Kick technique inquiry
Totally getting into MSF threads and geeking out along with you all. Scheming for a marathon swim (my first) this summer, and I live on the Canadian West Coast.
My curiosity is about the kick. I've grown up/taught flutter kick, and I've been learning about the value of the 2 beat kick, from Total Immersion coaching and others. Apparently it saves juice, due to the kick being minimally used for propulsion. So trying it out. At first my feet felt like they were sinking, though concentrating on the toe flick has helped quite a bit. Now that I'm getting the hand of it, it's feeling easy and pleasurable.
Curious to hear from folks with more experience. Do you generally recommend switching up the kick here and there? I don't feel like I could easily pick up the pace with a 2 beat kick (maybe I just need more practice?!), and wonder about high seas/messy waters...
Thanks for the insight! Happy swimming.
This is the best example of a 2 beat kick I have ever seen
...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
Agreed! This is the exact one I show my students!
Agree that Laure Manaudou has a beautiful 2-beat kick, but the video is a bit deceptive with the slow-motion playback. She swims at 100+ strokes/minute and IMO it's way tougher to maintain a fluid 2-beat rhythm at more typical stroke rates.
I agree with @evmo at the stroke rate most of us use, your back end starts to sink with a true two-beat kick. I actually do a sort of 4-beat kick some of the time to combat that effect... I kick twice with one leg then twice with the other. The first kick with the right leg is strong and core-engaging, then a less-strong kick to keep my body position up, then repeat with the left leg. I think of the second, smaller kick as more of a stabilizer than anything. Timing-wise, it's not a steady beat - if it were a song in 3/4 time I kick on the 1 and the 3 with each side. Not sure where I picked up that habit, I'm pretty sure I never had a traditional two-beat kick in my competitive days!
I was thinking about this during my last swim. I think I have a one beat kick, if that. And it doesn't really do anything. I mostly taught myself how to swim (with my head out of the water, even) and never swam competitively.
I always use a 2-beat kick, regardless of the speed (except for short sprints to overtake, to gain momentum, to surf a wave...). It's a soft kicking, hardly useful for propulsion; I use it to balance my body position. To prevent sinking I just have to make my core work.
(Altought I don't really know how much my legs sink. Lately I've been wondering if they are sinking more than I want to admit. I would ask somebody to get a video of my swimming from different angles, but I'm afraid what I'd see...).
I have used a two beat kick before I even knew it had a name. Early in my swimming life, I quickly discovered that my kick wasn't really doing a whole heck of a lot for me with a 6 beat flutter. It basically just made me tired and focused more of my effort at the wrong end of my body. So I quickly determined that a two beat was the kick for me. I even used it for sprinting, which is probably why I was never a top notch sprinter.
Regarding the 4 beat kick. I played around with this at one point because I noticed that my two beat was developing a secondary kick, (just a light flick of a kick). I thought about the butterfly kick and I dissected my stroke and kick to use essentially half my body doing fly at a time. I was doing freestyle, but thinking of it as two sides of my body doing fly out of sync with each other. It was really interesting playing around with this, but in the end, I decided that the secondary kick was really compensating for a balance problem more than giving me actual propulsion.
So instead I worked on the balance issue which really related to arm recovery and head position. Once I got those corrected, I didn't need the extra flick kick. I find I use the flick kick when I'm getting tired and sloppy. But now my two beat kick looks sort of like the video shown above. The sad part is that if you did a video of me, it would only look slightly faster than the slow motion of Laure. 100 strokes a minute is about twice as high a rate as my little arms can spin. The video shows also that there is actually quite a bit of power coming from that kick, and that's what I think I discovered when I started using the two beat kick. When I'm not kicking so fast, I get some good leverage off the kick and each beat is a force added to my stroke rather than the 6 beat which seems more like an auxiliary motor just churning along.
A little side note that I remembered as I was writing this. When I was in high school our coach took us to a seminar put on by Doc Councilman. He had a number of Indiana swimmers demonstrating the various things he was teaching. These guys were a few years older than us and swimming in the Olympics, so we were paying attention. At some point he was talking about the kick and asked a couple swimmers to just do a nice easy flutter kick down and back. Well, those guys looked like they had outboard motors!. My team mates and I were just looking at each other in absolute amazement. We all worked a lot harder in the subsequent workouts. So yeah, a good flutter kick has its place... but give me my happy little two beat any day.
Thanks everyone! Interesting to hear the different techniques. I think I'm going to work on the 2 beat, and just see how it goes. In the Total Immersion teaching, the kick is helpful for balance/body position, so I'll just work on that rather that having an uber powerful kick.
And @curly, "give me my happy little two beat any day" next to those fluttering Olympians has me smiling away as I continue with my relatively slow motion laps!!
Happy swimming all!