The Kick Is An Advanced Skill
The 2-Beat Kick is an action of the feet that must be coordinated with the timing of rotation and arm-switch in front, otherwise it has limited or even a confusing effect. It only has the desired effect when it is timed with that rotation and when the rate of that kick is proportional to the rate of the torso rotation.
Since the rate has important nuance to it, I prefer to call it a ‘press’ of the foot instead of a ‘kick’ to give a more accurate impression of the kind of action that is more effective. The forces generated in the stroke are flowing through the body like waves of water, not like bursts of light. Thinking of it as a press of the foot will help you work with these forces in a more fluid way – more like sending a wave of force from the foot rather than a burst of force. That wave of force generated by the press of the foot needs to coincide and blend with the wave of force generated by the shifting weight of the torso. This creates a tangibly pleasing effect through the whole body.
If the press of the foot happens too soon or too late, it does not quite coincide with the torso rotation. If the press of the foot is too abrupt (we might say,’ too snappy’) then the wave comes too fast, and can’t resonate with the torso’s wave. If the press is too soft, then the wave is too weak and contributes nothing. The best 2-Beat Kick needs both good timing and the right intensity to match the timing and intensity of what’s happening in the front of the body.
For this reason it is imperative that the swimmer first have the action in the upper half of the body coordinated. The arms must be trained to switch at the ideal moment in relation to the torso rotation, both arms acting, in opposite directions, as extensions of the torso rotation power. This requires the swimmer to have already developed the fundamentals that make this arm switch timing possible.
The 2-Beat Kick is regarded as an advanced skill because it is dependent on these fundamental skills being in place first. Generally, we reserve the teaching the 2-Beat Kick for Level 2 lessons because in Level 1 the swimmer is just learning how to coordinate the arms and torso. Those propulsive patterns in the front of the body need to become a bit automatic to maintain, then the legs can be trained join in and support those more successfully.
First Step: Counter-Balanced Foot Position
Though the 2-Beat Kick is generally reserved for Level 2 lessons, I can sometimes introduce an advantageous preliminary step for the legs in Level 1 if my student has the capacity for this bonus skill. But regardless of whether I introduce sooner or later, before I teach the actual propulsive action of the 2-Beat Kick, I first teach the swimmer to place the feet in what I call the Counter-Balanced Foot Position while in streamline (Skate) position.
The Skate side foot is ‘pigeon toed’, with the heel reaching up toward the surface of the water, but not above it (twist the heel outward more to avoid poking above – hence, the aggressive pigeon toe position).
The other foot is pointed below it, the feet in line with each other. Both feet must hold their position. You have to hold that heel near the surface, and you have to hold that lower foot below it. If you let that lower foot drift upward at all, the upper foot will fall because the opposing positions of the two feet are what are holding them in their place. If you lose the position for one of them, you will likely lose the other.
From behind, you can see (in the image above) that the feet are staggered and apart from each other a little bit. But in your brain it will feel like your feet are stacked vertically, Skate side foot on top of the other one, with the toes of that Skate side foot pointed inward with a strong ‘pigeon toe’ angle. Your inner thighs should be touching each other and the knees nearly touching each other. Its feels almost as if the legs are twisting around each other. If there is space between your thighs then the legs are spread too far.
In the moments between rotations, this is the position for the legs and feet to hold in back while the torso and lead arm are holding streamline position in the front. As the name points out, this asymmetric position of the feet in back helps counter-balance the asymmetric rotated position of the torso in front. Before we learn the propulsion role of the feet, it really helps to learn this stability role for the feet first. If the swimmer acquires this preliminary skill the hardest part about learning the 2-Beat Kick is already finished. The rest is relatively easy.
If you insist on bringing the feet back together between kicks, you’ll notice your feet sway side to side a bit between those kicks and don’t stay quite as close to the surface. This is easier to do than learning the counter-balanced foot position but those swaying legs add a bit of drag and the legs will have a lower average position in the water, not quite parallel to the surface. To keep legs laser-straight behind the body, near the surface between kicks and increase the stability of the body, finish each kick in this counter-balanced foot position and lock them there until the next kick.
More in Part 2…
You may view this entire series:
- Your Kick And Lower Back Pain
- Why Choose A 2-Beat Kick?
- Learning The 2-Beat Kick – Part 1
- Learning The 2-Beat Kick – Part 2
And, if you like this topic, you may view some posts I’ve written on this in the past:
© 2019, Mediterra International, LLC. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mediterra International, LLC and Mediterraswim.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Thanks so much for this insightful lesson – I’ve been using the 2BK for some time and find it very helpful. I have a friend with only 1 arm (2nd arm amputated in the shoulder). He is a very competitive and strong open water swimmer, but I suspect he is expending way too much energy through compensating with highly energetic kicking – possibly using his feet to assist with propulsion to compensate for his missing arm. How would he benefit from a 2BK? He breathes to both sides I breathe only to 1 side
Hello Johann. You can run an experiment on yourself. Just put one arm tight against your side and swim with just the other arm, in 1-Arm Swimming. It’s actually a drill we use for various skill work and insightful about the effects of that isolated arm throughout the stroke cycle. Becoming smooth at swimming with one arm would be a great neural challenge and make you better with two arms. And, you’d see how it works with the 2BK. It works for me.
I would love a chance to work with a swimmer in his situation. Since there is not another arm adding propulsion, he would have even greater incentive to connect the catch/pull action to the torso rotation and protect that shoulder joint from the increased stresses caused by the greater acceleration he has to achieve on every stroke. Definitely, having a 2BK in place to support torso rotation and to help distribute the load of each catch would be a great benefit.