Should Triathletes Learn to Kick in Swimming?

Team MaccaX member James Bale asked:On Thursday nights I swim with my local Tri club. There are only two swimmers there that are faster than me… Turns out when doing pull with the legs negated I’m as fast if not faster than both of them.

So at the end I said to then maybe I should work on my kick to become a better swimmer and maybe keep up with them.

One of the women said “why bother you’re a triathlete and don’t need it?”

So, thoughts? Should I learn to kick? Do we need it? Currently I hardly kick at all and rely on my upper body for 99.9% of the work.

Team coach Tim Ford noted: Yes we will never kick like swimmers but I still think if done efficiently it can make us faster. Look at the top tri swimmers… they kick.

Team mindset expert Brett Robbo agreed: From my opinion, regardless of the sport or skill, you need to think about efficiency. What’s the most efficient way to swim? Kick or no kick? 

How do the most efficient swimmers swim? Both. How do the most efficient tri swimmers swim? Tim said it first – they kick. 

My advice to an athlete when working on a weakness is not to neglect your strength and only work on your weakness. Understand the need to dynamically link everything to a point of greater EFFICIENCY. 

Also, if you find gas leaks in a pipe you’ll want to fix them. If an athlete/Coach finds the energy leakages in an athlete they should be addressed.

"How do the most efficient tri swimmers swim? They kick."

Coach Jenna Seefried added: My policy is make it so the kick doesn’t hurt the rest of your race. When you’re trying to get around buoys or catch a group or get excited near the end of the swim you’re probably going to start kicking. So it’s a good thing to be comfortable and have some endurance for.

When working on kicking I like to use a swim snorkel so you can engage your core more and kick in the right position. Another great way to work on it is vertical kicking so like you’re treading water but without moving your arms, I found it helped me naturally find the right body position so I don’t sink and kick most effectively.

Coach Justin Granger suggested a swim drill: 25-meter sprints Band ONLY. Start with 10 after every session then add 5 more each week.

The band should be an old bike tube tied around the ankles with a fist width between. This will allow you to still have some short and restricted kicking but ensure you develop core strength and better body position. So you don’t have to rely on a strong kick.

Key with band only is to force your head down so the legs automatically lift. Massive benefits to be made and at first attempt you will be dragging your toe nails on the bottom of the pool. After a few weeks you should get your 25-meter time down to what you would without the band.

MaccaX offers a wide range of triathlon training plans to suit your fitness and goals. You may also inquire with our coaches for customized plans.


(Photo credit: ashleigh290 on Visual hunt / CC BY)

Noelle De Guzman
Noelle De Guzman
Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer with ten years of experience in the field of fitness and wellness. She blogs at about endurance sport in the Philippines and beyond.