FINIS Tip Of The Week: Kick Tempo


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Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s tip is a reminder about the importance of holding tempo when dolphin kicking. While the actual technique of dolphin kicking is incredibly important — thinking of your amplitude, engaging your core, keeping the upper body stable, among other things — in order to maximize the speed from that technique you need to be thinking about the tempo you are performing your kicks. Practicing technically perfect but slow tempo kicks won’t be of much help in a race.

According to USA Swimming, the ideal kick tempo for dolphin kicking is around a .40 tempo per kick. So how do you practice this? A tempo trainer is a great place to start, but you also need to be able to find that specific tempo on your own. Starting with a simple progression of 10-20 x 25’s working on adding in kick tempo (i.e. – 5 holding tempo for 10 meters, 5 holding tempo for 15 meters, etc…) that starts with a tempo trainer through the first half before taking it out is a simple way to get accustomed to holding a kick tempo consistently.

Once the basic concept of tempo is understood, the focus should shift to holding that kick tempo through the duration of the breakout. The natural tendency will be for our kick tempo to slow as we fatigue. Using a tempo trainer is a great way for swimmers to realize this, but also practicing shorter breakouts (i.e. – 4 fast dolphin kicks into a breakout) or using bungee cords to accelerate through breakouts are two great ways to practice carrying that speed all the way through the first stroke.

For younger swimmers, focus more on the number of kicks and their effort as opposed to an exact kick tempo to develop a solid habit for their underwaters. A simple set of 25’s where you add a fast dolphin kick with each repeat is a great challenge set to teach kick endurance. You can track their tempo from on deck to make sure they are kicking quickly enough, but again the focus should be on building a strong habit for practice as opposed to making sure they are exact on their kick tempos.

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.