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sok454
April 10th, 2013, 03:31 PM
Can someone explain to me the differences in the Kicking Rhythms? I feel that my kick is not consistent and is really holding me back. I feel like w the pull buoy I can swim all day but once I add in the kick I tire a lot quicker. Maybe this is common for everyone.

Rob Copeland
April 10th, 2013, 04:44 PM
Can someone explain to me the differences in the Kicking Rhythms?The 2 main kicking rhythms are a 2-beat kick (per complete arm cycle) and a 6-beat kick.

Kicking inconsistent can be attributed to lots of causes, such as bad hand placement (over-reaching can throw the hips out of line and require compensation from the kick), asymmetrical body roll, improper balance (head too high, hips/legs drop), not kicking up AND down, lack of ankle/knee/hip flexibility , too much knee bend, not enough knee bend...

Karl_S
April 10th, 2013, 05:04 PM
...
Kicking inconsistent can be attributed to lots of causes, such as bad hand placement (over-reaching can throw the hips out of line and require compensation from the kick), asymmetrical body roll, improper balance (head too high, hips/legs drop), not kicking up AND down, lack of ankle/knee/hip flexibility , too much knee bend, not enough knee bend...
Or in my case all of the above...

vo2
April 17th, 2013, 05:34 AM
It's tough to tell w/o looking at your stroke, but I can take a guess from your pull buoy comment. Almost 3 decades of triathlon, swimming with triathletes and not swimmers and all around bad practice habits helped me ingrain exactly what you are describing. When adding a kick disrupts rhythm my thoughts, having fought this at times myself, are that you may not swimming with an engaged core. The pull buoy is great for letting one swim so so w/o an engaged core and is a very bad crutch IMO if used in this manner. It's human nature to relax when the pull buoy crutch is added. Legs are lifted, lower drag position, zero metabolic cost to do so and all seems good in the world right? Until you put that same muscle pattern/activation into play w/o a buoy and then it ain't so hot. In point of fact my go to thought when things get tough at the end of any hard set is '6 beat kick from the core' and that brings things back in harmony for me. When the kick starts to shut down so goes my rhythm. Just remember that a spastic kick isn't the goal though so don't go too far to the other end of the spectrum. One of the most exciting break throughs in locking in to the idea of holding water and achieving a great catch/pull through is creating torque through your core to resist against with a properly timed kick. You are attempting to create the same type of torque you generate in land based sports akin to throwing a baseball or hitting a golf ball. Tough part is you are face down in water! The kick is what makes this all possible IF the core is being used as the motor. No one had ever told me this was the same feel I was after and that is my fault for not swimming with swimmers and good instruction. Being a baseball player all this made perfect sense once a good coach got hold of me and explained this concept.

One particular tip that helped and still helps me get good rhythm is to push off and start my kick slightly b/f stroke 1, but not b/f a proper streamline and break out are done. It's just a couple of flutters, maybe 2 to 3 kicks b/f that first pull on the break out. That sets my tone. Otherwise if I attempt to start stroking and kicking at the same time or worse pulling with no kick then I start off sketchy.

Make sure you have a plantar flexed ankle, kick is powered from your core and play with the amplitude. Think tight streamlined kicks inside a bucket. Giant spaz kicks are great for adding drag, lifting your feet out of the water and helping you go nowhere fast:)

Syd
April 17th, 2013, 10:32 AM
One of the most exciting break throughs in locking in to the idea of holding water and achieving a great catch/pull through is creating torque through your core to resist against with a properly timed kick.

Oh, I hear you, but this feeling is so elusive and fleeting for me. If only I could hold on to it. But I get tired or something distracts me (like a flip turn) and in a second it is all gone. I am working on it, though... everyday, or at least every time I have a chance to get into the pool but I am working against 40 years of bad habits and I know it is going to take some time.

Any ideas/thoughts on how to hold on to that feeling would be so appreciated.

Bobinator
April 17th, 2013, 11:39 AM
It's tough to tell w/o looking at your stroke, but I can take a guess from your pull buoy comment. Almost 3 decades of triathlon, swimming with triathletes and not swimmers and all around bad practice habits helped me ingrain exactly what you are describing. When adding a kick disrupts rhythm my thoughts, having fought this at times myself, are that you may not swimming with an engaged core. The pull buoy is great for letting one swim so so w/o an engaged core and is a very bad crutch IMO if used in this manner. It's human nature to relax when the pull buoy crutch is added. Legs are lifted, lower drag position, zero metabolic cost to do so and all seems good in the world right? Until you put that same muscle pattern/activation into play w/o a buoy and then it ain't so hot. In point of fact my go to thought when things get tough at the end of any hard set is '6 beat kick from the core' and that brings things back in harmony for me. When the kick starts to shut down so goes my rhythm. Just remember that a spastic kick isn't the goal though so don't go too far to the other end of the spectrum. One of the most exciting break throughs in locking in to the idea of holding water and achieving a great catch/pull through is creating torque through your core to resist against with a properly timed kick. You are attempting to create the same type of torque you generate in land based sports akin to throwing a baseball or hitting a golf ball. Tough part is you are face down in water! The kick is what makes this all possible IF the core is being used as the motor. No one had ever told me this was the same feel I was after and that is my fault for not swimming with swimmers and good instruction. Being a baseball player all this made perfect sense once a good coach got hold of me and explained this concept.

One particular tip that helped and still helps me get good rhythm is to push off and start my kick slightly b/f stroke 1, but not b/f a proper streamline and break out are done. It's just a couple of flutters, maybe 2 to 3 kicks b/f that first pull on the break out. That sets my tone. Otherwise if I attempt to start stroking and kicking at the same time or worse pulling with no kick then I start off sketchy.

Make sure you have a plantar flexed ankle, kick is powered from your core and play with the amplitude. Think tight streamlined kicks inside a bucket. Giant spaz kicks are great for adding drag, lifting your feet out of the water and helping you go nowhere fast:)

Thank you for this great post vo2!!!! This all makes perfect sense. I can't wait to go to practice tonight with this all in my head!

sok454
April 17th, 2013, 11:57 AM
Great post vo2! Thanks for that. Last night when I was in the pool I felt like my kick was a bit better... then I got home and read this and was like... man he is right!

vo2
April 17th, 2013, 02:04 PM
I am happy to pass on what broke me of the 'core-less' stroke. Harped on a ton, but body position doesn't happen by accident. And as you probably already know everything is tied together so having a properly timed kick is made much easier by having everything working together...IMO. Stand proud, swim proud. Scapulas retracted/shoulders back or simply....don't slouch. Make sure you kick from the core...not snap at the knees. Plantar flex those ankles. The abdominal group you want to feel is the transverse abdominus, NOT the rectus abdominus. Rectus is the 6 pack ab group, transverse is the deep spinal stabilizing group. When you are reaching for something on a shelf that stays just out of reach, stretch stretch strech.....still can't reach it. That is what you want to feel. Don't let that go and keep it there....all the time. It's really easy to release that core tension towards the end of your pull through so be aware of that and keep that good tension there. This isn't 'watch me squat 500 lbs.' tension, just enough to turn the muscles on so they are in the driver's seat. The metabolic cost of doing this is huge early on, but it will pass and then become second nature. 50's were hard for me to keep it together at first. Now I can do 500's....and so will you! Slowly at first and then it will come along fast in adaptation.

Good luck and have fun you are on your way to good stuff!

Oh, I hear you, but this feeling is so elusive and fleeting for me. If only I could hold on to it. But I get tired or something distracts me (like a flip turn) and in a second it is all gone. I am working on it, though... everyday, or at least every time I have a chance to get into the pool but I am working against 40 years of bad habits and I know it is going to take some time.

Any ideas/thoughts on how to hold on to that feeling would be so appreciated.

vo2
April 17th, 2013, 02:11 PM
Great post vo2! Thanks for that. Last night when I was in the pool I felt like my kick was a bit better... then I got home and read this and was like... man he is right!

Ha well I'm not right, but the guy that taught me is:) Just passing on his golden nuggets of wisdom. Hope it works stick with it b/c there is no single aspect of the stroke which has paid bigger dividends for me than this.

GregJS
April 17th, 2013, 03:06 PM
vo2, you have a great way of verbalizing what I'm slowly discovering seems to be the very crux of swimming well: an engaged core. I'm with Syd - almost 40 years of bad habits to overcome and finding that engaged core very elusive and fleeting - and tiring as all heck. So it's very helpful to hear you describe the "huge (initial) metabolic cost" of swimming this way. I had no idea just how huge it was. I was getting so tired so quickly in swim practice that I actually became hypochondriacal and went to see my doctor, telling him there must something wrong with my lungs or heart! But after an EKG, a stress test, and sucking on some gizmo called something like an "inspirometer," I can rest assured that I am just in the early stages of dealing with that huge metabolic cost of really using my core for maybe the first time in my life. If I even just stand with my hands clasped behind my back and squeeze my scapulas together - or do any other exercises that recreates swimming with an engage my core - I get winded pretty quickly. So it's great to hear that this is a normal stage of progress - a "hump" that needs to be gotten over - and that eventually will be gotten over. And slowly, it is happening: I'm able to do a 100 now while maintaining that engaged core feeling. Looking forward to my 1st 500 that way...!

vo2
April 17th, 2013, 03:26 PM
Great I'm glad it came through clearly...sometimes things get lost in text only. Just stick with it b/c once your body figures out you are only going to let it swim with the core engaged then it will come quickly. Might even be a mental component there not sure. But all of a sudden you will just take off kind of like your first rip around the block w/o training wheels and that is your new 'normal'. And man it's fun so stick with it!

One little tidbit. You have to push through that barrier daily, don't make it like a drill day or something. If you make a decision that this is how I'm going to swim from now of it will come quickly. And if you completely falter at 2K and have a 3K written down? That's a tough one. When I fell apart we bagged it and did some kicking drills or something else b/c there is no sense swimming junk yardage with poor form....at least IMO. I'd take it to the point where I'd pop and do a few hundred more just to make sure I squeezed every drop out that day, but would not pound in yardage 'just because' once my form went back to the old way. Make sense? Might not be easy to do b/c I come from the HTFU era, but it's only for a bit until you ingrain it.

GregJS
April 17th, 2013, 03:34 PM
I'm truly inspired! Because I never realized those training wheels actually came off! :D

But seriously, I'm looking forward to the experience you describe - and will stick with it till it happens.

As for kicking rhythm, does 4-beat fit in to the picture anywhere? I do 2-beat for longer swims, but when I speed up, I find myself naturally going to 4-beat. 6-beat seems like it would really require a huge output of energy. Is that part of the learning to swim with an engaged core equation?

vo2
April 18th, 2013, 06:10 AM
That's a tough one too. My coach and I both like a 6 beat for me. I'm 6'1" and fairly proportionate limb wise and a 6 beat gives me my best rhythm and keeps any pauses/gliding out of my stroke. A 2 beat feels nice for sure, but at my height/limb length to sync up to a 2 beat gets me a to very slow stroke rate which I don't want. My best times, given appropriate fitness, come with mid 60's stroke rate for say a 200. There is a woman at theMasters group who uses a 2 beat, punchy stroke rate incredibly well, but she is about 5'4". Huge difference b/c her all day normal stroke rate never drops under 90. Now some might say 'why not just ramp up the stroke rate and let the kick do what it does?'. For me it's all about making sure the stroke and kick are in harmony. So, when I want to speed up my pace I rotate my body faster. The way I rotate my body faster is to create more torque in the core and I do that by speeding up my kick. Make sense? If you just start pulling harder and ignore what's going on from the core down then you are most likely losing that connection 'down there'.

A 4 beat can work for sure if you can get the rhythm down. A 6 is just what works for me at all stroke rates and doesn't require me to be 'on' that day to make it work. From stroke 1 the rhythm is there.

I will say I had an epic kick fail at practice last night though I was disappointed in myself. Got sloppy mentally and let myself slide back into old habits. No soup for me!

GregJS
April 18th, 2013, 05:15 PM
Thanks again, vo2 - I hear you on not just continuing to swim in order to meet a yardage goal when no longer swimming with good form. Actually, my coach, who goes by rxleakm on this site - and who I must say has helped me with my form a whole lot - just sent me a video of myself swimming towards the end of a recent practice and I looked terrible. I definitely don't want to keep ingraining that. On the other hand, I have gotten a lot of benefit in terms of sheer fitness/endurance from doing his workouts past the point where I maintain good form. But now that my mind feels reassured that my exhaustion is just a phase to get through, I'll really double down on maintaining good form - even if I can't make all my sets.

What you're saying about the different kicking rates I find just fascinating. Never heard it spelled out like that - in terms of both body size and body proportions. But it sure makes a lot of sense. And the need for the kick and the stroke to work together clearly goes right along with that engaged core. I'll experiment with my kick from this point of view and see what happens.

JanSwim
April 18th, 2013, 09:19 PM
Stand proud, swim proud. Scapulas retracted/shoulders back or simply....don't slouch. Make sure you kick from the core...not snap at the knees. Plantar flex those ankles. The abdominal group you want to feel is the transverse abdominus, NOT the rectus abdominus. Rectus is the 6 pack ab group, transverse is the deep spinal stabilizing group. When you are reaching for something on a shelf that stays just out of reach, stretch stretch strech.....still can't reach it. That is what you want to feel.

vo2, really interesting descriptions of how kicking, body position and your core need to work together to swim efficiently. Do you have any references (books, articles, other posts maybe?) for more info about it?

When I was swimming today I thought about the "stretch" you described, and I just don't know what to do to do it, or even if I'm already there. My background is ~8 years competitive swimming when I was a kid, burn out, 30+ years of no serious swimming, now back to it and loving it for over a year. If I am doing what you're describing, how would I know? BTW I'm another 5'4" 2 beat kicker. If I rev it up to a 6 beat kick I tend to pause every stoke cycle. Thanks!

vo2
April 19th, 2013, 07:37 AM
Greg and Jan

As far as the limb length/stroke rate goes, kicking too.....nothing is cast in stone. You just have to experiment and see what works best for you. I simply found that a tiny six beat flutter gave me better rhythm than a 2 beat. Couple that with the fact that in order to sync catch/pull with each kick on a 2 beat I experienced pauses/gaps. Well, 6 beat won. I'm a huge advocate of not having pauses and gaps in the stroke or too much catch up is a another way to put it. All this gets really koRnfeWsing b/c it's all connected.

Let me sum up my conversion and I will leave it be. I used to have tons of catch up in my stroke with little or no kick so each cycle was akin to accelerate.....decelerate....accelerate.....decele rate. That is a very exhausting and inefficient way to swim. For decades I was stuck in a speed rut where I couldn't get any faster and this was the reason. So, in order to make sure I was applying at least some propulsion almost all the time I filled in those gaps with a 6 beat kick and taking some of the catch up out of my stroke. If you want to watch a guy who perhaps does this as well as anyone I have ever seen watch this clip. Guy is an Aussie Olympian and if you play/pause his stroke you can nary find a moment he isn't propelling himself. Zero gaps. Jan no books, but hopefully seeing this guy in action will show you what I'm trying to articulate. He certainly has some front quadrant characteristics, but it's not a stroke saddled with decelerating/accelerating. Watch the entire vid and you can see how his 6 beat is present throughout, every angle it's clear. Hope this helps, sorry for the tangents, but it's all interconnected and you can't talk about one and not the other!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs&feature=youtu.be

__steve__
April 19th, 2013, 09:50 AM
In addition to kicking from center of balance, ankle flexibility seems paramount to kicking fast. Seems the foot's limited range of propulsive ability is outside the natural range of movement.

JanSwim
April 19th, 2013, 11:13 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs&feature=youtu.be

vo2-that video is great! I get it now. The center line of Jono Van Hazel's head and torso are a fixed pivot point. His kick, arm stoke and body rotation happen smoothy and in precise co-ordinated timing "around" them. You're right, it's all connected. And he makes it look so effortless. His body position is so perfect that it looks faked. Oh, and he looks relaxed too. Genius!

Beards247
April 19th, 2013, 01:26 PM
vo2 - great posts! Concrete with a little bit of humor mixed in, a really nice read. Like Greg, I'm trying to over come years of bad form and a body that seems to like change less and less : ). As I stretch my stroke out I feel my core getting more engaged, just need to keep at it and build some endurance. There are moments that I feel everything come together and it is almost a reaction of 'whoa, that is fast!'. Looking forward to more stroke improvements.

GregJS
April 20th, 2013, 01:52 AM
This whole "core engagement" issue is clearly so essential - but so darn tricky! As JanSwim asks vo2, "If I am doing what you are describing, how would I know?" That's just it. If you don't know what an engaged core feels like, how do you know whether you are doing it or not? Reminds me of how I did yoga for years with zero core engagement - and never had the slightest inkling that there was anything missing there. And never did a yoga teacher point this out to me. When I got back into swimming in 2006 or so, I used the Total Immersion book, which talks very explicitly about engaging your core; but still, I had no idea whether I was doing it or not. For years, I thought I was, but really wasn't. Bit by bit, I may be starting to catch on, finally. It feels like it. But who knows? Maybe I'm still nowhere near really getting it??

Seems that for those lucky people who have always engaged their core naturally - the "natural athletes" who probably go on to become the yoga teachers and super-fast swimmers and so on - it is so automatic to them that they can't even imagine the degree to which some of us are not doing it and the struggle we have to go through to do what comes so naturally to them. So maybe this doesn't get talked about and emphasized enough for some of us for whom this is the "core" issue, so to speak.

But hey - this is what makes learning to swim well such an interesting adventure! And this is why I am so appreciative of all the little clues, suggestions, hints, tips, and encouragements I pick up from here and elsewhere - like those by vo2, Beards247, my coach, videos like the one suggested above, etc.

vo2
April 20th, 2013, 05:07 AM
Greg as far as what an engaged core feels like. I can only relay how it feels to me. This assumed you are adept at ground based sports and understand a bit of kinesiology and the principles of how the body creates, stores and delivers energy in sport. I think most of us do even if we can't articulate it.

As a pitcher I understood how I created torque by anchoring my feet into the ground, resisting against it and counter rotating my core to generate torque. The arm is very passive at this stage and is along for the ride. It's the tip of the whip for lack of a better term. By generating hip speed and uncoiling that tension in the core it's transmitted up the body...UP the body from the ground up....and culminates it's move by holding that arm in place and continuing to rotate the hips until there is no way to stop the momentum. THIS is when the arm receives all that energy and the pitch is delivered. Notice I said UP. That is how you create torque from the core.

So, if you can start to think of the stroke as not beginning from the arms and working it's way down that might help you get the feeling. Doesn't matter if it's hitting a golf ball, throwing a baseball.....these actions are done from the ground up if done properly. Watch a youtube vid of a pitcher in slow motion with play/pause. Hard part is we are face down in the water, but the idea is the same. Take that feeling and try to feel the same muscles activating in the water:)

Beards247
April 20th, 2013, 11:09 AM
Greg - re:how it feels... this for me is where the video stuff comes in the handiest. Of course it helps me understand what I am doing wrong in the water, but my goal is to remember what muscles get tired when doing the corrections. Later, when swimming or doing specific drills I want to feel those muscles get tired.

For me It's also been a series of progressions over 6+ months. My training partner calls them 'epiphanies' where all of the sudden some aspect of stroke just clicks - it feels right like it should have been there all along. But then he jokes it just means there's another mountain to climb after that one.

I still think there are miles to go before I get it, but I am getting it and really enjoying the process.

swimark
April 20th, 2013, 11:16 AM
Greg as far as what an engaged core feels like. I can only relay how it feels to me. This assumed you are adept at ground based sports and understand a bit of kinesiology and the principles of how the body creates, stores and delivers energy in sport. I think most of us do even if we can't articulate it.

As a pitcher I understood how I created torque by anchoring my feet into the ground, resisting against it and counter rotating my core to generate torque. The arm is very passive at this stage and is along for the ride. It's the tip of the whip for lack of a better term. By generating hip speed and uncoiling that tension in the core it's transmitted up the body...UP the body from the ground up....and culminates it's move by holding that arm in place and continuing to rotate the hips until there is no way to stop the momentum. THIS is when the arm receives all that energy and the pitch is delivered. Notice I said UP. That is how you create torque from the core.

So, if you can start to think of the stroke as not beginning from the arms and working it's way down that might help you get the feeling. Doesn't matter if it's hitting a golf ball, throwing a baseball.....these actions are done from the ground up if done properly. Watch a youtube vid of a pitcher in slow motion with play/pause. Hard part is we are face down in the water, but the idea is the same. Take that feeling and try to feel the same muscles activating in the water:)

Thanks for the pitching analogy, that cleared up a few things about engaging the core. For me it sounds similar to spiking a volleyball. Now the next time I go swimming I will look for that.

vo2
April 20th, 2013, 11:23 AM
Thanks for the pitching analogy, that cleared up a few things about engaging the core. For me it sounds similar to spiking a volleyball. Now the next time I go swimming I will look for that.

Actually I think your analogy would be better than a baseball analogy since when you go up to spike you create all that torque airborne....much more in line with being in water. THAT is the analogy there.....vball spike. Nice.

GregJS
April 22nd, 2013, 02:18 PM
vo2 - the "tip of the whip" image and the sense of the arm being "passive" and "along for the ride" is really good. Converting your pitching analogy back into the pool, you're saying your arms feel just that passive while swimming (or at least throughout the recovery phase, which is what I assume you mean)? That would be a big change for me. And does that feeling of "along for the ride" change when sprinting - as in, you just increase the rotation of the core and the arm still remains relatively passive even when sprinting?

And since we are not on solid ground, instead of remaining anchored, like while pitching, the legs will want to twist the opposite way, like when spiking a volleyball. But in order to do more than a two-beat (i.e., legs just going along for the ride and being yet another tip of the whip), it seems you would have to exert more control over the movement of the legs? Or can a 6-beat kick somehow fit in with the natural movement generated from the core?

Maybe I'm over-thinking - but if there's a simple answer...? In any case, I do get the overall picture: torque generated from the core/hip movement, transmitted to the limbs. Good stuff.