View Full Version : Fish tailing - Preventive Drill?

June 4th, 2005, 04:40 PM
If a swimmers legs are going side to side (fish tailing), what is a good drill to correct this?

Sabretooth Tiger
June 4th, 2005, 06:05 PM
My best guess would be that the swimmer whose legs are "fishtailing" (assuming this is swimming freestyle/crawl) is either swinging his/her hands wide on the recovery and/or reaching across his/her head on the hand re-entry.

Maybe the "zipper" drill or "catch up" drill focusing on keeping the elbow high, hand near the body on the recovery and straight ahead on the re-entry and catch.

But that's just me.

carl botterud

June 4th, 2005, 08:21 PM
cross your legs at the ankle, no bouy, and pull, if you are crossing over your legs will really fishtail. Move entry point out gradually, until you find the point where there is no fish tail.

Michael Heather
June 4th, 2005, 11:11 PM
Kick harder. You are fishtailing because your kick lacks the thrust to keep the back half of your body straight.

Also be conscious of your hips and their rotation during the stroke. If your hips are kept flat relative to the surface of the water, you will tend to fishtail. They need to roll with your front half as you stroke.

June 4th, 2005, 11:25 PM
Whining? Excuses?


First of all a team mate of mine is fish tailing. Our assistant coach noticed it today. We were all trying to come up with ways of correcting it. True..... drills will not teach you how to swim. They "do" improve technique and strengthen the body.

June 5th, 2005, 08:31 AM
I felt like I was fishtailing, too, and seemed to find relief by looking down more - I had my head up, which I think lowered my back half, introducing a curved spine that caused fishtailing as I rotated through the stroke.

Haven't run into the wall yet, either, beginning to feel that linear spine rotation feeling talked about elsewhere here.

Good luck,


June 5th, 2005, 09:38 AM
In my experience fishtailing results from two related things: cross over and insufficient roll. You can cover up these problems with kicking in which case they will show up in pull sets. If you are rolled right onto your side a cross over becomes a upward vertical movement and most swimmers will intuitively not do it. If you emphasize the extension leaving the swimmer on their side with the arm extended directly ahead or slightly downward the cross over should correct itself. Also, many people who cross over are entering too early and moving the entry point further forward as well as outward will help.

Matt S
June 5th, 2005, 09:42 AM

Quit pulling the legs of people who post questions to this forum. "Kick harder"?!! You gotta be kidding me; that's dinosaur, YMCA learn-to-swim, Red Cross circa 1970 thinking.

Let's see, I'm allegedly fishtailing which is affecting my balance and streamlining technique and making me less efficient. This typically starts from the torso--pulling or recovery technique--before it works its way down to the legs where you can notice it, especially in freestyle which is an arm and torso dominated stroke. So, I can
(1) take a close look at my front end technique and find out why I am imbalanced and try to fix it there. Carl's recommendation would be a good example of this approach. OR
(2) use the brain-dead, address the symptoms not the cause approach, and OBTW through one of the most fatiguing and oxygen-debt costly solutions imaginable. Let's be clear. Kicking is hard work. Your big thigh muscles use a lot of oxygen and in the flutter kick return a lot less forward thrust for that expenditure. You can justify this in shorter sprints because you can afford to burn the O2 for that last little burst of speed. But never, Never, NEVER burn O2 excessively in your kick to fix a balance issue. No one, not even Grant Hackett, can afford that.

OK, I apologize for turning you into a tackling dummy. I did not mean to attack you personally. My real target is the "work harder to avoid thinking" mindset.


Michael Heather
June 5th, 2005, 05:06 PM

Sorry if my first two words don't neatly correspond with the feel good about yourself 90's kind of schooling, where it is apparently not important to read the entirety of the post you are mocking.

I have the fishtail problem quite frequently and need reminders from my coach that it exists. The two main problems are: lack of sufficient kick thrust and lack of sufficient body roll. Either or both will result in fishtailing. It happens usually in longer distances where kicking is somewhat suppressed as a method for forward motion (but still necessary for stroke balance).

If one is already kicking, fishtailing is rarely a problem. Kicking harder (or perhaps more accurately, at all) will help solve it. Body roll is even more effective. Just because a solution is simple should not remove it from the arena of possibility.

Working hard is not a sin, not thinking is. I despise the latter and hold highly the former.

June 5th, 2005, 11:50 PM
Originally posted by Matt S
Quit pulling the legs of people who post questions to this forum. "Kick harder"?!! You gotta be kidding me; that's dinosaur, YMCA learn-to-swim, Red Cross circa 1970 thinking.

I don't know, I think Michael does have a point. If you are really fishtailing bad then, yes, you should look at what your upper body is doing to cause this. However, I think it would be nearly impossible to NOT fishtail slightly, regardless of how good your pulling is, if you don't kick. Think about distance swimmers who are using a two-beat kick. This kick is giving them virtually no propulsion. It is primarily used to counteract the torque generated by the pull. So the bottom line is you need to kick at least hard enough--and obviously in the correct sequence--to counteract the inherent asymmetry associated with the arm pull.

June 6th, 2005, 09:05 AM
Doesn't the fact that people can do pull sets with no kick without fishtailing argue against this?

I admit I haven't closely watched a pull set to see if everyone fishtails at least a little, but even if they do it is not to the extent where it draws the attention of coaches and fellow swimmers and prompts requests for drills to help correct it.

June 6th, 2005, 12:30 PM
I think if the swimmer should

1) swim while getting video taped
2) watch the footage

3) swim trying to correct it while being taped
4) watch the footage

5) repeat steps 3 & 4 till she corrects it

then she needs get used to the feeling of doing it correctly

It's really hard to say with out seeing exactly what the swimmer is doing. Somethings off balance.


Originally posted by Xenadiva
If a swimmers legs are going side to side (fish tailing), what is a good drill to correct this?

June 6th, 2005, 12:57 PM
Originally posted by LindsayNB
Doesn't the fact that people can do pull sets with no kick without fishtailing argue against this?

I think most people still subtly kick, even when using a pull buoy. My guess is this is a subconscious way to correct for lateral forces generated by the pull. But I will agree that any fishtailing bad enough that coaches and other swimmers notice is probably NOT just caused by a poor kick.

Anyway, I guess I'm not helping with drills to prevent fishtailing, so I'll shut up now :)

June 6th, 2005, 11:16 PM
Can't say about other pullers, but I tend to keep the feet together to make sure I'm not kicking. The only times I've noticed fishtailing is when I'm tired and falling into (previous) bad habits.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Lindsay's point is that significant fishtailing is a sign of poor balance/technique, and that you'll impove your swimming more by fixing the problem instead of masking it (by kicking harder).

Let me make an analogy. I have a twenty-year old bike. Turns out that I had snapped the back axle, so I was grinding metal. In the short run, I can pedal harder to compensate for the friction, but I'd be much better off replacing the axle to reduce the wasted energy. (I found this out the hard way, while my car was in for repairs.)

June 7th, 2005, 12:54 PM
When I've noticed peole fishtailing, it isn't always about the amount of their kick or the energy put into it but the position of their lower legs & feet. They frequently kick flat footed. Just try to point your toes sometimes and see if that works. i noticed that at the Illinois masters swim meet, a woman (won't say her mane) who is considered to be one of Illinois's fasterst swimmers fishtails. She had very sloppy feet.

June 7th, 2005, 01:58 PM
Most of all *make sure your head position is stable *(where the head goes, the body follows) and your rotation is from the hips/belly button not the ribs/shoulders... just my 2 cents.