Can you kick it? Yes You can! Develop an Effective Kick
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Can You Kick It?  Yes you can!

When an athlete comes to me for a video analysis session a common thing they always say when I ask 'What do you think is holding you back?' is.............. 'My Kick'.   This can mean a number of things to them, in their mind they may feel they may not be kicking hard enough, or they kick too hard and find they tire after a few hundred metres, or the bike is then really hard work.  The "kick" problem the athlete thinks they have can stem from a number of issues, be it physical, technical or mental.  So what do we think at South West Swim about the elusive kick?.

It is a common writing in swim texts to read that even in Elite Athletes the propulsion generated by their kick is only between 10-15%, most of the propulsive power comes from a good catch and pull in the stroke. For your average swimmer or triathlete, likely to be swimming further than 400m or even 750m, a hard, fast powerful kick would probably be impossible to maintain, whilst keeping good form.  In fact even if you could maintain this level of kick, for a triathlete would you need to?  Getting out of the water after using such a big muscle group in the swim may spark bad news for your bike split.  Of course we always see images of ITU Elite athletes with super powerful kicking techniques so you could think, well they are doing it it must be right............but we are not all Elite level athletes or have a surname of Brownlee. 

You may be reading this and thinking, so I don't actually need to bother with kicking at all?  well, this is not true either, we just need to think of our Leg kick in a different way.  The way we look at kick for our athletes can be rounded into three parts:
1.  Maintaining a good body position in the stroke, with little drag (High body position in the water = Less effort)
2.  Maintaining balance and helping to drive rotation in the stroke
3.  Propulsion where needed 

If you have come from a club background you may be used to doing a kick set that involves grabbing a kick board and pounding your legs up and down the pool on set times.  Whilst this will build leg strength it is only part of the jigsaw puzzle to good kick technique, certainly not the way we do things at South West Swim as we aim to develop a rounded skill base rather than power power power.  Don't get me wrong, power is brilliant if you are sprinting or a shorter distance swimmer, but for athletes swimming longer distances its not the be all and end all. Coming back to the club swimmer background, for most young swimmers events would be 400m or under, most pool based swimmers would have a stronger kick as they are not swimming over this distance (general terms) so they would train for this in their sets.

So here are a few tips to get an all rounded, optimal and effortless kick which is especially valuable (in our opinion) for us longer distance open water and triathlete swimmers (over 400m).

1.  For a start if your using a kick board (*other than a Finis Alignment Kick, the only one I would recommend if needed) then simply put.............throw that thing away, burn it if need be.  Kicking with a board does NOT put your body into the correct position for the front crawl stroke.  A board will lift you higher at the front of the stroke, meaning your legs will sink and / or your lower back will bow (potential to cause injury or aching back if at an extreme).  Either way this body positions not the one that you use (hopefully) to swim front crawl, train how you are meant to swim not against how you are meant to swim.  *I mentioned the Finis Alignment Kick, this is the only board I would recommend if one was needed.  This is down to its shape, position of the hands and lightness (the board is very easy to place under the water, straightening your body position a little more and still allowing great streamlining).

2.  After burning your kick board, Perform front kick drills in the streamline (aka Torpedo / Rocket) position, using a centre snorkel or AMEO Power Breather (review to follow on Facebook soon) could be a huge benefit as it takes away the worry of breathing in these drills.  Swimming your front kick sets in a nice streamline (aka Rocket / torpedo) position, arms above your head and standing proud.  In fact have a play when your'e in the pool doing a few lengths kick board kick, followed by the torpedo kick drill.  You should feel a huge difference.

3.  Don't just go up and down doing front kick drills.  Most of our sets don't involve a dedicated kick session, and we certainly don't time the efforts of our kick.  We prefer to integrate our kick based sessions using multi purpose drills such as Torpedo Kick, Torpedo Kick to swim, Kick on side, 6-x-6, all of which are very effective kick drills, working on more than leg power alone and easies the boredom of up and down just using the legs.

4.  Kick Mechanics.  Kick from the hip and not the knee! Have a plantar flexed foot (pointy toes).  A knee generated kick, as well as lack of ankle flexibility,  is seen in many triathletes from a running or cycling background as they are used to this body movement and try and replicate it in the swim.  In fact a kick from the knee lowers your body position in the water, can cause balance issues and create drag, not to mention the cost of energy from powering those thigh muscles.  You're actually making it harder to swim efficiently.

5.  If you have errors in your kick these may also manifest themselves from somewhere else on your stroke. For example a scissor kick (a wide kick causing drag and a parachute like effect on your swim) can usually be traced back to errors at the front of the stroke, such as a cross over.  This front end stroke flaw can cause a balance issue, the scissor kick is simply your body's way of gaining balance back.  To this end many athletes say they have an issue with their kick but it actually traces back to another area of the stroke on examination.  We can then focus on rectifying the stroke flaw, which suddenly (and as if by magic) helps to resolve their 'Kick' issue.

6.  Use Fins!  Many athletes I see believe that using fins is 'cheating'.  In fact it can be very beneficial as it allows more propulsion to aid any kick on side based drills, keeping your form top notch.  Fins can also add a feel for the kick mechanics as you will feel if you are overly generating a kick from the knee, they will also help gently stretch the ankle if you are stiff in this area and unable to point your toes.
Sadly in an age of Health and Safety please check with your local pool before spending money on Fins, as many do not allow their use, or restrict them to certain times or lanes.

7.  Engage your core!  I have a saying of swim proud, swim tall and engage your stomach muscles upwards.  Imagine a loose piece of string between your lower rib cage and pelvis and you need to extend yourself upwards to make it tight.  That is swimming tall and swimming proud.  
You don't need fancy kit to do this, just a bit of focus whilst you swim.  One video analysis swimmer we saw used a weighted kick board in the hope of engaging the core, but in fact they were not engaging correctly and actually had a totally incorrect body position in the water. Simple steps to rectify with no aids and a bit of mental thought won, Swimmer 1 - Gimmick Training Aid 0.  Again, burn those boards!

8.  Finally, Kick timing.  We don't often think about kick timing as it just happens, which is another common statement from athletes when asked about kick ('It just happens").  You may hear the terms 2 beat, 4 beat or 6 beat kick, simply put this is the number of kicks you take per complete arm cycle.  Many swimmers do not know their own kick timing but it is worth trying to gauge as it will help with your overall stroke.  Personally I use a 2 beat kick, it fits my stroke and the distances (long distance swimmer) I swim, but it may not suit everybody.  Get to know your kick timing!

So that's our little take on kick.  Don't just endlessly kick away up and down a pool, especially if you are swimming distances of over 400m.  Become more rounded, focus on technique, body position and alignment as part of this kick work.  You will then not only be working towards a more stable, stronger kick but also working towards a better all round stroke.

If you wish to find out more about your swim take a look at our Swim Smooth Certified Advanced Video Analysis & Stroke Correction Sessions.  We will also be looking at kick, core and body position in this weeks Pure Technique Squads.


This Weeks Free Swim Set

We talked about kick this week, so lets focus on this in this weeks Swim set.  You can find this at  I hope you enjoy the set, adjust it to your on time and swim level and remember to give us feedback if you like it at

2017 Open Water Session Details - Available for Booking Now

Already we are being asked about 2017 Open Water offerings from South West Swim, we even have provisional bookings coming in for our Clinics and 1-2-1's already.
Once again we are very proud to be coaching from the two Premier Open Water Venues in the Cotswolds:
South Cerney Outdoor (Lake12) - From April this will be home to our Hugely popular introduction to Open Water Swimming Clinic, Novice Open Water Squad, Beginners Open Water Squad (new) and Youth Open Water Squad (new).  We will also be delivering 1-2-1 sessions at the lake.

Waterland Outdoor Pursuits (Lake32) - From April this will be the home of our Lake Video Analysis sessions, Early morning  1-2-1's, Our Distance Open Water Squad (now 75mins in length) and we will also use lake 32 (and Lake 12) for our Bespoke session for Swimming Clubs, Triathlon Clubs, Corporate Bookings and ASA Sessions.

Our exact Start dates will depend on Water temperatures at the time but our first clinic will be on the 22nd April, With squads starting from Monday 24th April and Tuesday 25th April respectively.  Interim timetable as follows, please note that we may offer 1-2-1 sessions earlier in April depending on water temperatures (tbc):
Mondays Lake12 - Novice Open Water Squad 6pm & 1-2-1 Availability 7pm
Tuesdays Lake32 - Distance Open Water Squad 5:45pm
Wednesdays Lake12 - Fortnightly Total Beginners Open water Squad / Youth Open Water Squad 6pm (from May) & 1-2-1 Availability 7pm
Thursdays Lake 32 - 1-2-1 availability 5:45pm & 7pm
Saturdays - Either Clinics at Lake12 or 1-2-1 availability at Lake32 (times tbc)
Sundays - 1-2-1 Availability at Lake32 (times tbc)
Daily - 1-2-1 Sessions Available at Lake32 at 9am
Monday & Thursday - 6am sessions available for Lake 32 Members only.

Coaches Open Water Background:  Sessions will be taken by Jason Tait, who as well as being Swim Smooth Certified is one of the regions only fully qualified ASA and STA Open Water Specialist Coaches. Jason also sits on various committees and groups to progress open water swimming both at a local / regional level and also at an international level, and is a qualified Open Water Coaching Tutor.  We focus and specialise on all types of Open Water Swimmer and Triathlete from nervous first timer to age groupers performing at national and international level (both swim and Tri).  
South West Swim are also pleased to introduce Colin Jones, an experienced coach at many age group levels, including masters swimming.  Colin is also fully qualified as an ASA Open Water Swimming Coach.  Collin will be providing his expert assistance in some of our clinics and workshops.

Our open water offerings will fit in with our existing summer pool squad structure, details of changes to our pool program to be confirmed later in the spring.

Have a great swimming week and until next time, happy swimming 

Jason Tait
South West Swim Head Coach

Thanks to Swim Smooth Perth for some of the swimmer images.

This Weeks Pool Squad Schedule (30th Jan)

Tuesday 8pm - Pure Technique Set 1
Tuesday 9pm - Pure Technique Set 2
Thursday 8pm - Pure Technique Set 1
Friday 6am - RED MIST (Spaces)
Sunday 3pm - CSS Pacing / Sprints
*Free Squad Trials available to new swimmers on all sessions except for Tuesday 8pm. Existing squad swimmers remember our recommend a friend offer)

South West Swim - Upcoming Swim Smooth Sessions and Workshops.
Book Sessions online or via our Mobile App (Search South West Swim in Google / Apple Stores), booking also now available directly from the South West Swim pages.

Endless Pool 1-2-1 Sessions & Learn To Swim Front Crawl Sessions
50-60 minute 1-2-1 sessions with video playback and in water coaching where required.
From new swimmers to experienced swimmers we cover all levels.
Single sessions, 3 session pack or 6 session packs available (multi sessions include 1 months access to the swim  
We also offer our Learn to Swim Front Crawl sessions in the Endless Pool.  A fantastic and private way to start your front crawl journey under expert tuition.

Swim Smooth Advanced Video Analysis & Stroke Correction
This is our premier service, offering the very best technical input to your stroke using swim smooth certified coaching.  We have athletes who travel many miles for these sessions so why not start your season the right way.  These sessions are a very personalised approach to technique training, working on the areas you need to work on to improve your swim and sending you away with the tools, training plans and mindset to do so. During the session we will film your stroke from various angles and analyse it poolside with you, recording the session for you to take away on the day.  We will then get you back in the pool to give you structured guidance on our recommended drills and actions to start your improvment.  At the end of the session you will receive your analysis, raw footage, swim type plan, fault fixer plan and a 1 month Subscription to the unique and amazing Swim Smooth Guru which contains further sets and specific training plans to help your ongoing development.
Junior Sessions are also available, a slightly shorter session aimed at 9-14 year olds  at County or Regional Level.  These sessions will typically last an hour.  If the swimmer is slightly older or looking for national times we would recommend a full video analysis session.
These sessions are used with performance and national level swimmers from a local top level swim club, showing great results.

Swim Smooth Pool Squads
FREE TRIALS AVAILABLE - Making you a better swimmer, faster swimmer and a less injury prone swimmer.  We offer measured and productive year round training for swimmers and Triathletes of all levels.  Whether you want to compete at a high level or just get fitter and stronger we believe we offer the most comprehensive training in the area, heavily focused on good technique and pacing.  
Swim Smooth Certified Coaching
Swindon based
Trial places available if you are new to swimming in our squads, come and feel the difference we can make to your swim.
Session and Squad Type Info

Swim Smooth Millfield Day Clinic
A day of Analysis, Stroke work and seminars to improve your stroke and build your swim.  We will be holding various clinics thorough 2016/2017 and each will have a limited number of spaces available, so please book on quickly to avoid disappointment.
Millfied School, Street - 18th February 2017.  Places, We are very proud to be able to offer this clinic from the world class facilities of Millfield. This clinic will be run alongside our Swim Smooth Certified colleague Steve Bailey of Steve Bailey Coaching.
Pool & Open Water Weekend Clinic - May 27th at Dean Close School (Saturday - Day Clinic) / Lake32 Cotswolds (Sunday Morning - Open water Clinic) TBC - Register interest in the Weekend Clinic at and we will keep you posted of exact plans.

Chilly Dippers
The first two events in November and December have been getting great reviews and feedback, thank you.  Our Chilly Dipper Events are jointly run with Waterland Outdoor Pursuits.  Remaining dates are:  
February 11th
March TBC depending on water temp and demand (it may be to warm)
Our aim is to encourage swimmers to try winter swimming, either wet suited or non wet suited.  Various distances available.
See for information and booking 

Open Water 1-2-1 Sessions
Now booking for 2017, April onwards

Tailored Open Water 1-2-1 sessions to make your Open water swim so much better.  We cater from first timers to age group athletes, channel swimmers and Ironman athletes.  Jason Tait is one of the only fully qualified ASA & STA Open Water Specialist coaches in the SW Region, Swim Smooth Certified, an experienced Open Water distance Swimmer, Triathletes and sits on various governing bodies for The ASA (Open Water).

Open Water Swim Smooth Squads
Now Booking for 2017, April onwards (exact start dates tbc)
Tune your open water skills, build your fitness and endurance and do things in the water you may have not known about.  Train with one of the only fully qualified ASA & STA Open Water Specialist coaches in the SW Region and also Swim Smooth Certified. Be ready for your Swim or Tri events.
Lake 12 and Lake 32 Cotswolds,
Novice sessions Mon (6pm) from 24th April
Distance sessions Tues  (6pm) from 25th April
Beginners Sessions (6pm) From May TBC
Youth Sessions (6pm) From May TBC
Entry requirements need to be met, see information for more details.
Please Note: These sessions can be over subscribed, regular squad members will get priority so please ensure you book early to avoid disappointment.

Introduction to Open water Swimming 2017
Back again, our ever popular Intro to Open Water Swimming mini clinics are available to book online.  Starting in April these Mornings will give new swimmers the confidence and skills to get into open water safely and gain experience to perform in their Swim or Triathlon events and / or to join our Open Water squads.
Sessions Currently held at the 2016 price.
April 22nd 2017
May 20th 2017
June 24th 2017
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