Do This Swim Drill: Vertical Kicking

Vertical kicking is a challenging drill great for promoting an efficient flutter kick.

Vertical kicking is a challenging drill great for promoting an efficient flutter kick. Instead of kicking across the pool along the surface of the water, vertical kicking takes place in a stationary position in the deep end. The challenge of this drill lies in keeping your nose and mouth above the surface. It’s very tiring and should be performed in short intervals near the wall so you can rest as needed.

The lesson is to develop a quick cadence with the legs. The flutter kick is most efficient when performed with quick, short kicks. Remember: The kick starts at the hip and uses the entire leg for propulsion.

Beginners should start with their arms under the water. You can make small hand movements to help keep the body afloat and stationary. Minimize arm sculling for support and focus on the legs to develop a good kick. The next step is to eliminate upper-body assistance by locking your hands together and keeping them tight to your body. When this is no longer a challenge, try raising the tips of your fingers out of the water. Efficient and strong kickers can raise their hands, forearms or entire arms out of the water while keeping their head above the water!

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Set 1

Go to a place in the pool that’s deeper than your height and has a good view of a pace clock. Push away from the wall a few seconds before the interval starts and use your arms to place yourself in a vertical position. When the clock starts, lift your hands to the surface and use a flutter kick to keep your head above the surface. Keep your eyes on the clock. Train with a buddy and alternate your vertical kicking.

• 6×30 sec vertical kicking with 60 sec rest

• 5 sec kick, 15 sec rest, 30 sec kick, 30 sec rest, 45 sec kick, 45 sec rest (repeat 3 times)

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Set 2

Get creative and mix the challenge of vertical kicking into another set. Combine it with swimming, kicking with a board or relays.

• Swim 4×100 yards. In the middle of each lap, vertical kick for 15 seconds then continue swimming.


• Kick 300 yards with a board. Every 60 seconds, hold the kickboard out of the water and vertical kick for 15 seconds.

More swimming advice from Sara McLarty.