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Herb
September 8th, 2009, 10:28 PM
Does anyone else flat out refuse to do kick sets because they hate it and are convinced the knee will get aggravated to the point that the returns become negative?

Is there evidence to support that you are in fact better off avoiding kicking or am I just being a wuss?

__steve__
September 8th, 2009, 10:48 PM
Are the kick sets aggravating your knees?

Herb
September 8th, 2009, 11:19 PM
Are the kick sets aggravating your knees?

I haven't tried it in about a year, but I could feel the pain coming - the same kind of pain I get from running where I had to ice my knee afterwords. I can run twice a week for two months to complete a 5k for one triathlon but the pain and swelling becomes cumulative and I'm then done for 10 months. I don't want that to happen with swimming now that I have found it is my only true love.

But my kick is real weak and it seems like an important aspect. How much would flippers help? I made the mistake of buying Zoomers last time I tried and that definately didn't help.

Chris Stevenson
September 9th, 2009, 03:37 AM
What type of kicking are you talking about: flutter, dolphin or frog?

I have terrible knees -- they prevent me from running -- but have no trouble with kick sets. (Though I don't do frog kick at all in practice -- ever.) And I don't see how the nature of the stress on knees from swimming or kicking can be similar to the type of stress they get in running, to produce the same reaction.

That being said, you need to listen to your body. Surely you can push it but stop or back off before you reach a tipping point, where you would be in pain for 10 months? If that's what you are doing and it isn't working, don't push on just because you've heard it is good for you. It isn't good for you if it makes you stop training.

Flippers and zoomers are hard on my joints (knees and ankles) and I use them very sparingly.

frankiej
September 9th, 2009, 07:34 AM
While kicksets are hard for me, they don't put any burden on my knees really. Only when I do a crappy breast stroke kick do my knees feel any sort of pain.

Long tailed fins with help of course but it will be all the harder when you take them off or at least that's my opioion. You also have to remember that the power of a flutter kick doesn't come from the knees, it comes from the upper portion of your leg.

I've come to realize that the flutter kick is a very hard kick to get down pat and takes time and practice.

SolarEnergy
September 9th, 2009, 09:19 AM
Is there evidence to support that you are in fact better off avoiding kicking or am I just being a wuss? That's big reason why I quit competitive swimming way back, now I am resuming.

The 3 things I found were pretty bad on knees (worst first)
- Freestyle turns
- Breaststroke kick
- Flutter kick

I mention freestyle turns because my knees hate unusual movements and sometimes just one flip with some twist in it could bring back the pain.

The kicking would not hurt me at low speed. But back then, say you throw in a 10x100 free style kick hard off 2:00, would be a miracle to book it without being injured the day after.

Now, the solution for me was hidden somewhere in the Gym. After several years of disciplined weight training (20min per session roughly, 2 leg exercises), I can flip, kick etc. The progress was monitored over 10 years. I can now conclude that without a weight resistance program, it would have been impossible to resume serious swimming.

I am resuming competition this year, I expect my knees to complain about it a bit, I will increase my injury prevention gym workout by adding more exercises.

- - - -
Flippers would probably hurt you more. If you have a poor (weak) kick then huge chances are that you lack flexibility and that your ankles are tensed. This can be improved at very slow speed. A nice soft kicking drill (butterfly though, but helps for ankle flexibility etc) is this one here. It looks slow but I can easily hold a 1:15 interval for 50m kick sets while remaining very relaxing
YouTube - Fly DrillSide

Very relaxing for your knees, and kind of entertaining too.

spell_me
September 9th, 2009, 10:02 AM
I'm no expert, but like Frankie says, the power in flutter kick doesn't come from your knees, but from your thighs and your butt. You shouldn't be using your knees in flutter kick, and if flutter kick is straining them, you need to work on correcting your kick. It would probably be very good for you to do kick sets, and to focus on making your kick come from your bee-hind and upper legs instead of just trying to make your feet go up and down.

The Butterfly kick is supposed to come from your hips, and I would think it would not strain your knees. I think it is fun and challenging to practice doing this kick properly.

If I were in your shoes I wouldn't kick breast stroke at all.

SolarEnergy
September 9th, 2009, 10:47 AM
Although it is of common belief that flutter kick power comes from the hip, in reality most power generated comes from quadriceps muscles during the extension of the leg.

Just to make sure we talk about the same things here, my statement applies to sprint flutter kicking (which for me begins at a pace of 50sec per 50m).

When a baseball player throws a ball, the motion is initiated by the whole body rotation weight transfer then the upper back then the shoulder then the arm then the wrist then the fingers. Same goes with flutter kick action. (hopefully) Initiated by the Hip (like you point out) then Huge quadriceps contribution to finish the leg extension and hopefully, if ankles are floppy enough they act like fins (flippers).

In this equation, the knee kinds of act like a buffer, absorbing tremendous amount of energy which is the result of the flexing/extending action. The leg recovers fully straight (of course) then during the downsweep it flexes, then whip, then recover fully straight again etc.

I take the time to detail all this because again, it is of common belief that swimming is a low impact activity especially for lower limbs. While this may be true if you don't intend to sprint, for me (as well as for the OP it seems) this belief is totally false.

Anyone with loose knees would probably benefit from tightening them at the Gym.

carolina22
September 9th, 2009, 11:29 AM
Anyone with loose knees would probably benefit from tightening them at the Gym.

What exercises have you done and what are you planning to add?
Thanks.

SolarEnergy
September 9th, 2009, 12:50 PM
What exercises have you done and what are you planning to add?
Thanks. I believe that my knee issues were mostly related to a) muscle unbalance and b) loose articulation. Quads muscles being way to strong compared to back leg muscles. Of course, having dislocated my knees 3 times when I was in my teenage certainly did not help, explaining why the articulation became loose, thus unstable.

Over the last 10 years, I have done mostly a modified leg press (well they call it H Sqat) which targets the glutes and back leg muscles more than Quads, I have systematically avoided Leg Extension and included Leg Curl (to create this balance between back leg and front leg strength).

Between 2000 and 2008, I could not Squat. Very sharp pain underneath the knee pallet, like an electrical shock. Since 2009 I can (with very light weight).

For season 2009-2010 I intend to modify my weight resistance menu in the following manner:
- Increase Leg Curl number of sets and resistance, so that I can...
- ... introduce the Leg Extension (flutter kick) without screwing up the balance (between back leg and front leg muscles)
- Start adding more weight and sets for pure Squats (in preparation for breaststroke kicking)

All this, I hope, will tighten up the knee articulation even more, allowing me (hopefully) to support repeated heavy kick and turns/push off the walls.

You may have noticed that I did not do any (self) researches on hip abductors/adductors. I don't know if that would have help or not. Maybe for breaststroke kicking I don't know.

Final note about breaststroke kicking. I am not fool. This is a highly dangerous exercise for me. I will actually kick breaststroke only when I really need it, otherwise I'll substitute fly kicking when doing the full stroke. This will be beneficial for my pulling anyway. If I manage to complete the full season without being seriously injured, next year I may add more Breaststroke kicking. In other words, I'll be very progressive in incorporating it.

May I finish with an anecdote?

Like you know, us, males, tend to compare each others when come to our ability to lift heavy weights. I have always been very weak compared to those big gym power lifter guys. Being 5'10 and weighting 150pounds, my top bench press performance doesn't exceed 1 plate and a half. Same goes with all other exercises except for two machines: Leg Extension and Lat Pulldown. And on the leg extension, back to the days I was training this, I could go up to 2 plates on each side (90pounds per leg) and manage sets of 12 like this. I have never seen any of these bodybuilders matching me at this. That outstanding ability came from years of hard free style kick sets during my childhood and teenage.

nkfrench
September 9th, 2009, 02:19 PM
The usefulness of kick sets depends on what your goals are. Competitive sprinters absolutely need to build their legs; and in full-stroke swimming it can be tempting to not work the kick in order to conserve energy.

I normally restrict my breaststroke kicking to when I am doing full-stroke BR. Sometimes I just have to use a dolphin kick in practice instead and just work on the stroke rhythm. I rarely use BR kick during kick sets even when we are directed to do so. I just have too much damage to the knee from old injuries/surgeries and it is painful, the bad kind of pain.

For the other strokes, kick sets don't seem to aggravate my knees much. I don't bend my knees much at all.

On flipturns I have managed to torque and hurt my knee when my foot slipped on the wall. Current coaching says on freestyle turns, to push off the wall on your back but it may be more appropriate for bad-knee people to dip a shoulder on the flip so you aren't flat on your back and are already partly turned before you push off.

SolarEnergy - is that a kneecap dislocation or a total dislocation of the knee itself (the kind where the ACL/PCL can be destroyed) ? Mine was the latter.

I've found cycling to be excellent for building up the knees in a low-stress manner. Include "regular" cycling seated in the saddle, climbing hills slid back on the saddle and pushing with the heels down; riding standing on the pedals, and making sure you "paw back" and lift your feet on the upstroke rather than taking a free ride up so your hamstrings also get some work.

SolarEnergy
September 10th, 2009, 08:05 AM
SolarEnergy - is that a kneecap dislocation or a total dislocation of the knee itself (the kind where the ACL/PCL can be destroyed) ? Mine was the latter. It's been so long. I remember one of the incident where my leg ended up flexing in a way I thought was impossible ;-)


I've found cycling to be excellent for building up the knees in a low-stress manner. Include "regular" cycling seated in the saddle, climbing hills slid back on the saddle and pushing with the heels down; riding standing on the pedals, and making sure you "paw back" and lift your feet on the upstroke rather than taking a free ride up so your hamstrings also get some work. I may have overlooked this aspect. I have to add that I got involved in a cycling program as well over the last 10 years. It certainly helped.

WPSWIMS
September 10th, 2009, 12:14 PM
I have a complete tear to the PCL which I was told not to have operated. I use a metal brace for skiing and hiking. I am fine on the bicycle as long as the hills are not too steep and long. I find kicking very uncomfortable and can not keep up with my lane mates, tried different fins to no avail. I usually just go last or jump into an empty lane for the kick sets. I would love to do the kick sets. ANy suggestions for fins. Backstroke kick, kicking on the side is very painful! I am not a sprinter. My best event are middle distance free, distance free, 200 fly and 400 IM. I am upset that I can not longer race 200 breast. The first thing I asked ski patrol when I had my accident, will I be able to swim breast and fly! THanks for any suggestions.

Ripple
September 10th, 2009, 05:53 PM
Vertical kicking might be a good alternative. You stay upright in the water at the deep end, perhaps hugging a kickboard if you're very lean, and kick from the hip with a loose relaxed leg. If your knee starts to hurt you can just stop - you're already at the wall.
As per fins, I find the shorter the fin, the less stress on the knee. Zoomers have their faults, but they work for me because they're so short. Supposedly the blue ones are softer and more flexible, therefore more suitable for most people. The red ones are supposed to be for high level swimmers with very flexible ankles.

orca1946
September 10th, 2009, 08:00 PM
Are you bending at the knees to kick / If so, then you need to use more hip & quad muscle to help with the kick .

frankiej
September 10th, 2009, 09:19 PM
One thing that you could consider in training is racing tights.

I wore my Hydrospeed 2 race tights and I usually have a little bit of a bite when I do my breast kick with kick sets but when I did them his morning I was doing them at a pretty fast pace and didn't feel a thing. The extra compression and support is awesome.

SolarEnergy
September 10th, 2009, 09:41 PM
Backstroke kick, kicking on the side is very painful! How interesting. Different angles triggering sharper pain? I kind of experimented the same phenomenon in the gym (squats). But that's another story.

Back to you. The one thing I am wondering about, is your kicking efficiency. I don't mean to criticize here. Let me illustrate my point.

I made the following clip few years back when I wasn't even swimming anymore (too pissed off due to knee pain among other things). It was to help a friend remotely (the clip). It shows my ankle flexibility and relaxation. I am not a bad kicker, and part of my efficiency lies on this. The idea is to reach a state of ankle relaxation that allows for your feet to more freely. The *wire* has no tension whatsoever. It also shows some flexibility test.

YouTube - Flutter Kick Floppy Ankles

Once you reach this state, you can move forward using less energy, the effort is lessen, the knee suffers less stress, this may work. The following clip was recorded the same day. It shows my slowest kick. Just moving legs up and down with no effort really. Just keeping the ankles very relaxed, the feet (I just wear size 10) act like fins and I move forward. No effort, that can not hurt.

You'll notice some bubbles (suggesting that I kick harder than I actually do) but that's just because contrary to what most people advocate, I like to kick on the water. Tap on it, especially at slower speed. And I allow my knees to bend (I don't know if that would made a difference for you).

YouTube - Very slow flutter kick

I am sure that becoming more energy efficient is your best bet for now. That'll allow you to remove some strain off your knees while maintaining decent forward thrust.

Over years, if you respect them, your knees may become better and better. For now, substitute breaststroke kick for butterfly kick (but this you already knew I am sure). And for the breaststroke, well, that is a challenge. And my only clue would be the gym for this (stroke mechanics put aside of course).

** Edit ** you know, breaststroke kicking for you? I'd probably decompose the movement dryland home quiet in your bedroom or something. You know what to do really. The challenge is to be able to perform a composite movement, complex, dynamic, where any component might hurt. Divide and conquer. Stand still in your bed room with feet little larger than shoulders, bend the knees slightly inward (I am improvising here.... I am sure you can do the same). That'll lead you to strange breaststroke specific squats (body weight only). Just don't bring yourself to tears. You may tolerate slight pain if you find it beneficial to the *research* process (tolerate slight pain, wait a day or two, retry and see, repeat over weeks and months, any change? better? worse? etc... long process but that's the way it is).

I don't think we should run away from pains in order to win over them. But you have to be very smart in dealing with them, and expect or *aim* for some articular adaptation, tendons, muscle balance between antagonist causing the articulation to work the way it was meant to (takes a lot of time) which translate into less and less and less pain. That's the rule of the game, at least in my mind.

Thrashing Slug
September 10th, 2009, 10:18 PM
With all this talk about kick sets and bad knees, I feel I need to inject some common sense. If your knees hurt when you kick, don't do it. Especially not breaststroke kick. I would never kick BR at all if it hurt or if my knees felt unstable. It's too risky and just not worth the risk. There are so many other sports that one can enjoy.. why destroy your body doing something you know is going to cause damage.

If your knees are injured, my advice is to avoid kicking in the pool for several months. Do a consistent, disciplined physical therapy program in the gym, aimed at strengthening the knees. Extensions, presses, and squats with low weight, one leg at a time, proprioception exercises, the works. After a few months, get in the pool and try kicking again. If it still hurts, don't do it any more. Continue the gym routine and repeat as necessary. Come to terms with the fact that you may never kick in the pool again. If you can do it safely, great. If not, do something else.

Ricki
September 13th, 2009, 09:08 AM
Have you ever had your knee looked at by a doctor? If not, it might not hurt to have it looked over, just in case there is anything serious going on that exercise can't fix. Sorry if this was asked already, but I just skimmed the thread for now.

Herb
September 14th, 2009, 10:43 PM
I first blew out my knee - ACL, meniscus 15 years ago and have had nothing but trouble ever since. Yeah I could see another doctor, get another MRI, another surgery ...

I have found swimming to be a low impact sport on the knee outside of kick sets. And the knee doesn't actually bother me in full strokes - I even feel like I am picking it up pretty good on sprints. But my kick can't be generating much extra speed for me - the lady at the Y that refuses to get her hair wet in the pool can beat me with a kick board.

I'm not convinced it is technique because it is not something I had a problem with as a youth. Unless part of it is that kick sets are just astronomically harder to get back than the rest of the stroke? After a long layoff, everything else came back like riding a bike.

Oh, and don't worry about me doing breastroke. I have already given that up for life and it was not difficult. I completely sucked at breast since birth.

Herb
September 14th, 2009, 10:52 PM
I'm no expert, but like Frankie says, the power in flutter kick doesn't come from your knees, but from your thighs and your butt. You shouldn't be using your knees in flutter kick, and if flutter kick is straining them, you need to work on correcting your kick.

That sounds good in theory, but I don't know that it really works that way. My knee hurts a little right now typing this message.

Herb
September 14th, 2009, 11:01 PM
Hypothetical -

Swimmer A can swim a 100 free arms only in 1:05 and can kick 100 in 2:00.
Swimmer B can swim 100 free arms only in 1:15 and can kick it in 1:30.

What would you expect their relative times to be in the 100 free?

SolarEnergy
September 15th, 2009, 03:33 AM
Although fairly hypothetical, this sounds like a fun little game.

Swimmer A shows a truly deficient kick and quite an efficient pull. Could be a triathlete spending most of his time swimming with a pull buoy and coming from a running background.

Swimmer A shows an outstanding kicking ability relative to a poor upper body efficiency.

Both show an unbalanced stroke where the weakness can be considered as a flaw.

I'd expect swimmer A to remain at 1:05, or, if he doesn't kill the speed with his kick, faster. Getting under the minute is unlikely in my opinion.

Chris Stevenson
September 15th, 2009, 01:41 PM
I first blew out my knee - ACL, meniscus 15 years ago and have had nothing but trouble ever since.

So weird, this is pretty much exactly what I did (through in a "lateral release" of the kneecap for good measure) and they didn't affect my non-breaststroke kicks in the slightest.