Learn how to Flutter Kick in the Freestyle Stroke

The flutter kick is the kick used in the freestyle stroke. Learning this kick is an important prerequisite for learning the freestyle stroke. That's why we designed the swimming exercises on this page to teach you this technique.

What Is The Flutter Kick?

Let's imagine that you are floating in the water in a prone position, with legs straight and toes pointed. To execute the kick, you alternately kick downward with one leg, a little bit like kicking a soccer ball, while you move the other leg upward, and vice versa.

At the start of the downbeat, the downward movement starts from your hip. You slightly flex your knee while the water pressure pushes your foot in an extended position (plantar flexion). At the end of the downbeat, you extend your knee.

During the upbeat, the water pressure will extend your leg and push your foot in an intermediary resting position.

The propulsive phase of the kick occurs during the first half of the downbeat.

Why Learn The Flutter Kick?

You need to know the flutter kick if you want to swim freestyle. But it is also useful as a basic swimming technique for the following reasons:

  1. It is easy to learn.
  2. It teaches basic propulsion.
  3. It allows you to stay afloat in a horizontal position.
  4. It can be used along with a sculling motion of your hands to tread water and stay afloat in a vertical position.

Swimming Exercises Video

The following video demonstrates our exercises which are described further below:

Swimming Exercises

To learn the kick, the following sequence of swimming exercises can be used:

  1. Grab the edge of the pool (or a pool lane). Push off the ground, and start to alternately kick up and down with your legs. Make sure that your feet are in plantar flexion (toes pointed). Feel how the kick pushes your legs and hips up to the water surface. Extend your arms while holding onto the pool edge until your body is straight and horizontal. Stop kicking when you need to breathe.
  2. Repeat the previous exercise but now put your head in the water so that it is in line with your body. Try to get as horizontal as possible and feel how the kick supports your legs. Stop when you need to breathe.
  3. Repeat the previous exercise but now try this: as your body gets horizontal, feel how you need to hold onto the edge of the pool less and less to support your body. Try to get balanced up to the point where you only hold onto the edge with your finger tips. Then release your hold. Keep on kicking and feel how you are floating in perfect balance. Congratulations! You can now flutter kick and have learned an important skill which is horizontal balance.
  4. Push of the wall in a streamlined position: Your arms are extended overhead and your hands are on top of each other. Your head is aligned with your torso. Try to get balanced like in the previous exercise and glide as far as possible.
  5. Repeat the previous exercise, pushing off the wall and gliding in a streamlined balanced position. During the glide, start to flutter kick to maintain momentum. Continue to kick and maintain balance until you need to breathe, then stop.
  6. Grab a kick board and hold it with your arms extended overhead. Assume the same horizontal position like before and use the kick for propulsion. Keep the head above the water. Do short repeats.
  7. Repeat the previous exercise but now keep your head in line with your body and your face in the water. When you need to inhale, lift your head up, then put it back into the water to exhale. This exercise is easier on your legs but harder on your lungs than the previous one.


  • The power in the kick comes from the hips, not from the knees. Your knees should only bend slightly during the downbeat. Think flutter kick, not bicycle kick!
  • If you have stiff ankles it could be difficult for you to point your toes. If that's the case, using swim fins can help loosen up your ankles and they will become more flexible over time. My preference goes to Zoomers as their short blades make one's kick more akin to a finless kick.
  • If your hips and legs still have the tendency to drop while flutter kicking, it could be that your upper body is too high in the water. Try to increase the downward pressure on your head and chest. The buoyancy of your lungs should let your legs and hips come up.
  • A friend or swim buddy can give you great feedback and help you correct your position if it is difficult for you to get balanced.


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