You Kick with 120-Degrees of Knee Bend!

In Freestyle, the kick can generate up to 40% of propulsion of the entire stroke! I always tell my clients this when I work with them to help them put into perspective how IMPORTANT the Freestyle Kick is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a long-distance, sprinter, or middle distance Freestyler – your kick determines how FAST of a swimmer you are!

In our new series, we are going to dissect the Freestyle Kick mechanics and how you can improve your Freestyle Kick today!

Let’s get started!

One of the most common questions I get as a stroke technician is, “How Much Knee Bend Should I Have While I Kick?” And I totally understand most swimmer’s confusion on how to ‘measure’ this.

For me, I start with telling my clients that it’s same amount of knee bend that you have when you walk. It should be about 120-degrees. And yes, go ahead and walk a few steps to ‘try’ it out πŸ™‚

This amount of knee bend is NOT a ton, and it does ensure a swimmer is initiating the kick from THEIR HIPS and not just from the lower legs.

Another analogy I use is it’s kinda like ‘Kicking a Soccer’ Ball, you want to have a swimmer ‘wind up’ (i.e. up-kick) and then hit the ball – which is where the feet come back in line with the body – to then, follow-through (i.e. down-kick) and finish with the feet in FRONT of the body line. These 3 stages of a Freestyle Kick we will discuss in Part II of this series.

How Do I Practice This?

There is tons of drills and different ways you can kick to help you improve, but my favorite is to kick on your back!

If we are specifically talking about the amount of knee bend, if you place a swimmer on their back – it’s very EASY to see if their knees are POPPING through the surface while they are kicking. If this happens, they are definitely using MORE than 120-degrees of knee bend.

Another way to vividly see if you’re kicking with the correct amount of knee bend is to film yourself swimming! This is the only SURE fire way to know if you’re kicking correctly! Andddd, best part is – I can analyze your stroke with YOU. Click here to learn about our video analysis packages.

Another two ways I really enjoy working on kicking with the correct amount of knee bend is vertical kicking (if your pool’s depth allows it) and kicking on your side. I’ve found that when you kick a lot with your board, it’s harder to know the amplitude of your kick. I notice a bunch of my swimmers actually tighten up their kick while with a board, so I try to keep a variety of kicking styles for them. I think mixing it up is good in general for any aspect of stroke technique.


If you start kicking more from your hips than your knees, you will feel some noise from your hip flexors. That is the muscles in front of your hips on your prone side. Use this as a gauge to know if you’re moving in the RIGHT direction.

Also, be sure to stay tuned for Part II of this series where we dive deeper into the MECHANICS of the Freestyle Kick to help hone in yours too!

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

4 Responses

  1. I really appreciate your venturing into the areas of swimming that are underdeveloped/overlooked. It’s great for revelation, exploration, and reflection. Thank you, Thank you!

    1. You’re very welcome. Thank you so much for your kind words and feel free to share around with your swimming friends πŸ™‚

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