Female Swimmers

effective kick

Once the head is in an optimal position, it is much easier to orientate the rest of the body. Arching the lower back lifts the legs to bring the heels to the surface. If the legs remain elevated behind the torso, resistance will be minimal. The smaller a hole you can cut through the direction of travel, the lower the water resistance you will encounter. Every time you push-off from the wall, maintain the streamline position until you feel your heels at the surface, arching your back as much as required. Once kicking is initiated, it is only necessary to maintain a leg position that is high enough to feel your heels break the surface on every upbeat.

Below, are some visualisation cues that should help you establish, then maintain, an effective kick.

  • Straight Legs​

  • Kick from the hips

  • Relaxed knees

  • Floppy ankles

  • Pointed toes

  • Feet close together, directly behind the torso

  • Back is arched enough for heels to break surface with every upbeat of kick


As you practice your kick, it is best to feel that the leg position is not very different from the streamline position. Your legs should feel straight and your toes should be pointed behind you. If it feels like there is any more than a slight amount of knee bend - there is probably excessive knee bend. If you are struggling to move forward with your kick - you are probably not pointing your toes behind you due to a lack of ankle flexibility. 


While the frequency of kicking may be important, swimmers typically put excessive effort into their kick. For long distance swimmers in particular, the legs only generate about 10% of total propulsion. So putting excessive effort into your kick will be futile. Particularly when working on upper-body technique, it is beneficial to maintain a kick effort level that is only sufficient to synchronise the legs with the arm motion (whether that’s a 2, 4, or 6-beat kick), but not to generate propulsion. Most swimmers naturally synchronize a 6-beat kick with their arm motion. A 6-beat kick has 3 downbeats for each leg per arm cycle. A 2-beat kick synchronises best if there is a downbeat with the arm entry on the opposite side. A 4-beat kick is the least popular.


When first beginning to work on technique, the kick frequency is not an immediate concern, whereas the amplitude (maximum distance between the feet) during the kick - is a key technical element. Many swimmers have an appropriate amplitude when their body is flat on the front (i.e. not rotating). When the body is rotated however, many swimmers increase the kick amplitude so that their feet are outside the body cross-section, causing extra resistance. When the torso rotates, it is natural for the feet to separate more than when the torso is not rotating, but this is not effective. You should be looking to maintain the same kick amplitude throughout the entire stroke cycle – whether flat on your front, or rotated on the side.

In the video below, you will find some drills to help improve your freestyle kick.

  • Kick with a Board (1:33)

  • Kick with Fins (2:24)

  • Vertical Kick (3:38)

  • Side Kick (4:33)