Freestyle Kick Like A Triathlete

How to use your strong legs to your advantage in the water

Written by Rory | Technique Advice


Hey Team, Rory here. One of the biggest battles triathletes face in the water is learning to use their legs effectively. You want the kick to help reduce drag and swim more efficiently. But at the same time, you can’t overdo it when your success on the bike and run depend entirely on your legs. 

If you’ve never learned EXACTLY how to kick your legs, this guide is exclusively for you.

I’m going to breakdown HOW to position and move each part of your leg so you can get more power out of your kick. You’ll also learn to get more from your legs without negatively affecting your bike and run.  

No babble. No stories. Let’s get kicking! 


1. Your Toes: 

Point your toes in exactly the opposite direction to the way you are swimming, i.e. backwards.

You should be able to point your toes with the least amount of effort possible. If you have to tense or strain your foot to point your toes, chances are you experience calf cramp regularly.  And you know, nothing will end your swim faster than a cramp!

freestyle kick triathletes

2. Your Foot: 

The top of your foot should form an extension of you shin bone.

Imagining flooring the gas pedal in your car… notice how the angle between your foot and your shin opens up? That’s the position we’re trying to get into!

As with pointing your toes, you want to open the angle of your ankle with the least amount of effort possible. If you have to fight to hold this extended position, you will quickly end up with cramp!

freestyle kick triathletes
Key Takeaway

You want your foot to be parallel to the bottom of the pool or ocean as you kick up and down. You should be able to open the angle of your ankle and point your toes with as little effort as possible.


3. Your Ankles: 

Have you ever grabbed a kick board and started a kick set only to find you’re not moving anywhere? Or if anything, you’re moving backwards?

If that’s you, your legs (whether they’re kicking or not) are killing your swim speed.

In a perfect world, your ankle should open up more than 90°.  If you can’t get to 90°, moving your legs is actually going to slow you down! You can put all the energy and effort into kicking more. Kicking harder. Kicking faster. It won’t do you any good.  In fact it will make you slower!

freestyle kick triathletes

Bad Ankles – acting like anchors and stopping you moving forward!

freestyle kick triathletes

Ok Ankles – not acting like anchors but not helping your move forward

freestyle kick triathletes

Great Ankles – helping you reduce drag and move forward!


4. Your Knees:

To kick well your knees must bend. But, we’re not riding a bicycle, or even kicking a football. That much bend would move our legs outside the profile of our body… And slow us down!

So how much knee bend are we looking for?

Well it’s kind of like Goldilocks’s search for the perfect porridge in the home of the Three Bears.
● Too much knee bend is going to create extra resistance.
● Too little knee bend doesn’t create enough force to create stability or move you forward.
● Somewhere in the middle is just right!

freestyle kick triathletes

There two points to think about when it comes to the knee bending:

1️⃣ The knee bend should lift your heel up towards the surface of the water. It should NOT pull your thigh in towards your stomach.

2️⃣ Your thighs should always remain hidden in the profile of your torso and upper body.
Get those two points right, and you will be creating force while minimizing resistance!

Key Takeaway

The knee bend should lift your heel up towards the surface of the water so your thighs always remain hidden in the profile of your torso and upper body


5. Your Hip Flexors:

Your hip Flexor is where the kick movement and power originates. When kicking correctly, your hip flexors should fatigue first, not your thighs.

To kick effectively; use your hip flexor to raise your leg up to the surface of the water as your knee bends slightly. Then snap it down powerfully as as your ankle whips back against the water.

Key Takeaway

Use your hip flexor to raise your leg up then snap it down powerfully as as your ankle whips back against the water.


6. Your 5 Step Check List:

1️⃣ Hip flexor raises raise your leg up  inline with your body
2️⃣ Knee bends taking the foot to the surface of the water
3️⃣ Hip Flexor snaps down powerfully
4️⃣ Ankle allows the foot to whip back against the water to drive you forward
5️⃣ Ankle allows the foot to presses down on the water, which lifts you up. Giving you balance and floatation.

freestyle kick triathletes
Key Takeaway

The ultimate goal is not to overkick or drive from the legs. Rather you’re looking to keep the kick small, light and consistent to stabilize and balance your body.


💁🏽‍♂️ What Questions Do You Have On The Kick?

This guide should leave you with no questions about how to kick, but no doubt you’ve thought of 20 already. Comment below with what’s holding you back from kicking like a real triathlete!

Download your copy of this post as a PDF, keep it handy and refer back to it whenever you need.

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About The Author


Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on ICanSwimFast.com. It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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