Dec 022012

Click pic for a terrific article on Dana Vollmer!

Today I want to share with you  some great drills to improve your dolphin kick. The dolphin kick is an incredible tool. Not only does it aid in butterfly, but it can also help you rocket off the wall in backstroke in freestyle. And for our breaststrokers out there, the single dolphin kick allowed on the pull down is a proven speed boost.  Like any stroke or kick, you need to perfect how you perform your dolphin kick. Many swimmers try to initiate the kick from the knees. Where you really want to initiate from is your abs and hips. Check this SwimTechnique video out for what good dolphin kicking looks like.

As you watch the video, note the things that make this swimmer’s kick so effective.

  1. He is perfectly still in his upper body from the shoulder blades and on up.
  2. He initiates his kick from high up in his abs and it travels in whip like fashion down his body.
  3. His knees never bend to 90 degrees.


This first drill, AbBusters, is from Coach Stu Kahn, Davis Aquatic Masters. This particular drill will help you get the feel of driving the kick from your abdominal region.


The second drill is from GoSwim. I like the idea of combining breaststroke kick with dolphin kick for those who struggle with getting enough oomph out of that dolphin kick.


One of my favorites is vertical dolphin kicking. This sequence from GoSwim shows how to go from beginner level to mastering that tight compact dolphin kick. Here’s a key element to watch for. When you are doing vertical dolphin kicking in the deep end, look at the water around you. If you are throwing splashes in front and behind you, then you are not kicking correctly. Remember, we want to hold a tight core and keep the upper body locked down. Do so, and you will see rings of water around you. Keep that kick small, tight and fast!


This Caterpillar Drill by SwimLabs is a great way to feel the torso press in fly along with the hip action. You can read about the importance of your torso in fly on one of our previous postings here.


Lastly, I think kicking dolphin kick on your side is also a very good way to improve your feel for both the “up kick” and “down kick” in fly. Too often, when we kick with a board, we only emphasize the down kick (or feeling the top of your foot kick down on the water). When we kick dolphin on our back, same thing happens, we tend to feel the top of our foot kicking up and not feel the sole of our feet pressing down. Kicking on your side allows you to feel both sides of your feet press the water. This particular GoSwim drill has you doing a 360 rotation while dolphin kicking. If you find it too tough initially, try it with hands down by your side and then advance to the streamline position shown in the video.

Dolphin kick takes some work. Don’t try to tackle it all in one day. Take your time, do a mixture of these drills, and your dolphin kick will become one of your best allies!

Apr 222012

This week’s drill centers on your turns, but not necessarily just flip turns. Actually, we are going to focus on using dolphin kicks to come off the wall. Many swimmers struggle to know how many dolphin kicks they should use. Some use just one, others may use up to 12. Those that use those higher numbers have very efficient, tight, compact dolphin kicks (not to mention great lungs). Most of us find our efficiency somewhere in the 2-4 kicks range. Well, this drill will help you determine how many kicks is most efficient for you. If you’ve got aid to a coach or teammate, all the better, as you will be able to time your distance from the wall to a specific point. Here’s how it works. To see a video of this in action, I refer you to my “go to” site for videos on all things swimming – the GoSwim folks. The video is embedded at the end of this post.

Here are the instructions from GoSwim on their video posting – Turns – How Many Dolphins?

We all have to realize that even though the majority of time at swim practice is spent going back and forth, it’s the switching from one direction to the other that is more important than ever.

Coaches can say it until they’re blue in the face, the fastest you’ll ever be going in a race is when you’re leaving a wall… either starts or turns. Since you have so much opportunity to practice turns… you should probably do it.

Why do it:
Switching the sport of swimming from a guessing game to a habit and system will help you improve in both your knowledge and performance. It will take time, consistent practice, and the help of your coach or another swimmer.

How to do it:
1) Set a mark on the bottom of the pool… it doesn’t have to be anything exact, but it needs to be a permanent mark so you have a standard to reach when you practice.
2) To find out exactly how many kicks you’ll need to maintain your momentum, create a progression.
3) Start with one dolphin, which for most isn’t enough, then swim to your mark.
4) Progress this by adding one dolphin until you’re either at your mark or you simply run out of momentum.
5) We added dolphins until we got to five.

How to do it really well (the fine points):
Sure you can practice this based just on feel, but if you want to really know what’s the best for you, you’ll need to add a time factor. Have your coach or friend time you from the wall to the mark. You’ll then have to determine, over time, which solution is going to be the one that allows you to continue to swim at your pace with the most efficiency.

While you may be the fastest with four or five kicks, the day you add this to your practice, you’ll quickly realize it’s not easy to do. You’ll have to build this up over time, so consistency will count for a LOT. This works for both starts and turns.

Go have some fun with this! Get your lane mates in on the action.