Leg conditioning for Open Water Swimming

Leg conditioning for Open Water Swimming

Over time experts have clearly come to understand the importance of leg strength in distance swimming. Strong powerful kicks were once viewed as the hallmark of great sprinters, while distance swimmers were best served by conserving their energy by using a less vigorous kick (e.g., two beat kicks). This is no longer the case. Although it is not practical for distance swimmers to exert the same intensity, a strong, powerful kick has significant implications for distance swimming success.

This holds true for open water swimmers as well. The kick adds general propulsion and it serves to help lift and balance the body when sighting. Next time you watch elite open water swimmers, notice the intensity they bring to the kick at various stages of the race – particularly the final 400 meters.

On top of this, when an open water swim finishes on the shore, it’s often the conditioning in the legs that sets competitors apart from one another as they sprint to the finish.

Here are a few tips to help you maximize your leg strength. First, practice in’s and out’s. Standing 25 to 50 meters on shore, sprint into the water, lifting your legs high and to the sides. Follow this by a quick 50 to 100 meter swim sprint off shore. At this point, pause 30 seconds and then sprint swim followed by a run back to your original starting point. Do 5 rounds of this drill on a regular basis and before you know it you’ll experience more power and endurance in your starts, kicking and finishes.

Another way to increase leg strength and endurance is incorporating swim fins into your training. I use, and recommend, the FINIS Z2 Zoomer training fin. It’s smaller in size so it doesn’t affect your kicking cadence, but adds just enough resistance and propulsion to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the leg muscles. Try adding a set of 8 x 200’s freestyle progressively building to a sprint by each 50 within. The Z2’s are, of course, very well suited for your kick sets too. An added benefit of training with swim fins it the increase ankle flexibility.

So this season, commit to improving your open water swims by paying more attention to your legs. Undoubtedly it will have benefits in helping you reach your goals.

Courtesy of Mike Lewis

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