Have trouble kicking while you swim? Whether you’re just starting to learn breaststroke kick or you want to perfect your dolphin kick, you’ve come to the right place!

We’re sharing the 5 most common kicking mistakes and how to fix them, plus a few drills to try during your next workout!

1. Kicking Too Big

Now, you may be thinking, “if I want to swim faster, I should make my kick as big as possible so I pull more water.” Think again! Bigger isn’t always better. A huge kick creates extra drag, which slows you down big time. To reduce drag in your kick, it’s important to minimize the amount of time your legs are outside of your bodyline. 

So what does this mean for each stroke? In breaststroke, you want to keep your knees and feet relatively narrow. Try not to spread your knees wider than your shoulders. When your kick gets too wide, it becomes inefficient.

Related: Analyzing Simone Manuel’s Freestyle Stroke Technique

In flutter and dolphin kick, the same rule applies, but we’re looking at a vertical plane. Your kicks should be small, and your feet should not extend too far below or above your hips. In flutter kick, your kick amplitude should be about half a meter, and in dolphin kick it can be slightly bigger, but still pretty tight.

The key takeaway here: To kick faster, kick smaller!

2. Kicking Too Much 

Another common kicking misconception is that you have to kick as hard as you can to go faster. That may be true in sprint races, but it’s not true in most other cases. 

In your training sessions, kicking too much can actually slow you down. Your legs require a lot of blood and oxygen when you’re working hard, so kicking hard all the time will tire you out much faster.

Your kick should feel natural and support your body’s rotation. Focus more on your pull technique and body rotation, and your kick will come. Swimmers’ kick can range anywhere from a 2-beat kick (1 kick per arm stroke) to a 6-beat kick (3 kicks per arm stroke).

3. Skipping Leg Day

You might crush leg day in the gym, but are you dedicating time for leg day in the pool, too?

  • Kick Sets should make up no more than 10-50% of your workout. You can kick with or without a kickboard, mix up strokes and change up your speed or distance to challenge yourself.
  • Kicking Drills should be between 5-20% of your workout. Keep reading for a few kicking drills to try!
  • Kick While You Swim! Try focusing on your kick during certain sets. For example, work on maintaining a solid 6-beat kick, or taking 3-5 dolphin kicks off of every wall.

Incorporating equipment, such as fins or Hydrorevolution’s drag resistance equipment can help you build strength and challenge your legs for a more powerful kick. Get 20% off Hydrorevolution equipment with code MYSWIMPRO >

4. Poor Technique

Kicking with incorrect technique creates bad habits and can limit your speed in the long run. Let’s take a look at what good technique looks like for dolphin kick, breaststroke kick and flutter kick:

Dolphin Kick

Your dolphin kick should be a continuous undulation, sort of like a SINE curve. Avoid bending your knees too much — your kick should come from your hips. 

Related: How to Improve Your Underwater Dolphin Kick – Free Workout!

Strive to kick an equal distance in both directions. Many swimmers are better at the “down” kick than the “up” kick. To strengthen your “up” kick, work on strengthening your hamstrings and lower back.

Flutter Kick

Whether you are swimming freestyle or backstroke, the same technique pointers apply. Keep your legs relatively straight with your toes pointed. The kick should start at your hips, just like dolphin kick. Make sure to work on kicking both up and down in flutter kick, too!

Breaststroke Kick

Breaststroke is a whole different animal. Focus on driving your heels to your butt as quickly as possible. Strengthening your hamstrings will help! It’s tempting to let your knees splay out wide here — keep them narrow, about shoulder width. Flex your feet and whip your feet back together.

5. Poor Flexibility 

To ensure you’re able to point your toes for dolphin and flutter kick or flex your feet for breaststroke kick, make time to stretch the front of your ankles and the bottom of your feet. Adding fins to your workouts can help improve your flexibility over time.

For breaststroke, stretching your hips regularly can help you achieve proper technique as well.

Bonus: Kicking Drills to Try

Try one of these drills in your next workout to improve your kick!

Dolphin Kick: FLOW Drill

This drill helps you perfect the undulation of the dolphin kick. Add a snorkel and fins if you like!

Flutter Kick: Straight Leg Streamline Kick on Back

Try this drill for backstroke or freestyle! Kick in streamline position on your back, but keep your legs completely straight. No knee bend at all! When you transition into regular kicking, you’ll feel really strong.

Breaststroke: Heel Tag on Back

Keep your hands at your sides and focus on tagging your heels with your hands during each kick. Keep your knees underwater at all times, and don’t let them go wider than your shoulders!

What are your biggest challenges with kicking? Let us know how we can help! For more swim tips, technique videos and workouts, download the MySwimPro app! Start a free trial of ELITE COACH to try our Kick Technique Bootcamp training plan.

5 thoughts on “5 Biggest Kicking Mistakes Swimmers Make

  1. I am new to lap swimming and really enjoying your instructional videos. So much to learn about swimming that I never heard of before. At 65 years old, and a hefty 240 pounds, it is such a feeling of accomplishment when I complete my mixed stroke 1000 meter workout. Looking forward to losing weight, getting fit, and improving my times that I monitor weekly. Thanks for your instruction – your enthusiasm is contagious.

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