This week’s Speedo Tip of the week is from the Jan.-Feb. 2007 issue of Splash, in which Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Misty Hyman offer some advice on underwater dolphin kicking.
If done correctly, dolphin kicking underwater can be faster than swimming on the surface. Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Misty Hyman, whose expert dolphin kicks propelled them to unforgettable victories, share their tips on how to get a killer kick.
• Remember three key elements: proper body position is crucial; the force from your kick generates from your core; and your kick should be small and controlled.
• Coughlin says not to kick from the knees or feet. “It’s an entire body movement, like you’re snapping a whip,” she said. “It’s a little crack in the wrist that evolves into a big kick at the bottom.”
• Start with a good streamline, toes turned in and ankles slightly separated. Get propulsion from kicking down (the leg bend and extension) and kicking up (engaging your back, glutes and hamstrings). “A fish has no joints and bends the same way on both sides. I pretend to do the same, making a perfect “s” curve that slithers through the water like a snake,” says Hyman.
• Since surface tension causes drag, most elite-level swimmers stay under for the full 15 meters legally allowed in a race. But you don’t want to stay underwater for too long. Once momentum ceases, gains made underwater could be lost, and fatigue from oxygen deprivation will slow you down.
• Consistency in practice is imperative. Commit to a number of kicks and do it off every wall, including warm-up. Then gradually increase that number. Coughlin’s seven kicks in practice gets her about ten meters. During a race, 11 kicks gives her the full 15 meters. Hyman’s rule is to always train two more kicks than what’s planned in a race. So if you need 9 kicks in a 200 fly race, kick 11 times off every wall during fly practice.
• Try this: With fins, kick four sets of five 25s underwater on 30 seconds, breaking for 30 seconds between each set. Take breaths at the surface as needed, and gradually work your way up to swimming longer distances comfortably underwater. Also practice 25s underwater, dolphin kicking on your back, plugging your nose to go long. Turn your head, use nose plugs or try Coughlin’s tactic – plug your nose by flipping your upper lip.