PVC Technical Strategy 1
Olympic Coach Nick Baker personally selected this technical strategy for you to enhance your swimming performance. Read the article in full, fill in the form, and return within 72 hours.
The Importance of a 6-Beat Kick
Written by Olympic Coach Bob Bowman
When Michael Phelps came into my group it was quite obvious that he had some stroke issues in every stroke, particularly in the breaststroke. The breaststroke was not even a stroke and we decided that we were going to target that and his freestyle. Michael was very open to improving his breaststroke because he knew that was his biggest weakness in the IM so we made that a huge focus and he made what I would consider to be dramatic progress in that area. The way that we focused him on that was we would set a goal that as an 11 and 12-year-old he would have a top 16 ranking in breaststroke. That is something that really motivated him so we were working toward it and working toward it and as it turned out we never got there. You will see later on that he did make a huge stride in breaststroke based off the work he did as an 11 & 12-year-old. His freestyle was good, but it was the spider you know, ok water bug so I decided that it was going to change. I had seen him do a 6 beat kick sometimes when he was doing a 50 fast or something like that and his stroke looked good. So I thought I’d sneak it up on him. He would be doing a set and I would say ok, the last two of these do your big kick. I never talked about a 6 beat kick. I don’t think he knew what that meant and he would do it and he would go from 35 for a 50 to 29 so I thought this is good and my brilliant coaching plan was that we would just add more, more and more. After a while, I noticed that just wasn’t working. He taking too long and one day I talked to him before practice and said Michael we have a little something we need to deal with and he said what is that. I said you are doing a 6 beat kick all the time from here on out. I don’t ever want to see a 2 beat again. It didn’t make him very happy. It made me happy. To make my point, because at this point in his career he was still feeling me out, I said if I see you do the 2 beat kick you are out of here. I knew Michael couldn’t stand to be dismissed from practice. He loves to train. He doesn’t like to be embarrassed by being seen as being not able to handle work. That was really the only way I could get him to do it because he didn’t really respond to boy that was really a great 6 beat kick, don’t you feel good about yourself. We had to use the hammer a little bit, the first day he got in and he lasted 400 yards – so I kicked him out! The next day it might have been 800. The bottom line was, every day for a week he was out in the lobby crying because he was kicked out of practice. It only took a week. By the end of the week, he got kicked out after about 6,000. The following week and from then on out he did a 6 beat kick and his training took a quantum leap. His performance in the meets, therefore, took a quantum leap forward. I thought that was the single most important thing that we did teaching-wise with him because it showed him that making a technical change, even though it might be difficult, had a big effect. I think your most talented swimmers aren’t into the difficult sometimes. Everything is so easy, he doesn’t like to be frustrated, but I thought that he learned that going through that process was valuable so it was really good for him in the long term. He has maintained that throughout his career until now that he is a big muscle man, he wants to save his legs on the warm-up. I am going to publicly let him know today – guess what, we are going back to the future on Monday. You heard it here first.