Recently I’ve read a lot of advice to use an “ankle band” in order to help improve swimming technique. This article will examine what problems ankle bands can fix, where the advice is coming from and suggest a different, and I feel better way to achieve the same results.
Many people who have trouble with sinking hips revert to kicking harder in order to keep the lower part of the body from sinking even further. The kick ends up providing an upward component and not just a forward one. With severe kicking problems, not only is there no forward component to the swim, but the kick itself creates so much drag that it’s detrimental.
Improving balance, that is, body position will minimize the need for this kick to provide an upward, instead of a forward vector, and in some cases completely corrects the kick. However in people whose kick is so wide that creates drag, the best thing to do is to TURN OFF THE KICK so that the swimmer can a) Feel where there balance is without relying on the kick, b) Feel the increased streamlining resulting from reducing drag from the legs and c) Learn which muscles are needed to keep the kick streamlined behind the torso.
Some people at this point recommend an ankle band. Using an ankle band will have the immediate effect of turning off your kick, which then forces you to make efforts to correct your balance. If you are successful in discovering these, then the ankle band has done part of it’s job.
But one thing it won’t do is teach you want muscles you need to use to keep the legs out of the way while you swim. The small muscles on the inside of the thighs, the adductors, must be activated in order to keep the legs streamlined…an ankle band won’t teach you where those muscles are.
A better solution is to look for a physical or tactile cue like keeping the toes and ankles touching…same effect as the band, but it teaches you WHAT MUSCLES you need to activate in order to get the feet out of the way. The ankle band only does half the job as it keeps the legs in check, but doesn’t teach you how to do it.
Always search for some kind of sensory feedback like toes and ankles touching if your current focus is in reducing kick. In either case, it will make your balance problems magnified, so any fixes you apply will be noticed immediately.