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