Common Errors in Flutter Kick and Whip Kick – Swimming Tips From Steve Wallen Swim School in Roseville and El Dorado Hills, CA
While much of our propulsion during freestyle and breaststroke comes from our powerful arm actions, the legs play a critical role in maintaining constant thrust, stabilization, and a streamlined body position in the water. When we are learning to swim, it’s vital to develop these flutter and whip kicks effectively, before negative habits can develop. If we continue to swim without feedback on our swim strokes, these same negative habits may develop. Swim lessons, stroke clinics and video analysis are all great ways to improve on your swim stroke and to refine your flutter and whip kicks.
To enhance the efficiency of both flutter kick and whip kick, try this counting drill; swim a length with a kickboard and count the number of kicks that it takes you to complete one length. Then, each subsequent length should be an effort to reduce that count. So, keep counting and swimming until you can lower that kick count substantially. Remember that a weak or poor kick will impact performance, increase drag, and negatively influence body position. These errors will result in a less than efficient swim stroke.
An effective flutter kick depends on the coordinated action of the entire leg, originating from the hips, and ending at the toes. Consider the motion as a wave of movement through the joints and muscles of the legs. The legs should be fluid, with knee and ankles allowing for that wave. Flutter kick has an upward and downward stage. Common errors in flutter kick include: bending the knees too much, not using both an up and down phase, knees and ankles too stiff, and kicking with the legs moving too far apart.
Keep these tips in mind when swimming flutter kick:
- Kick in an up and down action, rather than side to side.
- Don’t kick with your knees, kick with almost straight legs.
- Feel the kick in all muscles of the legs.
- The movement is just as the kick’s name suggests: a powerful flutter action.
- Keep your knee joint loose and fluid, rather than stiff and locked.
- Keep your ankle joint loose and fluid, rather than stiff and locked.
- Too much bend in the knee is common, so maintain a soft knee bend.
- Point your toes straight back behind you to reduce drag, think about keeping your legs long and streamlined.
- Imagine that you are kicking your socks off to emphasize the up and down movement required for an effective flutter kick.
Whip kick can be a challenge for many people, as it requires multiple phases which must be correctly timed and coordinated. It also requires full flexibility in the knee and ankle joints. It is important to remember that in addition to being one of the most challenging kicks to learn, most of the forward propulsion in breaststroke comes from the kick, not the pull, so an effective whip kick is vital. When you are in the water, take the time to feel where the propulsive phase is occurring; once you can feel this phase, try adding more power. Common errors in whip kick include: bringing the knees toward the stomach, not flexing and turning the feet outwards, not having a fluid “whip” motion in the legs, kicking outward rather than straight back, and closing the legs too slowly during the kick’s finish. These common errors all contribute to an increase in drag, resulting in an inefficient stroke.
Keep these tips in mind when swimming whip kick:
- Your legs must move simultaneously throughout the kick.
- As you pull up your feet, do not keep your knees too close together.
- Keep your buttocks flat, and below the water’s surface.
- Add power to your kick; do not just “go through the motion.”
- The kick is not a passive movement; you must drive your legs through the motion.
- Your feet must be rotated outwards, with your toes flexed toward you shin bones. This is an awkward position for many, so practice this position out of the pool as well as in the water.
- Keep your knees pointed at the pool bottom, and do not allow them to drift out too wide while you kick.
- Focus on keeping your hips lifted and your body streamlined. Fix the common error of letting your hips drop by not bringing your knees toward your belly.
Take the time to break your swim strokes down into their parts. Drills focused on flutter and whip kick are essential; incorporate drills into your daily swim. Here are a few drills to try, with or without a kickboard:
How To Flutter Kick:
- Kick with a single leg, which will emphasize the up phase of the kick.
- Position your body vertically in the water, keep your arms still or genty scull, and kick vertically until your legs are fatigued. Try intervals with rest to build your endurance.
How To Whip Kick:
- With arms and hands extended back in the water toward your feet, face in the water, perform the whip kick and try to bring your heels to your knuckles. Notice the push forward as the heels come toward your buttocks.
- Repeat the phrase up (knees slightly up), out (ankles move apart), and around (bring your feet around and squeeze the water together) as you kick. Remember to keep the motion fluid, without a pause between these steps.
Get Started With Swim Lessons in Roseville and El Dorado Hills!
Refine your flutter kick and whip kick by signing up for swimming lessons at Steve Wallen Swim School! Infants, kids, and adults of all skill levels have been learning to swim and how to be water-safe with us for over 40 years!