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!

Nov 252012

Has your coach told you that you breathe too late or too early in your freestyle stroke? Do you regularly feel winded when swimming freestyle? Could be your timing is off on when you inhale or you may not be exhaling properly. Below is a good video that demonstrates when to breathe on freestyle and gives you a couple of drills to work on. In a nutshell, you want to breathe “in the trough”. To see what I mean by that, take a look at this excellent article from Swim Smooth on breathing in freestyle.

Breathing Technique in the Freestyle Stroke

This Swim Smart video below demonstrates a catch up drill with a kickboard held sideways. Remember, any time you do catch up drill, to make sure you do so in a “superman” style. In other words, don’t let your hands touch each other when they “catch up” in the front. Keep the hand strike straight out from the shoulder. A great way to do this drill is to get a piece of PVC pipe that is cut shoulder width to match your shoulders. When you do the catch up drill, just be sure and catch the ends of the PVC pipe, and not the middle.

Jun 172012

Ok, so we’ve been posting some drills to improve your timing on breaststroke. I’m doing some research for the USMS High Performance Camp that I’ll be coaching at in August (Greensboro, NC). I’m always on the hunt for new thoughts and ideas. While researching, I stumbled on this very challenging breaststroke drill for advanced level breaststrokers. I found this on SwimmingWorld. While it is dated 2004, it is still worthy of attempting!

Here’s a photo of Ed Moses doing the drill.

Here’s the write up from SwimmingWorld:

This is an advanced breaststroke drill, performed with only one arm and one leg. The drill will force you to use the proper timing of “Pull-Breathe-Kick-Stretch”. If you are not using the correct stroke timing – for example, you are not stretching long enough — you will receive immediate feedback from the stroke and go nowhere.

Begin the drill by holding your left foot with your right hand (or vice versa). Always begin a new stroke cycle in a streamline position, with your left arm extended out in front of you and your right leg straight. Pull as close to your normal pull pattern as possible. As you begin the insweep phase of the stroke, lift your head to breathe. During the breath, bend your kicking leg, bringing the heel of your foot toward your hip. During the power phase of the kick, place your head back down into the water, and straighten your leg into your “streamline”.

The timing of the stroke is a fundamental skill common of all successful breaststrokers. You will find this drill to be almost impossible to perform without proper timing.

Let me know how you fare. I’ve given it a go and can’t begin to master this – yet. My knee surgery has my right knee a bit challenged by that much bending back.

By the way, I had the pleasure of watching Ed Moses swim (and win) the 200 yard breaststroke at the USMS Nationals in Arizona May of 2011. He went out in a 24 on his first 50. Ahem, a 24?!?!?

Jun 102012

On May 20th, I wrote a post on a drill for breaststroke timing. You can read that here. That post also gave a link to an article by Swimming World on breaststroke timing. This week I show another application of the drill I call “Pull Stop – Kick Stop”. (If you need a review of what the Pull Stop, Kick Stop drill is, you’ll see that at the bottom of this post.)

This drill is relatively simple. Apply the Pull Stop Kick Stop drill to a 100 yard breaststroke. The idea is that you start with a big separation between the pull and kick on lap one, and then reduce that separation on lap two, further reduce it on lap 3, and then lap 4 is done as normal breaststroke. Try a series of 100 breaststrokes in this fasion.

Here are the specifics:

  1. On lap 1, count “1-2-3” after the pull, before you execute the kick. Make sure you are in full streamline before you start your count.
  2. On lap 2, count “1-2” after the pull (in full streamline) before you execute the kick.
  3. On lap 3, count “1” after the pull, before the kick
  4. On lap 4, swim normal breaststroke. It is important that you allow your body to fully extend after each stroke. Finish your kick quickly and firmly, bringing your feet AND your legs together, and pointing your toes at the end of that kick. Get those arms fully extended and finish them close together up front (but not overlapping).

Some key points:

  • Work your streamline each and every stroke! You want to achieve that same type of streamline that your coaches ask you to do when coming off the wall. Arms full extended (although not stacked on top of each other), and touch your biceps to your ears. Eyes should be looking at the pool bottom.
  • Get your hips to come up by pressing your chest down when you are fully extended. Be careful not to point your hands or head down – just press your chest down. Pressing your chest down helps your hips to rise. Getting your hips up sets you up for a more powerful kick.
  • Start each pull with your thumbs down and palms facing the sides of the pool.
  • Keep your knees fairly narrow on your kick. Your first action of the kick is to bring both heels up to the side of your buttocks. Your feet should separate slightly on the draw up (of feet to butt) in order to prevent your knees from going wide.


Drill: Pull Stop, Kick Stop

This is a drill that can help in establishing timing between the pull and the kick. It also promotes “riding the glide” in breaststroke, driving the head down between outstretched arms, and finishing the feet before starting the pull.  

• This is a breaststroke separation drill where we separate the pull from the kick. Do a single pull of breaststroke with no kick at all (legs just hang out). At the end of the pull, dive your head down between your biceps into a tight streamline and stop or freeze in this position for just a moment. Without lifting your head or taking a breath now execute a single breaststroke kick with arms remaining in the streamline position. Finish your feet firmly and glide in this streamline position for a moment. Repeat the cycle through the lap.
•It is important to make a distinct stop after each pull and each kick. After you practice this for awhile, it should feel quite rhythmical. Once you have this drill down, begin to narrow the gap between the stops and eventually work it into a regular breaststroke. An accomplished breaststroker actually has a slight separation between the pull and when the kick starts. You’ll see that they initiate the arm pull first and about the time they are turning the corner to the insweep (from the outsweep) they begin to draw their heels up to start the kick. This requires a compact and speedy kick with a very quick heel draw.