Every sport loves its idiosyncrasies, idioms, and insider jargon. Swimming is no different. Perhaps, even in an unrivaled realm of its own. Think flip turns, dolphin kick, high elbows, and streamlining just to name a few.
So it comes as no great surprise that swimming literally has very specific stroke related skills associated with ‘kicking’. And figuratively speaking, a swimming ‘kick’ is more commonly associated with the ability to finish a race with strength and power by chasing down or separating from the competition.
Kicking Up and Down to Go Forward
Kicking may be the most dynamic part of a great swimmer. The fluid motion of freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly requires impeccable timing and a great range of motion. Many of the best kickers have tremendous hyper-extension through their knees and/or ankles that increase efficiency in the water or get rolled when they step out of bed in the morning.
But before you go 'stretching' your tendons (and please don't), try kicking with swimming hand paddles on, arms outstretched like superman and your chin on the surface. Start with big, massive kicks that rival the the greatest ballets and 'tighten' up your kicking rate as you move down the pool. And as the 'odd' sensation becomes more 'normal', lower your head to a neutral position and 'roll over' into roller coaster kick.
Liftoff from a Specifically Designed Swim Paddle
The breaststroke kick is wonderfully unique and undergoing a shift as Adam Peaty has dropped the 100 record 1.5 seconds since the tech suit era. In that time no other 100 LCM world record, man or woman, has dropped more than a couple of tenths. Enter tesla innovation and das boot ingenuity to try and understand the astounding feel for the water.
The best breaststrokers aren't bringing their heels straight back. Instead they turn their feet slightly inward when the hands initiate the catch. And when the hands are underneath the body, the das boot action takes place as the feet quickly turn outward and create a second 'catch' while the hands recover.
The transfer of energy is nearly seamless. And to train the feeling, try swim paddles with a small sweeping catch to absorb and transfer the initial energy from the edge of the paddles. Avoid any pause you might feel when you lift your feet by keeping the paddles in constant connection with your hand entry throughout to maximize distance per stroke.
Use any Kick to Chase or Separate and Finish Races
A swimmer's finishing kick can make or break a race pace and great kicking at the right time can make all the difference. Think Jason Lezak drafting off Alain Bernard's heavy kick induced wake so as to slingshot past on the 2nd 50. And even worse for Bernard, overusing your legs may contribute more to overall fatigue. Alex Hutchinson writes in RunnersWorld
The researchers also mention very briefly the potential siwm training implications of their findings: If arms are less susceptible to nonlocal fatigue than legs, then it might make sense to do leg exercise first if you're combining both in one session.
So the surface area of swim paddles could allow swimmers to maintain speed (avoid stroke mechanics falling apart) during swim training while their kick 'hangs on'. Making it beneficial to train heavy kicking first, but bring it into your kick later on during the race.
And find creative swim coaches to challenge them both. In the late 90's Michael Klim was breaking world records with a dolphin kick over the last 10 meters of his 100. And more recently it was Michael Phelps' experimenting with the same technique.