Underwater kicking has been labeled the fifth stroke because of it’s importance of speed in the water.
Underwater kicking is both discussed and worked on at the Technique Swim Academy. It’s a must have skill in order to be competitive, but it also must be perfected to be effective.
The goal at our swim camp is to introduce underwater kicking more thoroughly and explain how it is used to maintain speed created off starts and turns. Logically, this makes sense. Pushing off of a wall or block creates a significant amount of speed and is the fastest a swimmer will be moving through the water. By extending that speed thorough underwater kicking, the swimmer will then be propelled faster for longer.
While the motion of the underwater kick is very similar to a dolphin kick, it’s not exactly the same. Underwater kick is much more centered around a whip-like motion, generated from the hips and core that extends through the quads for its power. However, strength for the underwater kick also comes from ankle and lower back flexibility. It is truly a full body motion.
A great way to work on underwater kick is by working on its tempo, and a tempo trainer/ beeper can keep a swimmer accountable for maintaining consistency. Practice makes perfect in this situation, and repetition is the only way to ensure that the underwater kick will be developed enough to use in a race.
While underwater kicking has been labeled the fifth stroke, it must be limited in its use. David Berkoff, a Harvard swimmer, created the “Berkoff Blast” in 1987 by kicking 32 meters of his 100-meter backstroke, prompting FINA to place rules regarding the distance kicked underwater. Today, we know it as the 15-meter rule.
Next time your swimmer is interested in dropping time in their events, consider the importance of underwater kicking. It might be exactly what they need to make that next step!