Go Triathlete

Mastering the 6-Beat Kick to Improve Your Swim Training

There are many factors that contribute to a strong freestyle swim stroke. Proper rotation, breathing, and arm technique to name a few. One critical element to master for your freestyle swim stroke is your kick. Specifically, the 6-beat kick is one of the most efficient and streamline techniques to a fast swim split. Here, we’ll cover the basics of the 6-beat kick and drills to help perfect your stroke.

The Basics

The 6-beat kick is mainly for freestyle (as far as us triathletes are concerned) and can greatly improve the efficiency of your swim training. The 6-beat kick is easily explained as six kicks per cycle that practices the flutter kick technique. In a nutshell, the 6-beat consists of 2-beats on both sides and in the middle of your stroke. So, let’s say you are rotating from right to left, you will have two kicks on your right, two kicks while neutral (on your stomach) and two kicks on your left. Constantly rotating to the beats of your kick, the 6-beat acts as a propeller for your rotation as well as moving you through the water faster.
With your toes pointed, focus on small kicks as you rotate. This may take some practice and getting used to, as it does require more energy as you are learning. Sometimes, I say the beats to myself as I am rotating, “one, two, one, two, one, two,” to make sure I have the rhythm down. Making sure you have quick, small kicks are essential to maintaining the timing of your stroke so as not to throw off your rotation and balance.

Another challenge can be integrating the 6-beat kick into your breathing cycle. As widely recommended, practicing a breathing cycle every three strokes will not only help the balance of your stroke, but also with your kicking. If a breath interrupts your 6-beat rhythm, carry on with the beats after you breathe and keep practicing on a smooth rotation.


Kicking drills can help immensely with mastering the 6-beat kick. Below are a couple drills that are will specifically help your 6-beat rotation and kicking technique.

1. Kicking with arms at your side while rotating.

This is a simple drill that helps with flutter kicking speed, efficiency and rotation. Moving through the water with your arms at your side, practice your 6-beat kick as you rotate. Two kicks on one side, two kicks in the middle and two kicks on the opposite side. Practice kicking in-sync with your rotation will help you get the feel for this style of flutter kick. Continue and breathe as needed while on your sides.

2. Kicking on your side with one arm above your head and one arm on your hip.

This drill will help with your kicking speed, strength and alignment. With one arm straight above your head and one arm resting on your hip, practice efficient kicking on your side as you move through the water (think short, small flutter kicks coming from your hips with your toes pointed). For the position of your arm in front, imagine your bicep near your head with your arm extended straight and hand perpendicular to the water surface, gliding through. When it comes time to breath, simply rotate your head to the surface without interrupting your arm position or streamlined side position. You can either switch sides midway through the length of the pool or complete the entire length on one side, switching when you get to the wall.

Integrating 8x25 or 8x50 yards of kicking drills into your swim set will go a long way to a more efficient stroke.


While mastering the 6-beat kick during swim practice and training can improve your swim, depending on the length of your triathlon, you may not necessarily want to incorporate the 6-beat in your open water swim. Personally, I tend to conserve my legs on the swim leg of any triathlon longer than Olympic distance (even then sometimes if it’s going to be a challenging bike and run!). Typically, on long-distance triathlons, I will practice the 2-beat kick or something similarly in-sync with the water. However, that’s not to knock on the 6-beat kick, because practicing it throughout your training will greatly improve the efficiency of your stroke and your overall swimming strength when racing.

Adopting the 6-beat kick will make conserving your legs easier and increase your stroke efficiency when it comes to racing, even if you race with this technique or not. Practice your new efficient kicking with open water training before race season begins to integrate it with your sighting and see what level of kick works best for you for your race.