The secret to an elite level kick isn’t a secret. It’s putting the reps in.
Kick sets, for a lot of swimmers, are boring. How do I know this? Well, because I tend to resist them, but mainly, because I receive a chlorinated butt ton of emails from you guys asking what kind of dryland you should do to improve your kick.
The best activity you can do to improve your kick is more kick.
Seriously, that simple.
For swimmers who don’t have a great kick I get the push-back on doing more kick work. Being sucky at something is never fun, but if you want to improve your kick, and I bet ya do, it requires putting in the time on the kickboard.
Although dryland training is great for developing strength and power, and help build up your core strength and all that good stuff, it’s no replacement for doing actual kick work.
Leg fitness and kick fitness are two different things.
Triathletes are a shining example of this.
I swim next to triathletes almost daily, and despite their hilarious levels of leg fitness, me and my pasty 1-pack can kick circles around them all day long.
The Set: Booooring But Effective Kick Work
This little kick set is a simple descending ladder with increasing effort. Start out at a relaxed, cruising pace.
Build so that by the time you hit the top of the ladder you are going fast. Pick a base interval per 100.
I did this basic set every day for two weeks (6 days a week).
On the Saturday at the end of the second week I kicked a 1:16 for the final 100 kick, a PB by three seconds at the distance. Could have gone faster with some more rest, but I’ll take it!
Here is what it looks like, with a sample base of 1:55/100:
- 500 @ 9:35
- 400 @ 7:40
- 300 @ 5:45
- 200 @ 3:50
- 100 @ 1:55
Resist the urge to use fins. It will be there, that little voice in the back of your head telling you that you deserve it, or whatever. Don’t listen. Swim fins are a crutch for most swimmers, and only covers up a poopie kick. If you want to do fin work, do it elsewhere in your workout.
You’ll likely get some cramping. Stretch lots, drink lots of water, and warm down. Your legs, if not accustomed to this kind of kick yardage, will get progressively more fatigued as the week goes on. Some light cramping in the bottom of my feet was common as I got closer to the weekend.
Rest lots. Your legs are big and full of muscles. Science. It takes a lot out of you to hammer away at them over and over again, so make sure that you are getting lots of sleep at night, and eat like a boss between workouts.
The gains you make on this set will astound you by the end of week 2. You’ll even come to enjoy doing the set. Seriously. Not only will your endurance levels improve, but your fast kick speed will see a marked uptick as well.
The 500 is your warm up. There were a couple times I jumped in and started the set right away. The 500 is a functional warm-up and pre-set all wrapped into one.
Drop the intervals by 5 seconds on week two. The gains you will see will be quick. That’s the good thing about doing the same set over and over—improvement happens quickly. Your leg fitness will improve, so keep the interval mildly challenging by lowering it on week two.
Do it every day. Half an hour a day. That’s it. Step out onto the pool deck and grab your best kickboard and have at it. It’s a long enough set that you get some good work in, but it won’t destroy you, leaving you able to come back and do it again tomorrow.
More Stuff Like This:
How Swimmers Can Improve Their Ankle Flexibility. Fast swimmers are fast kickers, and fast kickers have flexible ankles. Besides the kick work you are already doing, which will help loosen up your ankles, here is how to improve ankle flexibility.
The Ultimate List of Swim Practices. Our ever-growing list of workouts and sets for swimmers from some of the top coaches, programs and swimmers on the planet. Includes sets from Phelps, Ledecky, Lochte and more.