Coach Mateo on deck at our Calgary camp.

My last article, One-Arm Drown, provided a look at the potential benefits and limitations of swim drills and how we incorporate them into training on a very limited basis. Similarly, as I wrote in that article, I do not have my athletes do isolated kick work:

The kick, as I coach it, is not primarily intended for propulsive drive. Rather, I train athletes to develop a kick that is streamlined (or contained within their streamline shadow) and therefore not a liability. A functional kick helps a swimmer with timing and flow. As such, rather than devoting time to isolated kick training, I have my athletes do functional kick work within the broader freestyle swim training.

This article presents the three kicking exercises that I incorporate into swim training: triple switch, kick burst, and overkick.

Triple Switch

This is a functional kick exercise that allows the swimmer to train the kick while actually swimming freestyle. In addition to the kick, this drill also works on body awareness, streamlining, balance, stability, and breath control, and relaxation or composure under stress.


For triple switch the athlete takes three strokes and then pauses in the sideline streamline position with the lead arm extended to the front. The finishing arm is extended to the rear so that the thumb is touching his thigh, at the front of the leg, below his speedo. During the pause, the athlete executes six small and quick flutter kicks. The range of the kick must be contained within the swimmers streamline shadow. The key to this drill is in having the swimmer only breathe on the second stroke of each three-stroke sequence. By breathing on the second stroke only, the swimmer trains stability, breath control, relaxation, and focus. In triple switch, breathing on the first or third stroke can cause a swimmer to over-rotate and therefore compromise stability, whereas breathing on the second stroke in this drill promotes streamlining and stability.

Kick Burst

At first, many swimmers have difficulty distinguishing kick burst from triple switch. However, these are actually two very different exercises. When done correctly kick burst becomes a high intensity effort. Kick burst also builds timing and power in the kick as well as body awareness in the stroke. This is an excellent drill to help with streamlining and balance for a swimmer whose legs pop open in the breath stroke. This drill is also a great way to introduce intensity in the warm-up or at any point in the session.


Kick burst is very close to standard swimming. When doing this drill, the athlete can breathe on either side or bilaterally. For kick burst, when the athlete initiates the breath stroke, she executes a vigorous burst of kicking from the moment that she begins the set and catch (press), all the way through the push to the finish. Once the breath stroke and the accompanying kick burst are complete, the swimmer reverts to her typical kicking style until the next breath stroke.


Like kick burst, overkick, is a high-intensity effort. This is the most effective drill for training power and intensity in the kick while still swimming normal freestyle. As such, this is my top choice to train a functional, powerful, streamlined, high-intensity kick within the freestyle stroke.


For overkick, the athlete simply executes a high-tempo, high-intensity, high-power kick while swimming an otherwise normal freestyle. As always, the kick must be performed within a small range of motion that is contained within the swimmer’s streamline shadow. The swimmer can do overkick while swimming at a moderate, strong, very strong, or fast tempo. By doing overkick within a variety of swim tempos, the athlete develops enhanced body awareness as well as a broader range of capabilities within his freestyle technique. Overkick is best done for short efforts of 15 to 35 meters with the remainder of the 25 or 50 being long and smooth freestyle with a standard kick.

I will occasionally mix triple switch and kick burst in the following set to complete a warm-up: 4×150 on the :10 rest, swum as 50 triple switch, 50 kick burst, 50 smooth. This set connects the athletes’ work on a functional freestyle kick, body awareness, stability, and intensity. It is a great way to get the squad focused and ready for the big work in the main set.

At the most fundamental level, these kick exercises can help to improve your kick mechanics and therefore enhance your streamlining, propulsion, and flow. Done with consistency and focus, these kick drills can increase your sense body awareness and confidence, and elevate your performance in the water and out.

View Coach Mateo Mercur’s full profile here.

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