Updated: Apr 20
Underwater Dolphin Kick is one of the most important skills you can learn in Competitive Swimming which is why many swimming coaches refer to it as the Fifth Stroke!!
Dolphin kick is used in almost every swimming event, and is the fastest way through the water. All you have to do is look at Caeleb Dressel's races to see how much of a difference being fast underwater can make!!
Now, the reason that the Fifth Stroke, Streamlined Dolphin Leg Kick, is the fastest method through the water is because you're in a position which produces the least amount of drag a human body can make through the water. And seeing as this skill is used after every dive and every turn in the pool, as well as being the quickest method through the water, it really is vital that you practice and improve upon it during your time in training.
In this blog, we are going to take you through our tips and the drills you need to master in order for you to improve your Streamline Dolphin Kick and get well you on your way to improving your swimming times!! We're going to give you three drills that you can use that are really going to improve your Fifth Stroke and increase your efficiency and speed through the water.
Butterfly Dolphin Kick
The first drill that we're looking at is Dolphin Kick and it's a very simple one. The aim of this drill is to get you doing the correct body undulations, which of course is very important for the Fifth Stroke. All you need to do is to perform Dolphin Leg Kicks with your arms by your side, keeping your eyes fixed to the bottom of the pool. Your primary focus is to make sure that your body stays as high in the water as possible so that every time that you do a dolphin kick, your hips break the surface of the water. The undulation of Dolphin Leg Kick begins by pressing your chest down first, along with then your hips and your legs. So it really is a full body movement. By initiating the kick from your torso, it uses your core muscles which is where all of your power and strength comes from. The idea is to be as relaxed and as fluid as possible, kicking with loose ankles for maximum propulsion. When doing this drill, try to avoid kicking from your knees. By kicking from your knees you will only be using muscles in the lower part of your body which makes it a much less efficient kick, plus it increases your drag through the water and slows you down. By doing this simple dolphin kick drill, you should really start to train the correct movement and undulation of your body, which is so key to the fifth stroke.
So after perfecting this initial undulation movement, you can move on to the next progressive drill in the cycle, which is the actual fifth stroke itself, Streamline Dolphin Kick.
Streamline Dolphin Kick
As I said before, Streamlined Dolphin Kick is the fastest way through the water and is used off every dive and every turn, so it makes sense to practice this skill over and over again. By mastering the art of Underwater Dolphin Kicking you'll really give yourself an advantage when you are racing as it is used in pretty much every swimming race. When it comes to practicing Streamlined Dolphin Leg Kick in training, there's a few areas that you need to focus on for maximum efficiency. One area is being in a tight compact streamlined position. Make sure your legs are together and point your toes. Once you're in that streamlined position, the next area you need to work on is that previously practiced undulation. The undulation is exactly the same as the first drill and should begin by pressing your chest down first, followed by your hips, then your legs and then your feet. As you're now in a streamlined position for this drill, having good flexibility, especially in your thoracic spine which is the top of your spine in your back, will help greatly with remaining in a tight streamlined position. Having more flexibility in your thoracic spine also gives you better range of movement and therefore gives your body the ability to perform bigger and stronger movements. Once you've got the streamlined position and undulation mastered, you're going to want to make sure you stay fluid through the water by maintaining a very high kick rate. There shouldn't be any pausing between the downbeat movement of the kick and the upbeat movement. So as soon as your feet begin the downward movement, begin the upwards movement immediately to keep your momentum and maintain speed through the water.
So, from the first two drills you should have a great understanding of how to perform an effective and efficient Fifth Stroke. The next and final drill in this blog focuses on improving your strength, your power and your speed through the water, and that is Vertical Dolphin Kick.
Vertical Dolphin Kick
Now, Vertical Dolphin Kick is as hard as it sounds. You have to kick with considerable strength and power to make sure that you're performing this drill for more than just a couple of seconds. The aim of this drill is a very simple one, to get yourself as high out of the water as possible for as long as possible. With that being said, there are three variations of this drill that you can perform as you train yourself up. So going easiest to hardest, the first variation is keeping your hands and arms by your side under the water, the second is raising both your hands and your forearms out of the water, and the last variation is to put your arms into that streamlined position that we were talking about before. With all these variations, you must still remember that your body undulation is key and the technique of your dolphin is still the most important thing you are training. When done correctly, training vertical dolphin kick is a great way at making sure that you're using your core instead of your knees. It uses much more muscle activation which therefore makes it a more powerful tool than doing regular Dolphin Kick on your front. It is also a great way to advance both the upbeat and downbeat of your dolphin kick and a brilliant way to make sure you are equally balanced too. If your kick is unbalanced, you'll find that you will quickly sink into the water and you won't actually be able to correctly perform this drill. It does take a lot of effort to perform Vertical Dolphin Kick correctly but that only shows that it is really benefiting your swimming and it's something that we recommend all advanced swimmers doing in every training session.
Vertical Dolphin Kick
When doing all of the drills in this blog, an important thing to remember is whether you want your movement to be big or small. Now every swimmer will be different and different things will work for different people but generally speaking, if you perform big Dolphin Leg Kicks through the water you are likely to feel very strong but you are going to be producing a lot of drag, and it works vice versa. If you perform a very small and shallow Dolphin Leg Kick you aren't going to quite feel as strong through the water but you are going to create little resistance. So you need to find that happy medium for you. When you do get it right, you will make a real mark on improving your best times and the best swimmers in the world really do practice Dolphin Leg Kick in every session and practically every length that they do. All you have to do is look at the likes of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte when they were in their peak years and what Caeleb Dressel is now doing to the world of sprint swimming to see just how important Underwater Streamlined Dolphin Leg Kick or the Fifth Stroke is to improving your times.
Check out this drill in full in the video below!!