An effective kick is critical to the success of any swim stroke. Whether you are a competitive swimmer, triathlete or simply looking to develop a better kick for lap swimming, swim fins are an excellent tool for improving proper kicking technique. In order to realize the benefits of using fins, you will need to know which fins are right for you, how to use them properly and how to incorporate them into your training.
Kicking with fins is beneficial when working endurance, pull or breathing technique. If you have a weak kick, occasional fin use can help you build endurance. Beginner Triathlete explains that for swimmers with a runners' kick -- that is, a kick that does not propel you forward fast enough or that takes you backward while kicking on your back -- fins can be used in moderation to improve stroke and speed, allowing you to concentrate on techniques other than kicking.
The Right Fins
When choosing your fins, get short blade or elliptical blade swim fins. These are designed specifically for use in competitive stroke development rather than dive fins, which are longer and used for SCUBA or snorkeling. Short-blade fins will assist you in developing speedy, short kicks and get the heart pumping, says U.S. Masters Swimming.
Putting Them On
Put fins on in the water. It's easier to do when both the fins and your feet are wet, and it reduces the chance of poolside mishaps. Fins should have a snug fit without hurting. If too loose, they will fall off during your workout. Short socks can be used if necessary for a tighter fit or if you are prone to blisters.
Getting Your Kicks
Legs should be straight and toes pointed when kicking with fins, but knees and ankles should not be locked. If you are wearing fins for the first time, start with tiny kicks. Barely moving your legs, “wave” the ends of the fins by slightly moving your feet, almost as if kicking from your toes. Once you feel the resistance of the water against your fins and notice how it propels you forward with little effort on your part, you are ready to kick a little harder. Your fins must stay in the water to work, so bringing your feet up and out of the water when you kick will produce a lot of splashing but little forward movement.
Training with Fins
There is no benefit in using fins for the sole purpose of swimming fast, but in some situations you can benefit from using fins to swim faster. A coach might move a swimmer with good technique but slower times to a faster lane and have that swimmer wear fins for part of the workout while the others swim without fins. Alternating fin use in swimming and kicking drills -- swimming or kicking one set with fins and the next set without fins -- is a good way to reinforce good kicking technique while building endurance. Training with fins should be a tool for enhancing your workout, never a crutch to avoid dealing with a problem.
Christy Ayala writes about recreation, sports, aquatics, healthy living, family and parenting, language development, organizational change, pets and animals. Ayala holds a master's degree in recreation administration from Aurora University’s George Williams College, a graduate certificate in organizational change from Hawaii Pacific University and a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.