December 15, 2017

Tri Swim Series, Part 5: Leg And Foot Position

Last, but not least are your feet. What should they be doing? How much do your legs and feet really drive you through the water? Great questions (Ron)!

Frankly, your legs and feet aren’t that important in triathlon swimming. Now, if you were talking about short distance swim events I’d have a different opinion, but for our sport . . . not so much.

It’s not to say that your legs and feet aren’t important, it’s just that relative to the other elements of the freestyle stroke, they’re less important – and if you’re swimming in a wetsuit, they’re even less important.

First, if your body position is good your legs should be following close to the surface of the water. If you’re “plowing” through the water chances are your head is too high and your legs are out of position. Remember, the more “hydrodynamic” you are, the easier it is to swim, and the faster you can go.

Ideally, your feet should be kicking close to the surface of the water and your heals breaking the surface of the water, but not splashing wildly. You don’t want to work your legs so hard during the swim so you have difficulty cycling afterward.

You’re going to get very little propulsion from your legs in triathlon swimming. Perhaps 5% – 10% of your forward motion can be attributed to your legs. But since you don’t want them dragging behind you it is important that they do more than drag behind you.

I really don’t care about your kicking pattern. If you kick once per stroke or three times per stroke it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the following:

• Keep your toes pointed but not stressed. If you stress them you’re likely to get a cramp.

• Keep your feet together. I used to have this problem when my body was out of balance. If your body is properly situated you should be able to swim with your feet close together, not splayed.

• Keep your knees straight but not locked. There should be very little knee bend. The more you bend your knees the less hydrodynamic you are.

• Keep your feet near the surface of the water (as previously described).

Since I’m not a big fan of “swim crack” (all of the swim devices that are supposed to make you swim faster), I never use a kickboard. The idea behind using a kickboard is to give your legs more power so you can swim faster. The problem is we all have a limited amount of time and rather that spend the time to do the laps with a kickboard I’d rather see you working on your form.

Practice these tips and you’ll have a better swim at your next event!

Ron Saetermoe


Discover the secrets to improving your swim technique, avoiding painful injuries, and shaving minutes off your best triathlon times to date! Are You Ready To Make A Change In Your Athletic Life?

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