Front Crawl Leg Kick

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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The front crawl is widely used in swimming competitions. However, when watching the swimmers work, it looks like they are mostly using their arms, with just an occasional, minimal kick here and there. But is that kick important?

Despite not using it very much, the kick you use in the front crawl can help to make your swimming faster and easier, so you don’t have to work so hard to go faster. 

Keep reading to learn what kick is used in the front crawl and how it works.


Do You Use Legs in the Front Crawl?

Your arms are meant to do most of the work in the front crawl. They provide your main propulsion. The arms are what we see moving the most when we watch swimmers, as those big, dramatic movements provide the proper propulsion.

However, that doesn’t mean your legs aren’t important when practicing the front crawl. While it provides little to no propulsion, the correct leg movement is needed to reduce body drag, provide a little push, keep your body in the right place, and minimize the energy used.

So while it might not be the main movement when practicing the front crawl, you do still use your legs.


What Kick does the Front Crawl Use?

The kick that you use for the front crawl is usually called the front crawl leg kick. It is also called a flutter kick. 

However, it is a flutter kick, and the front crawl leg kick is more accurate. As the name suggests, it is just a simple kick that involves ‘fluttering’ your legs at the right time.

There are two main phases of a front crawl leg kick, which are downbeat and upbeat. The downbeat is when your leg goes down, while the upbeat is when your leg goes up. Your legs should work opposite beats concurrently, so one leg goes up while the other goes down.

This leg kick is the one many people learn as a child in swim lessons, as it provides an ergonomic shape that helps to tire you out less. It is also a simple stroke that doesn’t require much work.

Despite that, it is a kick that many swimmers practice frequently to make sure they get the perfect movement and timing.

Many people will assume that kicking harder or faster will make your swim faster, but that isn’t the case. All that does is mess up your timings and tire you out. 

Others may try to perform larger kicks instead of just a simple fluttering, which also only causes you to tire and provides inaccurate times.

Being able to master the timing and maximum movements of the front crawl leg kick can vastly improve your swim speed and efficiency.


What are the Two Kick Cycles in the Front Crawl?

You can choose between two main cycles with the front crawl leg kick.


  • The six-beat kick (6BK). Six kicks of the legs per cycle of the arms.
  • The two-beat kick (2BK). Two kicks of the legs per cycle of the arms.


They both have their pros and cons. For the most part, a majority of people use the 2BK method. 

It focuses simply on keeping your body in the right position. However, if you are trying to get a little extra speed, the 6BK provides both that body position and a little extra speed.

Some people use four-beat kicks, but it isn’t very common. It doesn’t provide as many benefits as just using the simple two or six. Famous swimmer Michael Phelps would use it occasionally for fast swims when he was doing good with the other parts of the stroke. 

However, it is a lot harder to keep the pace of six beats per arm cycle than two, and trying to focus on the kicks may cause the rest of your strokes to lose their timing if you aren’t careful.

For this reason, many people choose to stick with the two-kick cycle rather than try their luck with a six. However, if you are looking to up your game and have a pretty good arm cycle, it may be worth trying to see if it can give you that little bit of a boost.


How Important is Kicking in the Front Crawl?

The front crawl leg kick is incredibly important. Though it doesn’t provide much propulsion at all, likely less than 10%, it provides another service instead. Kicking in small movements like those that the front crawl leg kick provides helps swimmers maintain their balance.

There have been tests where swimmers have their legs held together, showing the importance of these front crawl leg kicks. 

Without that movement, it is harder to maintain your body position to provide a streamlined shape, which means you have to work harder to move the same amount as you do with the leg kicks.

These kicks are so effective that they are used in a wide variety of swimming styles, including breaststroke.


Final Thoughts Front Crawl Leg Kick

The front crawl doesn’t seem like it may depend heavily on its kick, but it is a vital part of the swim. While it doesn’t provide the majority of the propulsion, it provides a streamlined shape and buoyancy.

By mastering the front crawl leg kick, you can vastly improve your speed and minimize your work, no matter which cycle you decide to use.