Swimming Kick Exhausts Me

Help and advice badly needed. I am a bad swimmer, I couldn't do more than a length at first, and have had lessons to help. However, in order to go further (say 400m, rather than normal 100m's) I have to seriously reduce my leg kick. The problem s they then sink and I go slow. The Swim4Tri guys are helping by giving me basic kick drills, but seriously one length of kick only and I am utterly exhausted. I am comfortably running 10k'S etc, but swimming is starting to beat me.

 Any advice? How hard should I be kicking (perceived effort out of 10)?



  • Hi macatac

    I've started 1:1 coaching in TI and I'm told that kicking isn't meant to keep your legs high. That is done by body position, namely leaning on your lungs and keeping  a relaxed head.  Its about laws of physics - if your top half is too high your bottom half will sink to compensate.  Your lungs are full of air which float and will naturally want to bounce upwards, so if you slightly lean in on them you will become automatically more balanced.  It takes some practice but its working for me. 

  • Was gonna say exactly what Soupy said. 

    I don't use my legs very much at all but the body position means I can get away with it.

  • macatac....totally understand where you are coming from......
    unfortunately i never managed to get one to one lessons or training and so my legs still drag.....

    my only solution is to only ever race Open water where the wetsuit holds me up and i then don't bother with the kick.....

    If I ever swim train in doors i use a pullbuoy all the time and only use my arms.....

    this means i can do tri but its not really the best solution...its a best can do

    can you keep at it for a while and ask the swim guys to relook at your position and style
  • Have a look for goswim.tv drills on  Youtube. I'm sure there's some kick drills and goswim explain things really well. There's also swimsmooth too. As for the amount of effort from your kick, I think it's supposed to be 5-10% and make sure you keep your kick shallow.  Somewhere deep in the archives of the site there's a great interview by a swim coach who came on here for a Q&A session.
  • As above, if you can sort out your body position you'll be much more streamlined in the water without having to do the kicking that you're finding exhausting. How much are you kicking? A rapid kick wipes me out too!

    I'd continue with the kick drills - if you want the physiological adaptations necessary for a less exhausting kick, you need to practise that kick. There'll be some cross-training effect from running, but you need to do the sport to get better at the sport - if you know what I mean. Swim training for swimming image

    You shouldn't be kicking hard - if you want to distance rather than speed, then the RPE of the kick should be minimal. 4 out of 10 I'd guess. Work on getting the technique right and the effort and speed will reduce image

  • If your legs drag then more core work and more core work will def help
  • I'm a crap swimmer, but my breakthrough was stopping the kick. Now I can swim for hours and just flutter my legs.
  • Thanks for the tips. Seems to me I am kicking too hard, but not too much! Need to do some more core excercises to strengthen core to allow me to lift and hold my backside higher whilst pushing my lungs down.

    Will keep at kick drills, and I am not giving up, but I need to get over this block.

    One question, I have read various articles about anke flexibility (see link below), but wonder what they mean by stretching ankle to more than 90 degrees. Is 90 degress basically standing position. My misunderstanding is that surely everyone can flex at least something past 90 degrees, yet the article suggests some can't? Sorry if this offensive to some, just trying to understand what I am. If I push my foot down may foot and leg form close a straight line (c170 degree angle), is this less than 90 degrees, or substantially more?


  • Not too sure I can translate what you have read but the greater degree of flexibility and the greater range the better
    If you have a wobble board you will soon learn how much you have!!

    Dont forget flexibility works in many ways and think how your foot/ankle would move when you are kicking/fluttering in the pool the more flexibility the better ...... or if it helps imagine your foot as a flipper!!
  • Been swimming this morning and really concentrated on relaxed, controlled flutter kicking. If anything I may have even been swimming a touch quicker, but if not, I was going a lot further with less effort. Will just concentrate on a relaxed shallow flutter for the next week, but the next thing has to be this body position thing. I reckon my head is OK (I look right below me usually), but need to get my lungs down and backside up!

    Thanks for all the help. Back on track image

  • macatac - this is the first drill I ever learned to start getting balance. Its harder than it looks but now I'm able to get much further as I get better and I practice it loads. Notice how Shinji (who is just awsome)  stays balanced and moving without any kick.  Imagine you have  50p to hold between your buttocks (sorry) and engage your core, round your shoulders a little bit and lean on your lungs slightly with head low and relaxed looking to the bottom of the pool.   It gives a very streamlined position that just glides along.  I just love this drill.

  • cougie  wrote (see)
    I'm a crap swimmer, but my breakthrough was stopping the kick. Now I can swim for hours and just flutter my legs.

    +1 for what Cougie says, I hardly kick at all, but then I am a truly crap swimmer.

    Thought that was the qualification for joining the pirates

  • wiggle used to sell bouyancy shorts that may help you out for a quick fix - i thought about using them instead of pull buoy for drill days.
  • Buoyancy shorts?  That's put several unwanted visions in my head, almost as bad as speedos image

    That aside I can't see how they'd work as well as a pull buoy unless they're quite long.

  • I've got a vision of something capri-length and you blow them up beforehand, making your thighs look like thick sausages.

    Kinda like armbands for the legs.

  • They are basically short wetsuit bottoms
  • pullbuoy seems an easier and cheaper solution....
  • Don't pullboys though just mask the problem so that as soon as you stop using them you are back to square one?  I've never really understood using them.

  • I think the idea is to get used to the position with shorts or buoy then you're meant to get that position without aids. Also you can't kick with a pull buoy
  • i use pullbuoys to practise swimming......in OW I never use my legs just my arms...and so using a pullbuoy make me practise in similar circumstances......

    but yes it still means that I can not swim without artificial aids......but i have accepted this image

    I can use the excuse that I am saving my legs for the run/ bike.....
  • I'm with seren - I always train with a pullbuoy in a pool and in a wetsuit in OW never use my legs unless it's in the last 100m or so where I need to get the blood moving again ready for the run to transition, or I'll cramp up.

    my kick is crap and with heavy legs I've given up trying to change it.

    without a kick it doesn't mean your swimming has to be too shabby - my IM PB is 1:09 and I know of another top IM A/G'er (he's gone sub-9) who doesn't kick and swims a sub-hour IM swim.

    if you develop your arm stroke to compensate for lack of kick and keep a good core stability in the swim so you don't roll around too much, you can still become a competent swimmer. OK you might never reach the dizzy heights of being a top class swimmer where a kick can make a difference, but you could still be OK

    and as seren also says, you don't knacker the legs for the bike... image
  • My experience this week backs up the 'dont bother to kick camp'.

     I did 2 x 400m time trials for winterswim. In the first I went all out (100% effort) out with a 6 beat kick for most of the way. Result: 6 mins 31 and exhausted.

    Then I repeated with a gentle 2 beat kick for balance mainly and a percieved effort of 80 -90%. Result was a faster time (6:29) and felt fresh at the end. That has convinced me not to worry about the kick and save my legs.

  • That's fast - do you have lessons ?
  • I dont have lessons but I did used to swim competitively as a kid. It was a long time ago and I must have the muscle memory as my technique is solid and good bouyancy from a fat @rse.

    Chuffed to be getting faster on 90 minutes in the pool a week. I think the imorovments are as much down to my increased overall fitness. For me the swim needs to be about translating to open water (which freaks me) and getting out of the water feeling good and not too depleted.

    DK, nothing like as impressive as your swim improvments image 

  • TY muffin but I am in the pool 6 hours a week for what seems small gains. OW doesn't bother me so at least that's one less limiter/stress . I'll try to catch you on the bike if you are outlawing it . image
  • DK, throw me a kebab as you pass me on the bike. Go easy on the chilli sauceimage

    I honestly believe some of the gains in the pool will not necessarily translate into training times. It will be more about not battering yourself before bike and run. Also, watching my OH swim, he seems to plateau and then make a step change after a few months.

  • pool time will translate into better OW times through becoming more efficient and simply by upping the volume

    a tri coach once told me that there was not a lot wrong with my stroke (kick excluded) and to improve I needed to swim more. simple as. but I've always hated pool swimming as I find it dull and I suffer with chlorine after effects (sneezing etc for 24 hrs) which really puts me off

    but last winter I did use the pool more - result was an IM PB swim (by 6 mins) and beating my missus in 2 other OW events for the swim time which was the 1st time ever. she was a competitive swimmer as a kid so, boy, did that piss her off!!
  • Yes my efficiency is improving loads. Gone from 53 ish to 48 on the swimovate if that means anything, sometimes hit 47. Also I do seem to get better times in OW than what the pool sessions suggest. It's all good, a year ago I woulnt have been able to do 25m letalone an iron race
  • DazDaz ✭✭✭
    Another one for the pull-b in training and no kick in racing. Have no kick but not held me back, in fact my legs feel better for it when moving through T1/bike.
    Endurance Coach @ DazCarterFitness.com
    Elite Ironman, Ultra Trail Runner
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