How to dolphin kick for Monofin

Monofins are fast!!!

freediving competition preparing

A monofin is a single bladed fin that can output a large amount of power delivering plenty of speed benefits to a freediver as well as the ability to travel further with ease.

For many however getting started out can be tricky, Many divers will order a fin and do no ground work to help develop the correct technique for fining, given that most custom fins take 6-8 weeks to produce and ship it makes sense that you should use this time get some ground work in before it arrives so there is little time lost adjusting to your new fin

For those that already own a fin finding that right balance between power and grace can lead to some detrimental technique failures which in turn can hold you back from bigger dives and be difficult to unlearn. The following is a short guide on how you as a freediver can get yourself prepared for your first monofin and how to easily cross train your dolphin kick technique.

Stretch it out

foot stretch monofin

Lets get started with mobility, A healthy range of motion is very important for effective technique. A basic daily routine that focuses on opening up the hip flexors, quads and lower back will help free up the range of motion as well as making the up and downwards motion of the kick as relaxed as possible. You can isolate certain areas to stretch or simply run through a standard yoga sun salutation routine which allows for general spine lengthening and hip opening exercises. Also use this time to work on mobility for your streamlined arm position, practice holding your arms pointed in the streamlined position rotating your elbows to the back of your head. Add in a slight sideways bend to help open up your shoulders. Another stretch to assist in a comfortable flat monofin position and to keep tension off your shins is to stretch the top of your foot. sit in a chair, place one foot topside down onto the floor as flat as you can and gently apply body weight to the stretch. take your time and be gentle while stretching new areas.

The Technique

As the name suggests the dolphin kick is exactly what it sounds like. A simple up and downwards stroke that delivers drive on both sides. Unlike dolphins however which are using a single column of vertebrae and highly developed muscles we have to use a combination of our legs moving as one in unison and an undulation of lower to mid core muscles to drive the fin in an even and controlled form of propulsion. Like all coordination tasks the key is to repeat good techniques practices regularly until they become second nature. When it comes to how many kicks between glides or how wide my kick should be it really is a factor of personal preference and stiffness of fin. A freediver that uses a single wide kick each cycle will benefit more from a stiffer fin where as a softer fin will be of more use for divers using a double or triple kick. For both style types and kick efficiency the most important is learning to roll your body.

Learning to roll

monofin ascending freediving competition

A key component of the dolphin kick is keeping you core and hips relaxed allowing free movement to prevent knee bending and stapling the body while kicking. a good way to practice this is to dry practice your body roll which will be the primary force of your kick. a well executed dolphin kick will have ample amounts of power from both the up and down portion of the kick. many divers forget about the up kick and only kick down resulting in lost potential power and in most cases coming up short on dives. To get started practice the motion dry.

  • Stand upright and place your arms in the streamlined position above your head

  • Practice rolling your body forward from the upper core slowly down your belly to your hips (down kick)

  • Finish the roll by lifting your hips back (up kick)

  • Repeat and focus on keeping It as relaxed and fluid as possible, play around with wide rolls as well as narrow rolls to help develop more range of motion to your kick.

  • for added feedback practice the same drill while placing your back against a wall, repeat the same while facing a wall. the pressure of the wall help keep the shoulders steady allowing the roll to stay balanced and helps reduce shoulder rolling.

Start short

Buy a pair of short pool training fins, these will provide enough propulsion for finning as well as a decent amount of feedback from the kick. They will also serve as a great way for your to get more co2 and lactic acid training in over a short distance and session time as you will have to work harder than you would with a mono or standard bi-fins. It is important to also focus on kicking in unison with your feet, point your toes and touch the inside rail of the fins together while swimming to help achieve this

Get sideways

A great drill for working out your dolphin kick as well as developing the right muscle coordination is to alternate your body position on dives from belly down to sideways to upside-down.

-         25m Dynamic right side / 25m surface right side

-         25m Dynamic left side / 25m surface left side

-         25m Dynamic back / 25m surface back

ant judge monofin freediving

-         50m dynamic standard diving pace

-         Repeat until cramping :P

When swimming on different sides try to apply even power from your down kick to your up kick. ( think like a fish and just keep swimming, just keep swimming)

Substitute and lose the fins

Other drills to work on is simply substituting short fins dolphin into a standard CO2 drill or working with 25m over/ 25m under drills to maximise time developing muscles and covering distance in a training session. use these drills to not focus on speed but correct technique, this will also help strengthen your technique while feeling CO2 and lactic. Another way to work on coordination is to practice no fins dolphin kicks in short sprint bursts over 25m, a well practiced no fins sprint will not only allow your easy power and balance with a monofin but also help train lactic acid tolerances in a very short condensed burst. i would advise to do theses as the last swims of the session as you will most likely cramp up.

I get tired while dolphin kicking really quickly

Work on your core strength by incorporating sit ups, mountain climbers and static core drills into your exercise and gym routines, simple exercises like a plank or side plank can help develop your overall core control. also squat…..squat alot

Other drills you can Add to your Gym training that will help you deal with muscle fatigue during longer swims are Apnea walks, stair climbing, bear crawls or cycling on an exercise bike. just simply hold a breath or passive exhale then start moving. very quickly you will notice a Co2 response as well as a rapid onset of lactic acid. simply build this out as and interval training exercise and soon you will find yourself more resilient and adapted to lactic and Co2. For safety reasons it is always advised to do these drills with a buddy in case of hypoxia.

How long should i do these drills for?

Try to fit in two dedicated sessions a week for working on your monofin technique alongside regular training or blend it into drills towards the end of a session. The best advice is to never stop building on technique once your fin arrives, approach your form as something that is never perfect and always look for ways to improve. Film the odd swim with your Fin, pick apart any flaws you can find and go back to the drawing board with short fins if needed.

Recommended viewing

A great resource ive found online that helped me develop my technique is the Race club channel which is an incredibly valuable resource for learning high performace swim techniques. Check out their latest video on the underwater dolphin kick for an in depth look at how to develop a strong technique.

Jack Hatfield