5 Reasons You Should Be Working on Your Underwater Fly Kick

Michael Butler
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The underwater dolphin kick and breakout can make up as much as 30% of your race.

So, why aren’t we working on it?

Theres a lot to say about the dolphin kick, but I will try to keep it short. The biggest issue that I have seen with swimmers is they are not using the kick proportionally to the arm stroke. This is setting them up for failure.

If you have a review of your strokes, you may notice that you have large percentages of your strokes underwater. If this is the case then you need to work on your under water dolphin kick.

The kick is what is going to get you from one arm cycle to the other for the rest of the race. The more you work on the kick the less you will have to strain your arms which is more than likely where the majority of your fatigue is going to come from.

Your breakouts are the moments you are going fastest in the water.

It’s similar to a baseball pitcher who has the best add in his fastball, a tennis player with a great backhand, a golfer with a great drive, or a runner with a long stride. Breakouts are the areas of your swimming where you are making gains, and as a result, faster overall. And no breakouts are more important than your underwater fly kick.

Here are five reasons why you should be working on your underwater fly kick.

It’s the key to becoming a better swimmer. It’s the main way to build endurance in the water. Swimmers are so underdeveloped in this area of their swimming that it creates a huge hole in their swimming which other swimmers can take advantage of. You need to fix it fast if you want to reach your potential.

The best swimmers have the fastest underwater fly kick. This is far and away the most important and dramatic level of improvement you can make in your swimming technique. The best swimming speed is achieved by powerful underwater swimming. Swimmers with poor underwater swimming technique will never be able to become a good swimmer. You should train your underwater kick if you want to go faster.

It can help make up for a less than awesome swim speed.

It activates your gluteus maximus (your booty muscles).

It helps your shoulders and core stabilize your body and turn over quickly.

It can help you perform better on all your other strokes.

It lets you show off and motivate your training partners.

The press and kiss is a freestyle swimming drill that will help you improve your kick so that you can become a more efficient freestyle swimmer and decrease your times.

The freestyle press and kiss is an advanced swimming drill, similar to the dolphin kick improvement drill, but it’s a bit more challenging because you’ll need to kick underwater in a streamline position. While it’s fair for advanced swimmers, you can adjust the difficulty of the drill by using your arms less. This will eventually help you work on your pull, but your kick is more important at this point.

Here’s how the freestyle press and kiss swimming drill works…

{1}. Solo Setup: Catch a streamline and glide underwater for a few strokes (any stroke will do).
{2}. Kick in a slightly wider position than your streamline to have a good and stable body line. Kick powerfully and rotate your hips…

It’ll help improve your overall leg fitness.

Legs development includes the entire package, from calves and quads and glutes to adductors and abductors. Strong legs are crucial for running in water and resisting swimmer’s fatigue.

Your overall fitness level will be improved with the lower body strength and endurance you’ll build by working the kick every day.

It helps develop strong muscles and quickness.

Maintaining that downward pull of your leg as you kick sends a message to your brain that your body needs to work harder. It rids your body of lactic acid.

It’s great for building upper body strength and endurance.

Practicing the lower body kick works the upper body in a similar way. You’re likely to feel a strong arm burn with basic hand paddles while you swim. You might even be surprised at how tough it is to maintain a rhythm while holding your breath.

It’s a great cardio workout.

It’s harder for your body to create propulsion without a kick than it is to propel yourself with a kick. As a result, you’ll grow the lungs of a competitive distance swimmer and you’ll devour laps as you improve endurance and develop complete lower body strength.

It helps you learn to coordinate your movements.

It teaches you the importance of reducing drag.

When you’re snorkeling without fins and you come upon a fast upwelling, you may experience what is known as “inertia toss.” Inertia toss happens when the upwelling water pushes you under and your body is forced to float up.

You can avoid it by reducing the amount of drag in your body. Now, if you’re the type who likes to swim – either trained or just for fun – you know that the fastest way to gain speed is by pushing water backwards.

So when you’re snorkeling in a strong current, your best defense against inertia toss is to learn how to swim with big arm actions. You can’t do this with an “uphill” kick. With a strong uphill kick, your feet are held firmly on the sandy surface.

Only with a strong underwater fly kick can your legs move freely enough to swim with big movements. This is why the fly kick is so important in resisting inertia toss when snorkeling.

The Next Step

While so much emphasis is placed on perfecting the skill of the individual arms, there is often an overlooked component of freestyle that is equally, sometimes more, important to regularly work on. There is a rhythm that is developed between the legs and arms that can be practiced and perfected, which will help you raise your swim times and overall freestyle efficiency.

The One-Arm Fly Kick

The one-arm fly kick is a single arm movement where the recovering arm reaches down and through the water… allowing the active arm to drive forward. During this process, the legs should remain stationary with both the feet and legs in a line. This arm/leg ratio will provide a level water stream, keeping the legs low to the ground and push off from the center of power.

Rhythm Kicking

Rhythm or timing between your arms and legs is essential. So, in learning the one-arm fly kick, you are naturally developing that synchronization. You can begin by practicing the two-arm kick, and then gradually shift your focus to one-arm float while maintaining the timing of your kick. The one-arm fly kick, though it is a vital component of the freestyle swim stroke, doesn’t have to be a complete replacement. You can continue to develop your arms while practicing this new skill.