The 411 on Kicking

Kicking is easily one of the most important components to having an efficient stroke. If your kick is lacking you are virtually pulling yourself through the water with your hands, not to mention how difficult it can be to get in a good breath without good forward mobility.

I get a lot of questions in regards to kicking. From what kick to use to how to master great kicking technique to how to be more efficient or fast. Below I’ve listed the breakdown of each kick. I’ve included some tips and also a specific breakdown of the upbeat and downbeat. The upbeat is the movement your legs should be making as they approach the surface of the water, and the downbeat is the motion your legs make as they head towards the bottom of the pool.

All kicks should begin with the swimmer in streamline position. Neutral position for all kicks should resemble streamline position.


Flutter (Front Crawl Kick)

Throughout the flutter kick ankles should be lose and there should only be a slight bend in the knees. It is easy to over bend your knees and resemble a sort of bicycle kick. If this is the case for you, practice keeping your legs straight until you can add in a gradual bend in the downbeat. 

Flutter kick is an alternating kick. While the left leg is in completing the upbeat, the right will be doing the downbeat motion.

Upbeat: In an alternating movement bring leg upward to the surface of the water, allowing the heel to break the surface of the water.

Downbeat: When foot has reached the surface snap ankle and foot downward.


Flutter (Back Crawl Kick)

Upbeat: Straighten legs alternatively until the toes gently break the surface of the water. Ankles and knees should be lose and not locked. Toes should be pointed.

Downbeat: Bend slightly at the knees allowing ankles to drop down towards the buttocks area.


Breaststroke (Breaststroke Kick)

Begin in streamline position. The goal is to keep knees as close together as possible, but for many non-swimmers are swimming newbies this can be hard to achieve right away. Continue to practice the upbeat and downbeat on your stomach and on your back if it helps you achieve the complete motion.

There should be a break in movement when legs join together at the end of the downbeat, this break is called the glide and it resembles the streamline position.


Upbeat: Bring heels to buttocks and allow knees to drop.

Downbeat: Move feet into a circular motion until the feet are outside of the knee area about hip width apart. While heels are at surface of the water, flex feet and point toes to the side, as you forcefully bring your legs together creating a squeezing movement. Legs will come together, fully extended, with toes pointed.


Dolphin (Butterfly Kick)

The Dolphin Kick begins from the upper abdominal area and moves from the hips to the thighs to the ankles in one singular, wave-like movement. Legs remain together for entire kick, without separating. This is not an alternating kick.

Upbeat: Straighten legs as you allow feet to reenter the water. Allow hips to rise above the surface and return back to neutral position.

Downbeat: Knees bend allowing heels to briefly break the surface of the water.



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10 responses to “The 411 on Kicking

  1. seriously, kicking KICKS my tail…and i love it!

  2. You know your stuff about swimming! What an informative post – thanks 🙂

  3. I wish I knew how to swim – I can float, but I’ve always envied good swimmers!

    When I did a triathlon 3 years ago, the look on my husband’s face when I made it out of the water was priceless!

  4. What a cool post…very informative and those are good pictures too. 🙂

  5. Love your swimming posts…you are definitely an expert on this! 🙂

  6. thanks for the info on kicking! i need to just take the plunge 😉

  7. Great pictures! I love the swimming posts because it seems like a rarity in the blogger/runner world. I’m a swimmer first, runner second. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Intro to Turns « What Kate Ate

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  10. sid

    wot’s the streamline position in swimming

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