My biggest problem with front-crawl (freestyle) swimming is that I naturally kick four times per cycle (i.e. twice per hand), such that I'm always kicking with the same foot when a hand enters the water. This makes my body roll worse on the left side, and I find it very hard to breathe on that side.

I guess that learning to kick two or six times per cycle (i.e. once or thrice per hand) could improve my technique a lot, but I'm finding it very hard to get the hang of it. I can start out fine, but after a few strokes, I'll take a breath and then either go back to two kicks without realising, or lose my rhythm entirely and start waggling my feet in an unco-ordinated way.

With two kicks per stroke, I feel like it's making me speed up my strokes to keep my legs from sinking between kicks; OTOH, with six I feel like I don't have time to fit all the kicks in.

Apart from "just keep practising", how can I change my kick pattern?

  • I can tell from experience that its hard, so you're definitely not the only one having this problem. I'm curious to hear from any swimming trainers how they deal with this
    – Ivo Flipse
    May 18, 2014 at 15:07
  • @IvoFlipse - They don't. There's nothing wrong at all with a 4 beat kick, it's very common among distance swimmers, and unless there is something grossly wrong with the kick, it's not what is causing the roll. Bilateral breathing takes a lot of practice. I'd be interested in seeing a video of Dan's swim, I would bet there is something else going on.
    – JohnP
    May 22, 2014 at 14:50
  • @JohnP in my case the problem is going from a 2 to a 4 beat kick. I'm running out of air trying to increase the frequency
    – Ivo Flipse
    May 23, 2014 at 10:37
  • @IvoFlipse - Then there is something else going on. You should be able to switch kick counts at any time with no real impact. I can go from 2 to 8 and back many times in a race depending on need.
    – JohnP
    May 23, 2014 at 17:12

2 Answers 2


6 beat

Focus on a smaller range of motion in your kick. If your legs are moving too much you're not going to get all the kicks in time, like you said. Work on a smooth stroke and try not to be thrashy with the kick.

2 beat

This is good for distance swimming but it will quickly reveal body position issues. You want to concentrate on "swimming downhill" (think pushing your chest down and trying to keep your legs level with your upper body). And you may need to increase your stroke rate somewhat.

You can do a drill by swimming with a band around your ankles (cut a piece of an old inner tube or something) This is very hard but it forces you to work on level body position.

To work on the 2 beat timing, zoomer fins can be helpful. They'll give you extra propulsion at first, and get your legs to make the whipping motion that is correct for this kick.

Finally Watch video of good swimmers using both of these techniques. Get a friend to video you. Compare and learn.

Good 2-beat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAkzF7fPWv4

I'll try to find some others.

4-beat is sometimes ok (in a 1-3 variation where the swimmer breathes to one side -- ex: Grant Hackett). But often it indicates a stroke imbalance. Which is a good reason to get yourself videoed and find out what you're doing.


You have to use a kick Board to practice your kicks. You have to completely focus on your kicks, and hence the kick-board can help. After you feel that you have achieved the desired kick pattern. Start practicing short bursts without breathing, all the while focusing on matching your strokes to your kicks. once that is under control then include breathing from right or left. Essentially remember that since you are trying to change your 'habit'(your kicking pattern) , take things step by step. focusing on each section at a time. and of course, Enjoy your swim!

  • I don't really understand. If I'm only kicking, how is there any kind of pattern? I'm just changing my stroke rate, and I can do that already.
    – Dan Hulme
    May 22, 2014 at 13:02

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