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Thoughts on developing kick strength

Having a strong effective kick is the at the foundation of developing good body position in the water. Too often, though, I see swim squads doing kick sets with no real aim in mind. When working with swimmers, I make it a goal to mix up the kick for different purposes.

Build – I really like build kick sets, as swimmers, too often, fade and drop there speed towards the end of a repetition. For example, when swimming 8 x 50m freestyle kick, swimmers slow down towards the end of each rep. By having the swimmers start our a little slower and focus on increasing their speed, we develop better resistance to fatigue. To make things easier for the swimmers, I sometimes give them markers, points along the way where they need to increase speed.

Varying speed – It is important that swimmers learn when they need to kick fast to develop speed and when to kick at a sustained speed, usually at longer distances, to develop endurance. It is OK for swimmers to swim  sets of 10 x 100m kick with even speed, so long as they know why they are doing it. I like sets where speed changes for example 12 x 50m kick, every 3rd 50m is flat out getting within 3 seconds of PB kick speed. I have also incorporated speed play ‘fartlek’ swim sets into training. For example 400m kick, one blast on the whistle means swimmers work at 90% effort and two blasts of the whistle to return to a 75% aerobic effort. The efforts are ramdomised, so the swimmer does not know what is coming next in terms of effort and recovery duration.

Resistance kicking – having swimmers freestyle kick with no splash, or on their side means that greater resistance is created in the effort, strengthening the legs. Vertical kicking is another great way to develop kick strength.

Swimming snorkel kick sets – a snorkel is an excellent swimming aid for swimmers performing kicks sets without a board and developing the most natural body position in the water. A snorkel works well for freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke swim sets where you do not want the swimmer to interrupt their rhythm because of the breathing action.



Measuring improvement – knowing how far a swimmer can kick in 5 minutes, or knowing your ‘all out’ swim kick speed for 50m, are excellent bench-marking tools for swimmers to measure their progress. These benchmarks need testing against every 4-6 weeks.

photo credit: moutoons MOM 2017 via photopin (license)

Richard Bruford View All

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology.

With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools.

Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin.

In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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