Triathlete Swimmers: Introduce Your Hands to Your Feet
Too often, triathlete swimmers are told they don’t need to kick. Not kicking is justified as the wetsuit will keep their legs floating, it will conserve energy for the swim, or other seemingly logical rationale. Plain and simple, kicking by itself doesn’t have the same propulsion for the energy it consumes as the pulling component of the freestyle stroke. Alright, I can buy that. It makes sense, kicking is hard work and triathletes work their legs hard enough while running and cycling.
Wait a minute! How does kicking effect your stroke though?
We’ve all heard and believe, to an extent at least, the “core” is a critical component of power in performance. The core helps drive your arms and drive your legs. Most importantly, the core connects the arms and legs so that the whole body can work as an integrated, functional machine. Using just arms, we work our arms and a limited portion of the core. Kicking with our legs alone, our core helps a bit but our arms are just hanging out.
In either case, the core is only slightly turned on. The upper or lower body is hanging out, hoping to stimulate the core by itself. All of your hard work is coming from a limited number of muscles. The faster you want to go, the harder those muscles have to work. What if using the upper and lower body together, stimulated more of the core?
Physical therapist and movement guru, Gary Gray uses a great analogy. “Think of any task. Is it easier to do the task alone or with the help of some friends? Would more friends working together let you work harder, for longer?” His words help us visualize how putting more muscles together means each individual muscle works a whole lot less. If we have all of our friends getting together for a task, we can even take some breaks. Not only do we work our friends less as individuals, as a group we consume less overall energy. No one person struggles with all of the heaving lifting. Those who find it easier end up getting more accomplished while still benefitting from the other, weaker friends helping out.
Teach your core to “get turned on” from the bottom up by kicking. Each stroke turns on your core from the top down. Doing both brings more friends to the party. Together, they will communicate in the language of power, speed, endurance, and efficiency.