What are the differences between the 2-beat, 4-beat and 6-beat kick patterns?
It’s important to begin to think about such things! Connecting your legs and your arms will help generate power across your entire body.
To start with, most people don’t really think about how many times they kick during a freestyle stroke cycle.
But the fact is, most of us have a natural, 6-beat kick. That means that from the time the right arm spears into the water and the right arm pulls underwater and then the left arm spears into the water and completes its underwater pull – one full stroke cycle – you kick a total of 6 times.
Try counting the kicks: 1,2,3,4,5,6
You’ll find that the 1 and the 4 are the strongest kicks. 1 with the left leg as the right arm spears in, and 4 with the right leg as the left arm spears forward.
So your counting is: 1,2,3,4,5,6
You’ve probably heard me talk about how the great open water swimmer Chloe Sutton would say to herself “Strawberry, Blueberry” to work her six-beat kick. It works because each word has three syllables, with a hard accent on the first syllable of each word.
From there, a 2-beat kick is simple to explain.
You just keep the bold numbers and skip the other kicks. You have one hard kick as the opposite arm spears forward – on the 1 and the 4. That means you have a total of 2 kicks per stroke cycle.
Now, the 4-beat kick is a little tricky.
It does NOT mean 2 kicks per stroke.
So how does it work?
The 4-beat kick is asymmetrical. Unlike the 2- and 6-beat kicks, you do not have the same number of kicks per arm stroke.
Remember the above counting pattern, 1,2,3,4,5,6?
Well, the 4-beat kick drops the 5 and 6.
So, it goes: 1,2,3,4
Swimmers who use a 4-beat kick typically breathe on every other stroke, on the same side.
The 4-beat kick has three kicks on one side and one kick on the other.
The three kicks usually come on the side of the breath, so you are kicking through the breath.
Most swimmers switch between these patterns, consciously or not, depending on their speed in the water.
For example, many distance swimmers who have a 2-beat cadence would adopt a 6-beat kick without even thinking about it if you told them to swim an all-out sprint.
Play around with different patterns and see which ones suit you.