How to Power Up Your Freestyle Kick

How to Power Up Your Freestyle Kick

Want to power up your kick? Here’s a quick dryland tip you can use to unleash a faster and more powerful freestyle kick in the water.

When it comes to swimming faster, there is no shortage of information out there.

Most of the tips, articles, and information are centered on trying to help you improve.

But for most of us, we would simply settle for being able to maximize what we already have. That way, we could hop in the water and swim to our ability more consistently in training and competition.

And one of the fascinating ways to get the most from ourselves is something called post-activation potentiation.

PAP is a strategy for creating short-term improvement.

It goes something like this:

  • Do a few reps of a resistance exercise (squat jumps, heavy resistance pulls on stretch cords)
  • Rest for around ten minutes
  • Swim like your hair is on fire

Pretty simple, right?

The magic is finding the right exercises and using the correct rest protocol.

And while there have been a few studies on the effects on PAP with competitive swimmers, with generally positive results, until recently, there hasn’t been any research on whether a PAP warm-up could power up a swimmer’s freestyle kick.

Regular warm-up vs PAP Warm-up

Building on a lot of pre-existing research in this area, a team of researchers in Portugal and Singapore (Ng et al, 2020) looked at whether a PAP warm-up could help swimmers go faster when it came strictly to freestyle kicking.

Participants were all male, an average of around 22 years, and all had competed in local and national swimming competitions.

The swimmers were randomly assigned in a crossover manner to do:

  • Standard warm-up of 1,400m
  • Warm-up of 700m plus 2×5 countermovement jumps

The swimmers then took 8 minutes of rest before doing a 25m freestyle kick for time on a kickboard.

The result?

When they did the PAP warm-up, the swimmers kicked faster and generated more power. Thrust improved by 15% and speed improved by 10%.

The next step

The good news with this paper is pretty clear.

Incorporate a few box jumps into your warm-up and your kick will be more kicky.

But above the performance benefits, there is the accessibility part of this research that is awesome.

A lot of prior PAP research with athletes utilized heavy equipment that wasn’t accessible or convenient to bring to the pool.

Power racks, medicine balls, weighted vests, pull-up bars—things we don’t always have at the pool. Especially when we are on the road for swim meets.

Researchers noted that one of the perks of this form of warm-up is the accessibility:

“Just using participants’ body weight and performing two sets of five maximal repetitions of unloaded countermovement jumps is a simple, convenient and effective way to achieve better performance.”

So, the next time you got a big swim workout coming around, and you want to get the most from your legs in the water, consider adding some countermovement jumps to your warm-up.

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

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