One of the hardest things to improve on in your front crawl stroke is your leg kick.
It doesn't matter if you are a beginner or intermediate, the legs are the part my swimmers tend to have the most trouble with.
If you are one of those swimmers that moves pretty well in the water, then if asked to swim one length kicking this happens......
You have somehow either moved yourself backwards, or you have travelled 5 meters down the pool, using up so much energy you need to go and have a little lie down after all that commotion.
It's not as if you are not putting the effort in, so you must be going wrong somewhere, but where?
Here are my most noticeable common mistakes when it comes to front crawl kicking.
It's All in The Hips
Too many swimmers kick from their knees, meaning they bend their knees too much which makes their legs sink in the water creating extra drag. The Movement should initiate from hip, whilst keeping your legs relatively straight.
Sometimes this is misinterpreted leading onto my next point...
I know you know that but for some reason you turn into John Cleese and stiffen up doing all sorts of strange movements.
You end up keeping your legs too straight and have no fluidity in the movement.
Remember when kicking, you keep the legs long and the knees soft to create a fluid movement.
Good Toes or Naughty Toes?
I am not talking about what your daughter did in her ballet class, I am talking about your big plates of meat.
If you are a triathlete the probability of you having tight ankles from all the cycling and running is quite high, by working on the flexibility of your ankles and keeping your foot softly pointed whilst swimming will help streamline your kick.
This leads me onto my next point....
Imagine your foot is a flipper
If you are struggling with the whole ballet malarky and it's giving you cramp in your calf and foot, because you have stiffened your foot focusing on the perfect pointe, then try imagining your feet are flippers that are allowing you to slip and glide through the water.
I am a triathlete so I was told I don't need my kick as it wastes energy, plus I wear a wetsuit.
What about global warming? Or your go abroad?
When swimming front crawl you need to be as streamlined as possible. To do this your shoulder, hips and feet need to be in one long line. By gently kicking your legs this helps them stay lifted in the water.
Do you a parachute effect?
Not only do your legs need to be in level with your hips and shoulders but also they need to stay close together. If they are too far apart your legs then start to scissor and create extra drag acting like a parachute to slow you down. Think about your toes brushing past each other lightly, it will draw them closer together. If you do think your legs are too wide when you swim, your technique may need looking at. See my blog regarding timing of breathing to help with this.
My best tips to perfect your kick
Invest in a pair of Finis Floating Fins start to work on your leg kick. Simple exercises such as pushing off and kicking in a streamlined position can help you get a better feel for the water. The fins will encourage your ankles to stay relaxed and your toes to stay pointed and floppy. Just like flipper here
If your pool has a deep end try kicking vertically with your fins on this will help instigate your kick from the hip.
When performing this drill you want to imagine your are swimming through a tight tube, keeping your legs long and pointing your toes to feel the pressure from the water on your fins.
Stretch it out.
Simple stretches like sitting on your feet and even wearing your fins for your kicking drills will provide some stretching force to your ankles. Over time your ankle flexibility will develop.
With your fins practise pushing off the wall and kicking in a streamlined position. Carry on swimming after taking a breath completing the whole length without stopping. This will help;
1. Keeping your legs long
2. With your knees relaxed as you kick from your hips
3. Ankles/Flippers floppy, with toes pointed inward so they brush past each other.