These swimming exercises, of varying degrees of difficulty, focus on one particular point of your swimming technique. Repeating the exercise helps to correct and then automate the movement until it no longer remains an effort.
In a word, if your goal, and it’s a worthy goal too, is to perfect your swimming technique, then educational exercises are essential! And I maintain that anything can be perfected through educational exercises and some practice!
Today, we will concentrate exclusively on the most effective educational exercises to improve your technique and increase your leg power.
So let’s get on and learn how to really make those legs paddle.
1. Kicking With Hyper Opposition
Not the easiest of starts and even the name sounds frightening. But, after all, we’re here to take up a challenge and improve ourselves.
The position in hyper-opposition kicking is easy to picture. This exercise does not require any equipment. All you have to do is lie on your front in the water.
At this point, you instinctively swim by making strokes with your arms in front on you. But now, we are going to make things a bit tougher. Stretch your arms downwards, with one hand on the other, perpendicular to your body (the chest and arms form a 90° angle).
Once stable in this position, start kicking to move forwards, lifting your head out of the water when you need to breathe while looking straight ahead.
Thanks to the resistance produced by your perpendicularly positioned arms, this exercise works the legs hard, helping you to increase your power of propulsion.
Educational, hard, but remarkably effective!
2. Kicking Without A Board
Nothing could be easier to understand. It’s all in the title. But let’s take a closer look.
If you are used to exercising your legs with a board, leave it on the side of the pool for once. This exercises the legs without any floats.
The exercise consists of swimming by kicking when on your front, with your arms stretched out in front of you. It is necessary to remain perfectly horizontal and to only lift your head briefly to breathe. And to make it even tougher, sculling with the arms is strictly forbidden!
The original thing about this educational exercise is that you can do it in a variety of positions. You can also do it on your back or even on your side (left or right).
When swimming on your back, adopt the “arrow” position, with your arms stretched out behind your head and the hands together for improved hydrodynamics. When on your side, make “profile” movements with the arm closest to the bottom in front of you, and the arm on the surface by your thigh. When swimming on your side, breathe by slightly turning your head.
As well as improving your stroke, this exercise will teach you how to remain perfectly horizontal under all circumstances, in order to build your core muscles. To work even harder on this point when swimming on your front, I recommend a front snorkel.
This educational exercise and its variants are simple and will help you to improve your swimming technique and position in a gentle and relaxing manner!
3. Big-Toe Kicking
What on earth does this mean?
Don’t panic. Big-toe kicking is easy to understand and to do. Just swim by kicking with a swimming board, as you normally do. The extra little challenge is to make your big toes touch one another with every kick.
I can see that you’re unconvinced...
It might not be that hard, but what’s the point?
As we said earlier, educational exercises help you to correct your movements and to adopt the right gestures, until they become automatic, and you don’t even think about them.
The automatic gesture we hope to achieve with this exercise is to bring your feet closer together. Many swimmers swim with their feet too rigid and too far apart. This is also often the case in wave-like movements.
As well as avoiding additional contact with the surface of the water, which slows down the forward movement, kicking with your feet close together produces more efficient propulsion. When your big toes touch one another with every kick, your feet tend to turn inwards, favouring the bend of the ankle and, therefore, an optimal whipping effect.
This simple exercise will gently make your ankles more supple, producing more efficient kicks!
4. Kicking With Your Feet In The Water
Think about it. Making a lot of white water does not mean you are swimming better.
Note that a powerful kick has an efficient downward AND upward phase. You have to work on both phases to displace more water with every movement. Displacing more water tends to produce more propulsion.
And these large masses of water are not on the surface, but deeper down. Therefore, and in order to strike the right compromise between the horizontal position of the body and the displacement, the foot must not completely come out of the water when it reaches the surface. Efficient kicking only produces small splashes.
This is where this exercise become really useful!
By kicking under the water, without making any splashes, you will tone up your legs, significantly improve your propulsion and quickly understand that there is no point in making a lot of white water.
Simple and effective!
5. Static Kicking
Do you enjoy riding exercise bikes? Or using a treadmill? So what about swimming on the spot?
This leg exercise is quite hard, but it is probably the most effective means of building up muscle, improving your cardiological performance and producing greater propulsive force.
The exercise consists of simply adopting a vertical position, with your hands crossed on your torso, and staying on the surface, with your chin above the water. To do this exercise properly, you must keep your chin quite dry.
If this is too hard to begin with, you can always put on your fins!
To build up muscle and progress significantly thanks to this exercise, it is important to complete several consecutive cycles. So there’s no point in overdoing it right from the first series. Depending on how hard you find it, adjust the number of seconds you have to stay on the surface and the number of series.
One thing is for sure. Static kicking will give your thighs of steel!
So now you are an expert in... what? Want some more?
OK. One more for the road!
6. Core Muscle Board
I would like to hand over to Fabrice Pellerin, National coach and multiple Olympic medal-winner, who will explain precisely what this last exercise is all about.
To make the most of your educational exercises, concentrate on your movements until they become automatic. If you do the drill in a hurry, it will not be assimilated properly.
There is no point in spending your entire swimming training sessions doing educational exercises. It is important to alternate between these exercises and normal swimming in order to apply each technical point to a real-life situation. One or two educational exercises per training session is quite enough.
Butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke swimmers, don't fret! You will soon have your own Top 5 educational leg exercises for your own strokes!