Sunday, April 16, 2017

Freestyle Kicking Drills

I first wrote an article about Freestyle Kick Drills A and B in 2008, during the years I have been asked many times if there was a Kick Drill C. As of 2015 or so, I added one that allows us to work on the full breathing cycle. Here is the updated article.

Most of the drills I tend to use in my coaching come in the form of progressions, one drill leads to the next drill which leads to the next and usually they end up with swimming. This Freestyle Kick Drill progression is one we use often. The key aspect that these drills do for you that others don't is that breathing is part of the drills. For new swimmers, particularly those who learned as adults, lifting your head to breathe is a huge issue. The goal is to breathe with your head low in the water, lifting your head means you are pressing down into the water to lift it. Action - reaction. These should help eliminate those issues.

But there are several other aspects of the swim stroke that we work on using these drills. We use it to work on:
  • rotation when breathing
  • the length of your pull
  • the position of your extended arm when breathing (arm angled down from your shoulder)
We pick one particular emphasis for any time that we are doing one of these drills.

And that in itself is a good point. There is no drill that is so good that you don't need to think while doing it. Nothing that you can turn your brain off and go and then think it will help. Every drill, including these, needs to have a focus point for the swimmer to work on as they do it. So naturally I encourage swimmers and coaches to use these drills with a specific emphasis point in mind when they start them.

Lastly, these drills can be used in place of normal kicking. If a coach wants the swimmer to do some kicking but also perhaps work on technique while doing it, these drills can be used for the same distance as normal kicking but have the swimmers kick harder while doing them. Also, for a swimmer, you might be looking at a workout or workout plan that includes a lot of kicking and you want to work on the kick but also want to work some of your technique too, you can do the same thing. Perform these drills with a stronger kick than normal to get a bit of both benefits.
The first drill is used for basic leg conditioning, helps you keep your head low when stroking and when breathing, and helps with skeedaddle legs.

FS Kick Drill A


Push off the wall in a prone glide position and use a fast flutter kick. When you need to breathe, take one arm pull and breathe to the side of that arm. Breathe whenever you need to, there's no real need to hold your breath on this drill.

At first you will need to do 25s with about 20 seconds rest to keep from tiring out. If you tire out you won't be able to perform the drill well and won't get the full benefit.

Points of emphasis

  • Note that in the video, the swimmer's extended arm is out, angled down, and doesn't move as the swimmer breathes. This is absolutely key.
  • Look straight down as you kick. This is proper head position when swimming distance freestyle and importantly this is the position that helps you stay horizontal without having to kick your legs back to the surface.
  • Don't lift your head to breathe. If your body sinks underwater after you breathe, then that means you lifted yourself up and pushed water down toward the bottom of the pool. Point your belly button to the side of the pool as you breathe to help you get air by rotating your whole body rather than by lifting your head.
  • Your non-stroking arm needs to keep pointing forward and slightly downward. A common error is to angle your hand up in the “stop in the name of love” position as you breathe.
  • Keep kicking as you breathe, don't stop your feet. Scissoring your legs out wide and holding them there in a desperate attempt to keep them from sinking is called skeedaddle legs. Keep the overkicking rhythm up through the breathing stroke. 


The goal of the Freestyle Kick Drill A drill is to keep your body in a horizontal line when kicking and breathing

Freestyle Kick Drill B

Once you think you have your head looking straight down and are breathing by looking to the side rather than lifting your head out of the water, it's time to move on. Or more likely, when you are tired of doing the first drill. Either way it's time to move on.


Same motion and rhythm as Freestyle Kick Drill B except that you look forward underwater to watch your hands. Breathe when you need to.

Points of emphasis

  • Note that your elbows are below your shoulders and your wrist is below your elbow. in the end your fingers would be a foot or so below the surface.
  • Before you start your pull, internally rotate your shoulders putting your arms into a good catch position. This will allow you to make sure you are moving water backwards and not down.

  • Watch your hands enter the water after you breathe to make sure they enter flat and move straight forward from your shoulder. Lots of folks put their hands in in front of their head or sometimes even across the other side of their head.  Since you are looking forward you should see your hands enter the water off the the side, not in the center of your vision.


Perfect hand entry, catch and pull.

FS Kick Drill C


In this drill, instead of starting and stopping in a flat, face-down position; you start and finish in a long side-lying position. When you need to breathe, take one complete stroke cycle and breathe to the side of the arm that is extended.

Points of emphasis

  • Note that in the video, the swimmer's extended arm is out, angled down, and doesn't move as the swimmer breathes. This is absolutely key.
  • Stay in a long position on your side as if you are at full extension in freestyle. If you are having to look around your arm to see the bottom of the pool, you are too far on your side.

Slide Crawl

The slide crawl takes you closer to freestyle swimming. Helping to transfer the skills you have gained here into your freestyle stroke.


The action of this drill is the same as that of the kicking drill except that you first use one arm, then the other, and repeat the movements over and over again. Keep up the overkicking for this drill.

Points of Emphasis

  • Pull, recovery, and catch up on each side, starting the next stroke as soon as the preceeding arm finishes a stroke.
  • Breathe whenever necessary, but keep up your overkicking.


Maintain the kick rhythm, body position and hand action of the previous drills while swimming almost-freestyle.

 Implementing into your training

You can substitute any of these drills anytime your workout plan says kicking, as part of your warmup, or whenever it is your choice of drill.

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