Fifteen Meters of Fame: Analysis and Development of Underwater Dolphin Kicking

SwimSwam contributor Chris O’Linger is an assistant coach at the University of the Incarnate Word.

As the college season is kicking off, many swim coaches are looking to tighten up semantic work, put in an appropriate aerobic base, and instill good values in their athletes, returning and new. At the university of the Incarnate Word, where I coach, we are taking a few weeks to get our athletes in shape, while incorporating a few semantic/technical drills (starts, exchanges, body positioning, etc.) This past week has been led by a strong emphasis on underwater dolphin kicking. Our staff emphasizes a few key points on which the athletes need to focus:

1)    The propulsion must be driven from the hips, but the legs (quadriceps) account for the majority of the power (Mark, 2012),

2)   The legs must make a lashing movement through a kinetic chain of the core, hips, quadriceps, feet and toes.

3)   The core must stay flexed and active through the movement’s entirety,

4)   The down-kick is responsible for the majority of power, and the up-kick is responsible for the setup of the down-kick (Mark, 2012), and

5)    Controlled upper body movement is acceptable, but must be limited in order to “hold a line” in the water.

Fifteen Meters of Fame Pic 1

Fifteen Meters of Fame Pic 2

Fifteen Meters of Fame Pic 3

Previous research and our video analysis led us to believe that a strong emphasis on full range of motion on the initial kicks at a tempo between .40 and .50 are ideal for our collegiate butterfliers and backstrokers (Arnold, 2011). After the initial kicks, an emphasis should be placed on letting the quadriceps take over, as range of motion and speed drop. The tempo naturally drops just prior to a swimmer’s breakout, but our staff preaches the notion of holding explosive speed into the first stroke cycle. We are not as concerned with minor movement of the upper body, however, we incorporate various range of motion drill work to increase: 1) flexibility assisting a release of the lower back,  2) a scapular depression forward (fighting the up and down movement of the arms), and 3)  flexibility concerning hyperextension of the knees and ankles.

Many programs are consistent with their work on dynamic movements for underwater specificity, vertical kicking, and monofins (Arnold, 2011), but at the University of the Incarnate Word, we are introducing new hypoxic drills to ensure our athletes are working toward mastering their “Fifteen meters of fame.”


Arnold, K. (2011, December 27). Dolphin kick: tempo of the best kickers. Retrieved



Arnold, K. (2011, December 27). Dolphin kick: training tips for improvement. Retrieved



Mark, R. Dolphin kicking [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from http://www.usaswimming.



Chris O' Linger, graduate assistant coach, Incarnate Word swimming & diving. (Image courtesy of UIW)

Chris O’ Linger, graduate assistant coach, Incarnate Word swimming & diving. (Image courtesy of UIW)

Mark, R. (2012, April 9). Dolphin kick: key technique points. Retrieved from http://www.

About Chris O’Linger via UIW

O’Linger is an assistant coach for the Incarnate Word swimming and diving program.  He swam collegiately at both the University of Florida and University of Tampa.  He earned a degree in social psychology from Tampa.  He is studying kinesiology.

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7 years ago

i know chris. he’s a pretty cool dude. he rolled up to usms nationals in 2012 and the rocked the house in the distance events

7 years ago

Chris is an awesome guy! Used to race him back in my days. Great to see him doing well, keep up the good work Chris!

7 years ago

Thanks for the comments guys! Much more research to come these next few weeks…

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

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