Swimming is a low-impact aerobic activity that provides a total body cardiovascular workout. When you're swimming, you use every large muscle group at the same time. To swim efficiently or in competition, it's important to coordinate your stroke with the appropriate kick. Some strokes use flutter kick, but only one uses scissors kick.
Use a relaxed flutter kick when swimming freestyle, also called crawl stroke. The kick should generate enough power to propel you through the water without using your arms and should originate at the hips. The knees should remain only slightly bent. Point the toes and do not slap the surface of the water with the feet. Use a six-beat kick -- three kicks foreach arm stroke.
When backstroke was first introduce into competition, it was executed with a frog kick. Flutter kick is now the proper way to move through the water when swimming backstroke. The hips and core rotate around an invisible center axis that runs from the top of the head to your toes; the kick originates at the hip. Use a six-beat kick when flutter kicking -- three kicks for each arm stroke.
Use a scissors kick when swimming sidestroke. Begin by tucking the heels beneath the body and then extend the top leg forward while extending the bottom leg back. Snap the legs back to a trailing position -- this is the moment when your legs will generate power to propel you through the water. While the legs are in trailing position, you are gliding through the water and conserving energy for the next kick. Alternate swimming on both sides of the body.
Practice flutter kicks and scissors kicks with a kick board. A kick board allows your upper body to float and remain stable while you kick with your legs. To practice freestyle flutter kick, hold the sides of the kick board and rotate your face in and out of the water -- doing so will help you maintain the proper horizontal position in the water. To practice scissors kick with a kick board, extend your bottom arm on top of the kick board so the bottom edge is near your arm pit and your hand is gripping the top edge of the board. Hold your head parallel with the surface of the water and your top arm at your side while you scissors kick.
Aline Lindemann is a health, food and travel writer. She has also worked as a social worker, preschool teacher and art educator. Lindemann holds a Master of Liberal Studies in culture, health and creative nonfiction writing from Arizona State University.