Developing Leg Strength For The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We had the opportunity to observe Coach Tony Rich, a professional triathlete, at Boston University.

The personable endurance athlete and coach was in his element, coaching masters swimmers and triathletes. Himself a three-time Ironman triathlete, he is one of the few triathletes who has finished Ironman-distance triathlons both outdoors and indoors.

With the brutal winters of Boston, Coach Rich knows what it takes to get in tip-top shape indoors. For his two full indoor Ironman triathlons, he swam 2.4 miles or 169 lengths in an indoor pool, biked 112 miles on a stationary computrainer bicycle, and ran a full 42 km treadmill marathon, he completed his first indoor triathlon in 10 hours 13 minutes in 2011 and then nearly set a world record with his second indoor triathlon in 8 hours 17 minutes in 2013.

Both Coach Rich and his colleague Chris Morgan know the value of a balanced kicking and leg strength.

In the open water, there are many instances when a strong kick is beneficial and can make the difference,” explains Morgan. For example:

• when swimming against an oncoming current or tidal surge
• when helping maintain a streamlined body position through undulating ocean swells or turbulent surface chop
• when catching a wave to body surf in or to keeping pace with a breaking wave that you are body surfing
• when getting into position before rounding a turn buoy while in a large pack
• when moving ahead of your competition while approaching the T1 transition
• when sprinting ahead of a competitor drafting off you or dropping a pack
• when catching up to a competitor ahead of you
• when generating body heat when the water is cold

Just like cycling and running, if you want to pick up the pace, move your legs faster,” says Steven Munatones. “Some of the sample kicking sets we use are below. If fins are available, beginner triathletes can work on improving their body position, increasing their leg strength, and swim for longer distances and for longer periods of time. More experienced triathletes can do fast-burst vertical kicking sets with fins rather than just cruising easily up and down the pool with a low heart rate.”

1. Pool Kicking Sets
To develop speed:
• 1 x 25 easy + 1 x 25 fast
• 1 x 25 easy + 1 x 50 fast
• 1 x 25 easy + 1 x 75 fast
• 1 x 25 easy + 1 x 100 fast

To develop stamina:
• 1 x 25 easy + 30 seconds vertical kicking (hands in or out of water)
• 1 x 25 easy + 30 seconds vertical kicking (wrists or elbows out of water)

To develop strength:
• 10 x 25 kicking with KAATSU Aqua Bands (all strokes)
• 3 sets of vertical kicking with KAATSU Aqua Bands
• Aqua-jogging with KAATSU Aqua Bands in shallow water
• 3 x 60 seconds of treading water with KAATSU Aqua Bands

2. Open Water Kicking Sets
To develop stamina:
• 500m kick in the open water with a kickboard
• 500m kick in the open water with a kickboard and short-blade fins
• 500m kick in the open water without a kickboard, hands sculling in front

To develop navigational IQ:
• 500m backstroke kick in the open water with arms stretched out in front or with hands sculling at sides

To develop strength and stamina:
• 100m backstroke kick with arms stretched up above the chest in the air + 100m freestyle back to start
• 75m backstroke kick with arms stretched up above the chest in the air + 75m freestyle back to start
• 50m backstroke kick with arms stretched up above the chest in the air + 50m freestyle back to start
• 25m backstroke kick with arms stretched up above the chest in the air + 25m freestyle back to start

To develop speed and kinetic awareness in the ocean:
• 30 minutes of bodysurfing with a regular kickboard
• 30 minutes of bodysurfing with a regular kickboard and fins
• 30 minutes of bodysurfing with fins

3. Just for Fun and Challenge
• Swim with shoes in the open water trying to keep a streamlined body position
• Spin on a stationary bike on the pool deck and then get in and do hard (fast) kicking sets (see Coach Rich above)
Vertical kicking with shoes in the pool
Vertical kicking holding liter bottles filled with water over your head
• Push off wall underwater and try to go as far as possible underwater while holding a kickboard in outstretched arms

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