kick style to your toolbox so that you can choose a swimming strategy for any moment of any event.
  3. You want to use your whole body to move you forward in the water. The 2 beat kick is an integral component of whole body swimming. 
  4. It feels great! Tri Balance clients have described this kick as “the magic feeling of a beautifully choreographed dance.” Arms, body, legs, core muscles all work together.
  5. With refinement, the 2 beat kick swimming can substantially lengthen your stroke without any extra effort.

Here is my personal experience with the 2 beat kick over the last 22 years.

Learning the kick
I was introduced to the 2 beat kick through Total Immersion in 2005 when I was training for my first Ironman event. I was not convinced the 2 beat kick was adequate for the 2:10 min Ironman swim time cutoff. So, I dabbled in learning it. That changed when I was training for my second Ironman event. I had five months to go before the event. For health reasons, I had to decrease my workouts from 9 workouts per week to 6. (I could not find the right balance between my training, my responsibilities as a mother of two young children, and my career. I was about to drop out of the event, but I was able to find a compromise). This meant I was swimming once per week. The swim workout was dedicated to refining the 2 beat kick swimming, holding my patient lead arm and completing the 3.8 km distance. The end result was my Ironman swim time was 1:38. (For perspective, my first Ironman swim was completed in 1:32, training 3 times per week in a traditional pull-kick format. Other benefits were my ride was one hour faster because I saved my legs. My run time was the same)

Refining the 2 beat kick

I swam with advanced swimmers at the 2012 Total Immersion Maho Bay open water camp. The open ocean was very sporty, with swells up to three feet. It was easy to forget about my legs as I did not need them for fore/aft balance because of the saltwater. 

A wise mentor shouted at me over the whitecaps, ‘Teresa, don’t forget to kick!”

I quickly took the advice. I needed my legs for the side-to-side balance.

I was so concerned with saving heartbeats and not kicking on the long-distance swim I forgot how important my legs were for balance. I protected my heartbeats by not kicking, but my upper body had to use an immense about of strength to support my balance in the choppy water.   

Many open water swimmers make the same mistake by using lazy legs during their swim. ‘Lazy legs’ saves precious heartbeats when swimming long distances. Triathletes also want to use lazy legs during the swim to keep their leg muscles for the bike and run. 

The moral of this short story is that legs are a significant part of any athlete’s swim strategy. Knowing when and why to use them effectively should be part of every swimmer’s toolbox.

Coaching the 2 beat kick

There are many stages an athlete must go through to learn and refine their kick. The steps are determined by factors like the swimmer’s experience, body awareness, and level of proprioception. Also, an athlete should have some knowledge of front quadrant swimming and use their lead arm for balance.

If you are a new swimmer who does not know the timing of the 2, 4, or 6 beat kick, I suggest learning the 2 beat kick swimming as a first step. Once your 2 beat kick is well-timed, you can learn to execute the 4 and 6 beat kick as part of your swimming strategy.

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