(Terry mid-stroke, poised to flick the toes of the bottom leg to drive his top hip down and entering hand forward, and propel him into a streamlined position on the other side)
This week we shift our focus to a more advanced skill in the T.I. swimming sequence: the 2-beat kick. As most readers of this blog will know, the first fundamental skills that we prioritize are balance and active streamlining, which reduce drag and optimize body position in the water. Once a balanced and streamlined body position is achieved, we then turn our attention to creating propulsion, through weight shifts of the core-body and a fully-connected stroke, powered by “the kinetic chain.” To understand how the kinetic chain functions in baseball, for example, here’s a brief description from an article on overhand pitching in the academic journal, “Sports Health”:
“The overhand pitching motion consists of a sequence of body movements that start when the pitcher lifts the lead foot, progresses to a linked motion in the hips and trunk, and culminates with a ballistic motion of the upper extremity to propel the ball toward home plate. The effective synchronous use of selective muscle groups maximizes the efficiency of the kinetic chain. The lower extremity and trunk generate and transfer energy to the upper extremity. Coordinated lower extremity muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, hip internal and external rotators) provide a stable base for the trunk (core musculature) to rotate and flex…”
(Frame-by-frame, pitching windup and release in baseball, illustrating the kinetic chain)
Similarly, in swimming, the propulsion of the stroke is generated via the kinetic chain– transferring energy by connecting the arms and legs to the power of whole-body rotation and extension. Watching a pitcher, we may see the baseball released rapidly by the player’s arm– but that singular body part is clearly not the entire source of the power and speed. It’s generated in the integrated full-body windup, of course. Likewise– in swimming– using the diagonal power of an effective 2-beat kick to connect our legs to the hip drive and core-body rotation, as one spears an arm forward, is rather analogous to a pitcher’s windup and release. Or a golfer’s swing. Or that of a tennis player! Obviously, the kinetic chain is evidenced in all sports– the point is, our true power lies in fully-connected, whole body movements. Once balance and streamlining skills can be performed easily, mastering a 2-beat kick is an excellent way to develop a more integrated stroke that maximizes your speed and efficiency.
For a complete, illustrated breakdown of the 2-beat kick, check out Terry’s article below, previously published in “Outdoor Swimmer” magazine. And if a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video’s worth even more– take a look at the instructive, brief YouTube video demo and analysis of the 2-beat kick by TI Coach Mandy McDougal. Enjoy… and Happy Laps!
Outdoor Swimmer, 2/18/16: “Master the Two-Beat Kick” — Terry Laughlin
What’s the best front crawl kick pattern to use in open water – whether for pleasure or speed? Most swimmers have little familiarity with their kick or understanding of its role in propulsion. I was no exception. For 40 years, my legs fatigued each time I raced while adding precious little speed. I believed I needed to kick harder to swim faster, but doing so only disrupted my stroke rhythm while exhausting me. Decades of kicking sets did nothing to improve the functionality of my kick, nor minimize that ‘dead legs’ sensation.
There are two distinct kick rhythms in freestyle: the six-beat kick (6BK), with six leg beats per arm cycle (i.e. two strokes) and the two-beat kick (2BK), with just two beats per arm cycle. In both styles, only two beats contribute to propulsion through body rotation. In 6BK, the other four beats are preoccupied with body position and alignment.
The 6BK is unquestionably best for maximizing speed over distances of 100 metres or less. From 200 to 400 metres, either can be effective, depending on swimmer preference. As racing distance increases beyond 400 metres, the 2BK offers ever greater advantages in speed-for-effort.
The fastest distance swimmer ever, Sun Yang, uses both kicks to great effect. When he broke the 1500m world record in the 2012 Olympics, he used a 2BK for 90 per cent of the race before shifting up to a powerful 6BK in the final 150 metres. He used the 6BK exclusively in the 200m final, where he finished third. Given that, I believe a 2BK is the most efficient for virtually all distances and fitness levels in open water swimming.
To read the entire article, with accompanying illustrations, and step-by-step breakdown, click HERE.
T.I. Coach Mandy McDougal Demonstrating the 2-Beat Kick (2:50)
Slow-mo & frame-by-frame analysis, illustrating how the 2-beat kick integrates with the whole stroke
LEARN MORE: Purchase the Total Immersion Freestyle Mastery Lesson Two: Expert 2-Beat Kick video as a digital download!