Perfecting the Freestyle Kick

When learning how to properly kick in Freestyle, a common mistake most novice swimmers make is that they think larger kicks will add more power to their kick. In fact, the opposite is true. If you want to generate a strong propulsive kick, you need to think smaller and faster. Another mistake I see a lot from swimmers is that they only kick from the lower part of their legs. Basically, their thighs don’t move and all the motion is from their knees to their toes. This type of kicking will cause your lower half to be heavy and sink to the bottom. Kicking isn’t just important for propulsion but also assistances swimmers in creating balance throughout their stroke.

Beyond the misconception of trying to achieve power through larger kicks, a lot of novice swimmers think kicking is all about your legs. They make the error of trying to kick with their feet flexed in conjunction with generating the kicking motion with their knees. This usually causing them to move backwards or not at all. Your foot, like your hand, should move backward relative to the water. During the beginning of the down kick is one particular instance of the kicking cycle where this occurs.

Pointed Toes

To accomplish the most effective kick you can, swimmers need to start with pointing their toes. They should be pointed away from the body towards the far wall. Not pointed towards the bottom of the pool. Having tight calf muscles and poor ankle flexibility can greatly affect how much your foot can be pointed. If you find you are not moving when you isolate your kick, it could be that your foot is pointed down. This will cause you to push water forward rather than backwards.

Flexible Ankles

Many athletes who come to swimming later in life and were either active runners or cyclists tend to have stiffer ankles than most other individuals. In an ideal world, you should be able to flex your ankle beyond straight. There are tons of different stretches you can do to help increase your ankle flexibility, but they go beyond the information in this guide. Do note though that increasing your flexibility will take time so be patient.

From The Hips

As mentioned, many swimmers bend their knees too much during their kick. When you kick from your knees you are creating unnecessary drag. This is the number reason why swimmer’s legs sink low in the water. Instead think about kicking with relatively straight legs. This engages your hips and core into the kick. By engaging your hips, swimmers are able to generate significantly more propulsion. As your kick continues to improve, a natural slight bend will occur during your kick, but it should never be the driving movement. It is best to think about kicking with straight legs.  


The timing of your kick is not something most swimmers spend a lot of time thinking about. However, your kick should follow a rhythm. This rhythm can be a 2-beat kick, 4-beat kick or the most common and our recommended method is the 6-beat kick. 

When we talk about a 6-beat kick. We mean that each leg will kick three times per stroke cycle. This means that during the first downbeat of your kick occurs during the forward extension of the arm. 

The second downbeat occurs during the upsweep of your arm and final downbeat of leg happens at your recovery. While this is happening your other leg moves in opposition.

Finally, make sure when you are swimming Freestyle that you never pause your kick. Your kick should be in constant motion. Many swimmers pause their kicks for a split second while they breathe. Even though the pause is short, it is still long enough to change your body position and alignment. Your kick is the stabilizer to your stroke so without it, you remove your balance variable. 

Wrapping Up

Building a strong kick is an essential part towards having an efficient Freestyle. Continue to work on kicking with straight legs, flexed toes while generating power from your hips will influence your timing. Once you’ve learned how that timing works within your stroke, you can play with the tempo of your stroke to help increase your speed. Faster smaller kicks always trump larger kicks. Remember that your power for your kick doesn’t come from your legs so much as it comes from your hips and core. Using the straight leg technique will allow you to keep your kick small and powerful.