Whether your a new swimmer, triathlete, or a competitive swimmer, everyone struggles with Freestyle Kick. Most athletes are not born with an innate ability to plantar flex their feet. In fact, everything we do outside the water contradicts what we do inside the water. Below are 3 quick tips to help improve your kicking speed and ankle flexibility–fast!
1.) Improve Your Plantar Flexibility
Performing an ankle stretch to increase plantar flexion will help improve your flutter and dolphin kicks. The more plantar flexion your feet have, the larger the surface area you have to kick with.
Perform this stretch by sitting on the tops of your feet on a soft surface. If you have knee sensitivity, put a block or kick board in between your thighs and calves. Gently rock your body weight over the tops of your feet attempting to lift your knees as far away from the ground as possible.
If you have knee pain, avoid sitting on your feet. Sit in a chair and curl your toes down. Push the top of your foot away from you. This is another way to perform the same stretch with less pressure on you knee joints. This way is more passive and will take a bit longer than the traditional stretch of sitting on your ankles! It does work well though–be patient!
Caution: this stretch is not stretching any muscles—strictly tendons. Tendons are not like a muscle—they don’t have as much elastin. It is important to be very gentle with this stretch and work your way up to holding it for 30 seconds. Try 3×15 seconds to start and build from there.
2.) Kick On Your Side
Break down your kick sets into sets with and without a board. Spend some of that time kicking without a board on your side. By kicking on your side, you will notice whether you are kicking in both directions. And if, you have any upper body movement within your kicks.
It is always good to kick on different sides too, so don’t just kick on your favorite side. Kicking on side will help you get used to kicking with your body rotated–which happens all the time during the Freestyle and Backstroke strokes.
Side kicking is a great way to increase your awareness of your body in the water, along with strengthening the upward phase of your kick.
3.) Vertical Kick
Another great way of kicking is to perform a vertical kick. Similar to kicking on your side, vertical kicking helps create body awareness and whether you are kicking in both directions.
More specifically, vertical kicking helps a swimmer understand whether or not they are pointing their toes. Pointing your toes is very important in swimming, as the surface area of the foot is what creates the propulsion that drives a swimmer forward.
Vertical kick sets help add variety into workouts and change the body position of a swimmer. You can still get a great kicking workout in with vertical kicking. Try adding in a medicine ball or weight. Or try vertical kicking in a streamline.