Backstroke Kick

What mistakes do you make?

Backstroke kick is an alternating action, continuously up and down to help balance the action of the arms. Your leg kick balances your arm pulls and helps maintain correct body position.

Do You Kick Correctly?

Legs should be stretched out with toes pointed (plantar flexed) and ankles should be relaxed and loose with toes pointing slightly inwards.

The amount of propulsion generated from the kick will depend on the size of the feet, ankle mobility and strength of the legs.  Although propulsion from the leg kick is not priority as the arms generate most of the propulsion for backstroke.

The leg kick is also used to counter balance the arms so that the body remains in as a flat and as horizontal a position as is possible.

backstroke leg kick
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Actual exercises to practice in the pool with technique tips and coaching points to perfect your backstroke.  Download them in an instant.  Click here to fast track.

The kick as a whole should originate from the hip.  The knee should bend slightly and then straighten as the leg kicks upwards, with the upper surface area of the foot (where the shoe laces would be) providing the power part of the kick.  Toes should kick to create a small splash slightly breaking the water surface.

During specific leg practices the legs kick in a vertical plane up and down.  However, the arm action causes the body to roll making the legs kick part sideways, part vertical and partly to the other side.

Common Backstroke Kick Mistakes

The most common fault with the leg kick during back stroke is closely related to the body position, when the swimmer allows their legs to sink well below the water surface.  The toes should just break the water surface and the legs kicking from the hip with a slight bend at the knee.  

An easy exercise to help maintain leg kick technique at the correct level in the water is to hold a float or kick board across the chest and perform the leg kick.

The float will provide support so that the swimmer can focus on kicking up towards the water surface whilst maintaining a level head and level hips.  Only then will the leg kick be at its most efficient.

This same exercise will help iron out another common mistake, that being kicking from the knee.  An excessive knee bend will not only cost energy but will cause the legs to gradually sink.

Performing backstroke kick whilst holding a float will help to focus the swimmer on kicking from the hip and not from the knee.

Fine-tune your leg kick with these simple exercises

Download these documents to your computer, tablet or mobile device and fine-tune your backstroke leg kick.  The exercises below are designed to isolate the leg kick action so that you can focus on the included tips and technique points. 

Float held under each arm


Float held behind the head


Float held across the chest


Float held over the knees


Float held overhead


Kicking with hands sculling


Click here for more backstroke exercises.

All of these documents are PDF format and are compatible with all tablet and mobile devices.  Some computers may need PDF reading software such as Adobe Acrobat.

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