Insider Training: Coach Marsh On Underwater Kicking

There is no denying how the underwater component of a race has become a major piece in the puzzle of what can separate the ‘good’ swimmers from the ‘great’ ones.  Swimmers from around the world, on all levels have recognized for some time how ‘the fifth stroke’ can make or break a race and give an athlete a monstrous edge over competitors weaker in the underwater element of an event.  But, that doesn’t mean everyone includes the skill at every practice.

Watch as Coach David Marsh of SwimMAC Carolina gives us a simple way to integrate underwater work into our daily workouts and how holding oneself accountable to consistency in underwater practice is the key to getting it right.  Marsh reminds us that underwater swimming is the “second fastest way to travel through the water” and swimmers need to “commit to it on every single wall.”

Alongside Marsh in the video is NCAA Division II Champion, Matthew Josa, who underscores what Marsh conveys on the subject.  Josa’s reiteration of using underwater dolphin kicking as a powerful weapon carries mega-weight, considering the Queens University swimmer racked up several individual titles at this year’s D II Championships, including brand new records in the men’s 200m IM and 100m butterfly events.

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Tom from Chicago

I think this is a no-brainer provided the swimmer has the physiology for it e.g. big feet with flexible ankles, knees, and hips.

Many males start to lose flexibility as early as middle school. If you watch the NCAA finals, you will see most swimmers not doing dolphin kicks off the walls. Phelps turned it into a style, but if you watch the videos of him underwater, he has incredible flexibility in his ankles. I think guys like Phelps and Lochte are the exception, not the rule. We would all love to do 8 or 20 (like Seliskar in the 2Fly), but its just not happening.


We must have been watching different NCAA Finals.


I’m with this guy, David Nolan, Ryan Murphy?


.. schooling.. conger.. hell, go watch dressel in the 50


Size 14 feet (Phelps) help too.


I have to disagree that you need to have big feet and flexible knees and hips. Ankle flexibility can be easily obtained through religious stretching and foam rolling


What are you talking about? I watched every race at NCAAs this year, and in Fly, Back, and Free EVERY SINGLE SWIMMER did dolphin kicks off each wall. True, the very best swimmers did more kicks and went further off the wall than the average swimmer, but the fact is:
1) dolphin kicking is faster than flutter kicking in a streamline off the wall, no matter who you are.
2) You need to be able to excel in dolphin kicks in order to finish in the top three in Fly and Back these days. That is partly genetics, but if you don’t incorporate it into your training, you will not have a chance to hang with the best.


Your second point is 100% correct, your first isn’t. Some people simply aren’t as good at dolphin as they are a flutter kicking.


The men’s 50 free NCAA finals really highlights the differences between swimmers in their proficiency and utilization of dolphin kicking. Some guys practically pop up into sprint freestyle with flutter kick; others do extended dolphin kicking. They all swim about the same time.

About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

Loretta grew up outside Toledo, OH, where she swam age group and high school. Graduating from Xavier University, she stayed in the Cincinnati, OH area and currently resides just outside the city in Northern KY.  Loretta got back into the sport of swimming via Masters and now competes and is …

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