When it comes to swimming, there’s never one part of your stroke fully responsible for one thing. It’s a combination of multiple parts, making different movements, that support each other for the ultimate end result. Let’s take balance for example. There’s no one thing that will give you perfect balance. It’s a combination of things that, all put together properly, give you that secret sauce to proper balance. Your rotation, catch, kick, and body position all help you achieve and maintain proper balance. But how do they do that? Let’s take a closer look at one piece, the kick.
For endurance freestyle, your kick’s main function is to aid in your balance, which means it can also be your biggest downfall if you’re not careful. You want to use the backward motion of your top leg to maintain your balance as you finish your stroke on the same side. BUT, you need to do this without simply splaying your legs apart, which can cause you to lose your streamline and allow your hips to drop from the surface, which results in additional and unnecessary drag as you move through the water.
To work on finding the feeling of this balance you can practice One Arm Slideback Drill. This drill is great for feeling the support you get from your legs/kick during freestyle. The backward motion of your top leg - same side leg as the arm that’s finishing the stroke as you rotate upwards - is what helps you stay balance in the water without separating your legs or kicking too hard and fast.
The image above shows the top leg making the exaggerated slideback motion we’re looking for in this drill. What you might not know is that this is the movement your top leg makes during your kick without you even trying, and this drill helps you to better feel the assistance this movement gives to maintaining your balance in the water.
I know what you’re thinking, this looks like splayed legs. But look closely, as the legs aren’t separated side to side, but the top leg is moving backwards to help with your balance AND rotation, as opposed to one leg going to the right and the other leg going to the left.
Take a look at our One Arm Slideback Drill video and practice it for yourself the next time you get in the pool. It’s going to seem like a weird movement at first, but the point of the drill is to help you feel the support you get from your kick when you’re swimming. The exaggerated movement of your leg happens normally during freestyle, just not to this extent.