It’s no secret that Michael Phelps has a ridiculous underwater dolphin kick.
He used it with great effectiveness in not only butterfly events, but also in the freestyle and medley events to dominate the world swimming scene for the better part of a decade.
The 200 meter freestyle, in particular, provides a startling example of how advantageous his underwater dolphin kick was.
When Australia’s Ian Thorpe set the world record for the event swimming a 1:44.06 at the 2001 Fukuoka World Championships, the mark was thought to be unbreakable.
But, along came the Baltimore Bullet with his 10-13 meter breakouts, swimming to a 1:43.86 before a stunned crowd in Melbourne at the 2007 World Champs.
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“Michael is going 13 meters underwater instead of five,” Bowman told the Washington Post back in 2008 in the lead-up to the Beijing Games. “That was what he did that Thorpe didn’t. Free swimming over 200 meters Thorpe would win handily.”
Being a butterflier Phelps was always working on his underwater work, but it wasn’t until he started incorporating a rigorous vertical kicking regimen into his program between the 2004 Games (where on his final 50 in the 200 be barely broke 10 meters) and the 2008 Games, where he continued to accelerate away from the field off the final turn.
“For me,” Phelps said. “Some of the most effective work in the pool comes with vertical kicking and underwater kicking. It’s painful, but effective.”
In the following video we get a chance to see some of this vertical kick training in action, with Phelps using a weight belt.
From the pool deck Coach Bowman instructs his pupil to–
- “Keep your abs tight.”
- “Have quick foot speed.“
From watching the video, where Phelps also does some push-offs from the bottom of the pool into an explosive kick, launching himself out of the water, we get a glimpse of his technique, with Phelps extending and completing his kick in front of his body.
The video is voiced-over in Japanese, and also shows Japanese swimmer Hisayoshi Sato trying to emulate Phelps work.
Here is the video, enjoy!
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