Dolphin Kick Swimming for Beginners

Welcome Back! Undoubtedly if you’re new to the sport of swimming or have been swimming for a long time, you’re working on improving your Dolphin Kick swimming. The Dolphin Kick is mixture of timing, technique, mobility, and your anaerobic capacity. Most swimmers out there now rely heavily on their Dolphin Kick during their races. We may not all be the Michael Phelps of Dolphin Kicking, but having this technique tool in your pocket is a key component in your swimming success.

Let’s get started!

The Dolphin Kick has a very extensive history throughout swimming. While it may seem new to a beginner, it’s actually been around for a quite a while. To read more on the history of the Dolphin Kick and how it came to be, click here. Otherwise, let’s talk about when you can legally use it?

What Strokes Use Dolphin Kick Swimming?

The easiest and most obvious stroke to answer this with is Butterfly. In order to swim a legal Butterfly stroke, swimmers must utilize a Dolphin Kick. A Dolphin Kick is also seen in Backstroke and Freestyle races with swimmers underwater kicking off walls. Plus, you’re now legally allowed one Dolphin Kick during a Breaststroke Pullout. So that’s why I said what I said above – if you’re currently swimming and trying to get better, you BETTER BE working on your Dolphin Kick Swimming.

United States’ Michael Phelps competes in a men’s 200-meter butterfly heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

What Exactly is a Dolphin Kick?

By definition, a Dolphin Kick is a swimming kick used mainly in Butterfly, where the legs are extended straight back and move up and down in unison with a slight bend in the knees on the upward movement.

According to FINA rules (SW. 8.3), all up and down movements of the legs must be simultaneous. The legs or the feet need not to be on the same level, but they shall not alternate in relation to each other. Check out the video below:

Why Dolphin Kicking?

A Dolphin Kick can produce speeds up to 25% FASTER than your Freestyle Kick. This is due to the fact both legs are coming down and hitting the water with a larger surface area. You get some help from the vortex of the waves produced by the downward motion, and you’re recruiting/using more muscles during this kick.

Even though a Dolphin Kick is similar to a Freestyle Kick in a sense that the down-kick does GENERATES most of the propulsion, you get more help from your up-kick with two legs versus one.

Don’t believe us? Try a 50 ALL OUT Dolphin Kick without a board, versus a 50 ALL OUT Freestyle Kick without a board and let us know how you do! Make sure to keep your underwater Dolphin Kick number the same for both 50’s too. I’d recommend using a snorkel and going in a streamline at the surface for both 50’s as well.

How Do I Learn the Dolphin Kick?

I would recommend you start doing some leg lifts on land. Similar to these below:

Example Leg Lifts on Land

I would start with 3×10 leg lifts and maybe 3x:30 leg holds to work your core strength.

From there, I would recommend starting to Dolphin Kick at the pool and incorporating the use of your upper body with the undulation. Trying this drill using a board and snorkel to help learn the FLOW and TOE POINT required with the Dolphin Kick! I’d try 8×25’s like this with ample rest to start.

Example Drill to use in the pool to work on your Dolphin Kick

Finally, I’d try going underwater for a few Dolphin Kicks to start working your anaerobic capacity. From there, I’d go start into swimming a lap and try a few repeats of that. Maybe 4x50s to start.

Example of Underwater Dolphin Kicks

How to Improve Your Dolphin Kick Swimming?

Just as we said when we started this blog having a great Dolphin Kick requires good timing, technique, mobility, and an aerobic capacity. Technically, you want your swimmers to be able to have the CORE STRENGTH to sustain moving their legs up and down together. Plus, the anaerobic engine to BE COMFORTABLE in an oxygen debt type situation. On top of that, you need pointed toes or GREAT PLANTARFLEXION to really move some water with your feet. Then, you have to practice, practice, practice the FLUIDITY of your Dolphin Kick – so you create that nice flow and wave like motion.

Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post as we discuss why Dolphin Kick Swimming Underwater is FASTER than above!

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

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