Dolphin Kick Breakdown: Up-Kick Versus Down-Kick

Up Kick and the Down Kick. So, your Down Kick, how you start the kick with your knees at their maximum point. So, basically, your hips have sunk towards the bottom, and then from there you fire quads and your abs and you forcefully extend your knee while popping your hips up, ending with a snap with your plantar, which is just pointed feet. Your feet should fully be extended at the end of this phase. So, you start with a big old knee bend, and then from there you slam down, and you want the feet to finish in front of the body with pointed toes. So, you want to actively think about curling your toes and pushing water backward. If you kick down just like Newton’s law, you get something down and push down something’s gonna come back up. We don’t want to go up in the water we want to go forward, so it’s a little bit of an angled vector there that you want to have. Downward kicking motion because it’s the only way that we can move, but you want to try to push water backward at the same time. The Down Kick motion of the Dolphin Kick is for me makes it the majority of the propulsion; it’s about 80%. This is from USA Swimming, which took some of the world’s best underwater kickers, and they drew their body line, making sure that their feet finish in front of the body, every single time. And you can see that not only is this true for on your stomach underwater Dolphin Kicking, but also true on your back when the Down Kick and the Up Kick are flipped.

So, the Up Kick, at the start, your feet are fully extended in front of the body in front of that body line and then from there you start actively moving your hips towards the bottom, bending your knees, and bringing your heels up to your body. You don’t want more than 90 degrees of knee bend or you’ll bring those heels up too much. You do want to bring them back kind of thinking about like a bow and arrow, kind of set it up, before you snap it back down, but you don’t need to set it up too much. There’s a lot of time before you get into the phase where water is moving in the direction that you want it and you’re not just wasting time getting to that point every single kick, so you want to focus on a relaxed foot with your toes still pointing backward. So, I’ve noticed and I’ve done a lot of video analysis that at first when I used to talk about Dolphin Kicking I used to say, you need to point your toes the entire time, it doesn’t matter what point of the Dolphin kick you’re at, but the reality is is that’s feasible you need a little bit of rest and a little bit of a recovery. So, you want to think about the Down Kick is kind of like the freestyle pull, and then the Up Kick is like a Freestyle recovery where you’re still doing something, you’re helping that next cycle happen. But at the end of the day, you can kind of let those toes relax, but not completely hang there because that will be counterintuitive to your next Down Kick. As we said, 80% comes from the Down Kick 20% comes from the Up Kick. So, it’s a combination of the two to have a great kick in general.