How to Side-Kick in Swimming

300Side-kicking is the foundation of efficient freestyle, and it combines the three basic swimming skills: balancing, kicking, and breathing. If you're not comfortable doing so, we're here to help! This guide will help you improve your sidekick!

Float, Kick, & Roll

Start in a front-float, face down in the water. Take your right arm and extend it above your head at the surface of the water. Rest your head against that shoulder. Then, take your left arm and relax it down along your left side, resting your hand on your thigh.

Start kicking, using small rapid movements.

Keep kicking and lift your left shoulder and left hip so that you begin to roll, balancing on your right side. Your face should be in the water, and you should be looking at the bottom of the pool slightly ahead of you.

Make sure the palm of your right hand faces the bottom of the pool, and stays about 8 inches below the surface of the water, even when you breathe. Get in the good habit of keeping your elbow above your wrist. And, above all else, keep kicking little, fast kicks!


When you need a breath, turn your head to the side. If you are on your right side, turn your head to the left. Try not to roll onto your back. In fact, the goal is to eventually be able to turn your head—and ONLY your head—when you need to breathe.

Hot Tip: Kick& Breathe

Think about what happens to your kick when you turn your head to breathe. Almost every swimmer stops kicking when they first try to side-kick. Keep practicing until you can take side breaths and keep your kick motoring along without pause. You might experiment with this: try to kick faster during your breath.


Remember your breathing skills: exhale smoothly under water and turn your head only when your lungs are nearly empty. Get a quick breath, and put your face back in the water. Always keep kicking!

Stay at the Surface

As you practice side-kicking on your right side, try to keep your left hip at the surface of the water. Reach toward the wall with your outstretched arm, pressing your lower armpit gently toward the bottom of the pool, and thinking about your lower side lengthening as much as possible. Also, faster kicking can help.

Practice side-kicking all the way across the pool on your right. Then switch it up, and try it on your left. Once you feel comfortable on both your left and right, and are successfully breathing to the side, try switching sides after every twenty kicks.

Practice Switching Sides

As you get better and better at side-kicking, reduce the number of kicks between side-switches. For a lap or two do 12 kicks on one side before switching, then 6, then 4. Finally, when you swim freestyle, try to find your side-kicking body position in every armstroke.

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