How to improve your swim kick efficiency and save more energy for the bike and run

We explain why you should focus on kick technique rather than spare your legs for the triathlon disciplines still to come, and suggest some drills to help

Triathlete in swim training

Do you opt to let your arms do most of the work in the water, consciously saving your legs for the bike and run still to come? Alan Rapley, swim consultant to the British Triathlon Federation, explains why it’s better to focus on the efficiency of your kick….

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The kick is the element most triathletes neglect in their swim training, but your legs are a major factor in all levels and types of performance and to not train them is a mistake.

Most people’s mindset is ‘I need to save my legs for the bike and the run, therefore I’ll just use my arms in the swim and drag the legs’. But you should change that thought process to: ‘the more efficient my leg kick is, the more effective I’ll be in the swim, saving my energy levels for the bike and run.’

Now I’m not saying you should use a six-beat kick throughout the whole race, but you should train yourself to have the ability to use a six beat if needed, to get out of trouble or change your tempo.

Your legs should set the tempo of your stroke, and the arms fit in around the leg kick, so therefore use an efficient two- or four-beat kick to maintain your consistent arm speed when you’re in clear water.

Here are some really good sets to work through, using front-crawl and a kickboard for each set…

– 20 x 50m, kick alternating between one all out effort and one easy, with 15secs rest in between.

– 18 x 50m, kick alternating between one steady effort and two strong efforts; 15secs rest.

– 15 x 100m, kick increasing effort over every three reps. Repeat five times. Have 20sec rest intervals.

If you train consistently on your kick – say two sessions a week – you’ll notice quite quickly that your cruising swim speed improves, yet you’ll feel as though your legs are contributing less. So the key is to work your legs harder and more often to allow yourself to be more efficient in a race.

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