Being able to do the flutter kick is an important prerequisite for learning the freestyle stroke. So in the following article we explain this technique and propose a few swimming drills to learn this kick.
How to Flutter Kick
Let’s imagine that you are floating in the water in a prone position, with your legs extended and feet pointed. To flutter kick, alternate kicking downward with one leg, a bit like kicking into a ball, while moving the other leg upward, and vice versa.
Start the downward movement from your hip. Slightly flex your knee while moving downward. The water pressure pushes your foot in an extended position. Straighten your knee at the end of the downward movement.
Now during the upward movement, the water pressure will extend your leg and push your foot in a half-flexed position.
The propulsive phase of the kick occurs during the first half of the downbeat.
Swimming Drills Video
The following video shows the swimming drills described below:
The following drills can be used to learn the flutter kick:
- Hold onto the pool edge (or a pool lane marker). Push off the ground, and start to alternately kick up and down. Make sure your feet are pointed. Keep your head above water. Feel how the kick pushes your legs and hips upward. Straighten your arms while holding onto the pool edge until your body is horizontal and fully extended.
- Repeat the previous exercise but now put your head in the water so it is in line with your body. Try to get as horizontal as possible and feel how you can use a lighter kick to float. Stop kicking when you need to breathe.
- Repeat the previous exercise but now try this: as your body gets horizontal, feel how you need to hold onto the pool edge less and less to support your body. Try to become so balanced you only need to hold onto the edge with your fingertips. Then let go. Keep kicking and feel how you are floating in perfect horizontal balance.
- Push of the wall in a streamlined position: Your arms are extended forward and your hands are on top of each other. Your head is aligned with your torso. Try to become balanced, as you practiced in the previous exercises, and try to glide as far as possible.
- Repeat the previous exercise, pushing off the wall and gliding in a streamlined balanced position. Start to flutter kick while gliding to maintain momentum. Continue to kick and maintain balance until you need to breathe, then stop.
- Grab a kickboard and hold it in front of you with your arms extended. Assume the same horizontal position as before and use the kick for propulsion. Keep your head above water. Do short repeats.
- Repeat the previous exercise but now keep your head in line with the body and the face down. Raise your head to inhale, then drop your face in the water and exhale slowly while kicking. This exercise is easier for your legs because you are balanced, but harder on your lungs because breathing is restrained.
- You can use a swimmer’s snorkel to make breathing easier while practicing.
- The power in the kick comes from your hips, not from your 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 feet. If so, using swimming fins regularly can improve the flexibility of your ankles. My preference goes to short fins like Speedo Biofuse because the kicking movements are more natural than when using longer fins.
- If your hips and legs still drop while flutter kicking, it could be your upper body is positioned too high in the water. Increase the downward pressure on your chest and head. Your body should behave like a seesaw and your legs should rise.
- If you still have trouble finding your balance in the water, a friend can help by giving you feedback and correcting your position.
If you need more detailed instructions and videos to learn the freestyle stroke, I recommend the following Total Immersion products. The Extraordinary Swimming For Everybody book and it's Perpetual Motion Freestyle companion DVD will allow you to learn the freestyle stroke at your own pace in a relaxed manner, using the same philosophy and similar exercises as here on Enjoy-Swimming.com. Highly recommended!
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