A Set for Improving Underwater Dolphin Kick and Breath Control

A Set for Mastering Underwater Dolphin Kicking and Breath Control

Unlock monster underwaters with this swim set to help improve dolphin kick technique, breath control, and speed.

Today’s swim set features an underwater dolphin kicking focus, the favorite of the late Richard Quick, an American coaching legend.

Richard Quick was a six-time Team USA Olympic coach and a twelve-time NCAA champion at Stanford, the University of Texas, and Auburn.

(He passed away from an inoperable brain tumor months after his Auburn Tigers won the 2008-2009 NCAA championship.)

The set checks all the boxes when it comes to improving the underwater dolphin kick, including:

  • Breath control – Fast underwaters require breath control. Managing your respiratory rate in and out of the walls lets you kick fast as exhaustion sets in.
  • Dolphin kick technique – The set challenges you to use full undulation when dolphin kicking. Swimmers often struggle with a stiff trunk when trying to kick fully.
  • Dolphin kicking speed – Finally, the set challenges you with speed and, in doing so, to find the most efficient streamline possible when doing underwaters.

Alrighty, let’s get to the dolphin-kicking set:


First, we will start with some foundational dolphin kicking for better technique, breath control, and improving core strength:

  • 8×100 on 2:00 dolphin kick on back with arms at side. Kick as far off the walls as possible. It helps to develop core strength and encourages better undulation.

Note: This set is very similar to one that the winningest NCAA coach of all time—Texas Longhorns head coach Eddie Reese—uses with his swimmers. 5×200 dolphin kick, maximum distance off the walls and on the back with arms at the side. You can check out that underwater dolphin kick set here.


Next, we will crank up the speed and intensity.

The 25s below are meant to be done in a short-course yards pool and without a breath.

Beginners and intermediate swimmers should adjust the intervals and breath patterns accordingly.

25 yards of underwater kicking, all fast:

  • 8×25 on 40
  • 6×25 on 35
  • 4×25 on 30
  • 2×25 on 25

Extra 1:20 rest

  • 10×25 on 40
  • 8×25 on 35
  • 6×25 on 30
  • 4×25 on 25
  • 2×25 on 20

Note: The intervals and demands of the 25s portion of this set were designed for the fastest swimmers on the planet. Feel free to ease into it with more rest and use a set of swim fins to complete the length of the pool underwater or do the kicking fast at the surface. Swimmers should always do breath-control sets under the supervision of a swim coach and according to their swimming ability. Safety comes first, always.

Why should you work on the underwater dolphin kick?

The underwater dolphin kick has become a critical part of race day success for competitive swimmers.

Here’s why you should be dedicating time to a faster underwater dolphin kick in your swim workouts:

Increased speed off walls and starts – Races are often won or lost off starts and turns. Mastering the dolphin kick gives you a strategic advantage over competitors during the underwater phase.

Energy efficiency – A fast dolphin kick requires less energy than surface swimming. (There is an oxygen cost, however.)

Faster streamline – Working your underwaters also means working your streamlines. A tight, fast streamline is “free speed” in the water, so take advantage of it!

Versatility – The dolphin kick is used across all four strokes and every event in the pool. A strong dolphin kick can help compensate for slower swim speed in your “off” events in the pool.

Try the above dolphin kick set at the pool this week, build confidence in your underwaters, and take your swimming to the next level.

More Underwater Dolphin Guides

Want more underwater dolphin kicking? We’ve published some other resources that can help you in your quest to master the dolphin kick:

This Training Set Will Crank Up Your Underwater Dolphin Kick. Give your underwater dolphin kick a swift kick to the speed with this simple and proven training set.

10 Minutes a Day to a Faster Underwater Dolphin Kick. Looking for a simple and effective set for better underwaters? Here’s where to start.

5 Dryland Exercises for Faster Underwater Dolphin Kicking. Power up your underwaters outside of the pool with these strength training exercises.

Dryland Tip: How to Improve Ankle Flexibility for Swimmers. Fast dolphin kickers have flexible ankles. Here is a mobility drill to help you increase the range of motion in the ankles.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of YourSwimLog.com. He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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