Improving your feel for the water isn’t just for your pull. Here is how to achieve a fuller and more powerful kick, and swim faster as a result.
When we talk about that mythical feel for the water it’s usually in regards to our pulling motion and our body position.
When we have it, that hard-to-describe but easy-to-love feeling of effortlessly gliding through the water we sense as though we have conquered the battle against drag. I don’t need to tell you how great of a feeling it is.
This feeling doesn’t need to be limit to just our hands and pull.
There are things we can do that will not only help create that feeling in our kick, but will also improve our kicking technique and increase leg power and endurance at the same time.
Here is how to do it:
1. Super slow kicking.
“We’re doing super slow kicking,” said coach.
“So like, regular kicking?” came the inevitable quip and a couple guffaws.
Mindful, slow kicking is one of my favorite freestyle kick drills of all time. Why? Because it’s a great way to break down your kick and start over from the fundamentals, all the while helping increase your feel for the movement, and as a result, a better feel for the water.
Grab your kickboard and kick with half the tempo.
It requires you really feel both parts of your kick, slows it down enough that you are forced kick intentionally with loose ankles, with power in the upkick, and from a braced core.
The analogy I like using with is this: we all can walk without thinking about it. But try cutting your walking pace in half, or by 3/4s.
Suddenly that automatic action doesn’t feel so automatic, and it takes effort and concentration to move your leg, plant your foot, and keep your core tight to perform something that is mindlessly done over and over.
Suddenly, you are much more mindful of the movement and more conscious of what you are actually doing. It’s the same in the water when you are kicking.
Dramatically slowing down the tempo bares open your freestyle kick for what it really is, and forces you to really feel the water with both the upkick and downkick.
Below is a sample set where we mix the SSK’ing to full-speed kicking, and is ideal to perform before a main set to get your legs warmed up and feeling the water properly.
As mentioned in the super slow swimming post from earlier in the week rushing through this is not the goal, so remove intervals altogether.
It’s all about technique and form.
- 100 free kick super-slow @:20 rest
- 25 free kick all-out (no bubbles)
2. Throw on a pair of DragSox.
One of my absolute favorite tools in my swim bag are my DragSox.
They are versatile as they are simple—just a pair of nets that you wrap around your ankles to experience a ton of additional drag on your feet.
I have talked about the power and endurance benefits before in using DragSox. They are a powerful tool to use when doing vertical kicking work, or your regular old kickboard sets.
But there is something else I really like about these bad boys, and it’s how fuller and more sensitive to the water your kick becomes once you take them off.
The fellas at AquaVolo—the makers of DragSox—describe this experience quite well—
DragSox wave slightly to and fro across the feet in accord with each phase of the kick, sensitizing the sensory receptors as they touch the skin. When you take off DragSox, the sensory receptors on your feet are highly stimulated, which in turn greatly enhances the feel for the water. The disappearance of extra drag combined with enhanced feel for water enable you to swim faster and more efficiently.
They are even understating the experience when you first take them off after a set. It’s like someone strapped a SpaceX rocket to your backside when you blast off for that first stretch of fast swimming.
Below is a sample set that you can use to incorporate them into your training.
24×25 kick @:40 as—
4x [4 – kick w. DragSox, 1 – drop Sox, all-out, 1 – easy]
The Next Step
Having a great feel for the water is what we strive for in the water. It’s what we train for.
It makes us feel as though we are flying across the pool. Usually these types of moments are reserved for when we are getting extra rest in practice or we are tapering.
But using the two above methods you can get a taste of it regularly in order to swim more efficiently (and faster, as a result) during your workouts as well.