Timing the kick with hand entry

author : garyhallsr
comments : 0

Question from jellyman

I was reading an article from "Swimming in a Nutshell" by Marty Gaal. In the article, he was describing how the entry of the hand at the beginning of the stroke cycle should be accompanied by a kick with the opposing leg.
 
In my two-beat I'm pretty certain I've been kicking with the wrong leg as I'm "catching." I'm eager to try coach Gaal's method. Should those with a two-beat kick perform the kick with the opposing leg as they're reaching and extending? Is this part of the missing link for me?

I heard it described somewhere else that this is an often overlooked element in keeping the energy moving forward; in other words, the act of propelling oneself forward with a timed kick and reach is just as important as the catch. Or do I have this all wrong -- again!?

Answer from Gary Hall Sr.
The Race Club

The kick provides four different functions ... all of them important. The first function is to provide propulsion. The second is to provide lift. The third is to create part of the stabilizing force for the arm pull, which begins with the body counter-rotation and ends with the hardest of the 6-beat kicks. The fourth is to maintain a more constant speed (obeying the law of inertia).

A two-beat kick really only provides two of the four functions: some lift and a contribution to a stabilizing force for the pull. There is not enough propulsion to speak of with a two-beat kick and the kicks do not occur often enough to sustain speed. By using the two-beat kick, you are giving up on using legs for propulsion; therefore in order to achieve and maintain higher swimming speed, it is necessary to couple a two-beat kick with a higher arm stroke rate for freestyle (over 90 to 100 strokes per minute, ideally). The timing is such that the down kick occurs precisely with the opposite hand entry, which also occurs toward the end of the underwater pull of the same side hand, helping to increase the power of that pull.

Although we don’t see two-beat kicks used very often among world-class swimmers today, they are useful when the swimmer has a very poor kick, has a wetsuit on, or simply wants to save the legs as much as possible for the bike and run. The two beat kick is a better tactic in salt water because of the added buoyancy. In salt water, one is less dependent on strong legs to provide lift.

The other alternative to the two-beat kick is the six-beat kick. (There is no four-beat kick; although some swimmers alternate a two-beat and six-beat kick on alternate pulls.) One can either kick once per arm stroke or three times per arm stroke. The six-beat kick has the potential to produce more propulsive power and lift and helps sustain a more constant speed, but it requires tremendous conditioning and fitness in order to do so. A strong six-beat kick is essential in order to swim fast with either a hip-driven freestyle, gliding and holding out in front, or the hybrid freestyle, like Phelps, Lochte and Lezak use. One can also use a soft six-beat kick that more or less serves the same purpose as the two-beat kick. It doesn’t provide much propulsion, but does keep the legs lifted and on the surface.

In order to develop a strong six-beat kick, one must not only condition the legs for continuous rapid movement, but one must also develop extreme ankle flexibility and hyperextension of the knees. You can find some videos on our site at www.theraceclub.com with drills and exercises that will help you develop these skills.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.
The Race Club

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date: April 12, 2011

Author


garyhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

Author

avatargaryhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

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