What Is The Scissor Kick In Swimming? (And how to do it)

The scissor kick in swimming is a lesser known swim kick and is primarily used as part of the side stroke.

This kick is no longer used by elite swimmers in swimming competitions. However, this kick is still useful to know and is an important kick for lifeguards.

The scissor kick involves swimming on your side. You kick your legs out and close them like a scissors opening and closing. Your legs will need to be bent at the knee for an effective scissor kick. Between kicks, you glide.

In this article I will dig deeper into what the scissor kick is, covering:

  • What is the scissor kick in swimming?
  • How to do a scissor kick while swimming
  • What is the difference between flutter kick and scissor kick?
  • What is the scissor kick good for?
  • When should I use a scissor kick in swimming?
  • Is the scissor kick good for fitness?

What Is The Scissor Kick In Swimming?

The scissor kick is a swimming technique used to create propulsion and forward movement in the water. It is an alternating leg action that moves the legs side-to-side, similar to the motion of scissors.

We primarily use the scissor kick for swimming the side-stroke, however it is possible to use a scissor kick when swimming breaststroke if you struggle with the usual breaststroke frog kick.

We usually use the scissor kick when we need to quickly accelerate or break through a wall of water. It can also increase the rate of a swimmer’s stroke for short bursts of speed.

How To Do A Scissor Kick While Swimming?

The scissor kick is performed by alternating the legs using a quick and powerful action that moves them side-to-side.

  1. Start by positioning yourself on your side in the water.
  2. Kick both legs simultaneously outwards, slightly bent at the knee.
  3. As the legs move through the water, they should open and close in a scissor motion.
  4. The knees need to remain slightly bent throughout. It is important not to kick too deep or with too much force, as this can cause drag on the swimmer’s body.

If you struggle to complete a scissor kick, it can help to use a kickboard. This is a great flotation device that will help your upper body stay in position in the water while you focus on your leg movements.

Here is a fantastic video from Chris Burton who shows how to complete a scissor kick.

What Is The Difference Between A Flutter Kick And Scissor Kick?

The main difference between flutter kick and scissor kick is the motion of the legs.

Flutter kick involves a continuous up-and-down motion of both legs together, while the scissor kick involves alternating each leg outwards in a side-to-side motion, similar to scissors.

We typically use the scissor kick in side-stroke swimming, but we can also use it as an alternative to frog kicking when swimming breaststroke. Flutter kicking is most commonly used for freestyle and backstroke swimming.

We can swim the flutter kick at different rates, for example, you may have a 2-beat, 4-beat or 6-beat flutter kick.

A 6-beat flutter kick is useful for sprinting. However, if you want to conserve energy, then a 2-beat flutter kick is effective.

To learn more about the different kicks in swimming, I have covered this is in greater detail in this article,

What Is The Scissor Kick Good For?

We use the scissor kick for propulsion and stability in swimming. This technique helps swimmers move through the water with simple leg movements as well as maintain their balance while swimming on their side.

We can also use the scissor kick to build up speed quickly and produce a burst of power.

The scissor kick can be good for lifesaving or situations where you need to drag an object through the water, as you can get good propulsion from a kick that does not easily tire the swimmer.

Due to the “glide phase” between each kick, it can be a relaxing swim kick that is good for conserving energy while getting maximum propulsion from your kick.

The scissor kick is the main kick of the side stroke, which is a popular swim stroke used by lifeguards when helping to guide a swimmer into safety.

When Should I Use A Scissor Kick In Swimming?

We primarily used the scissor kick when swimming side stroke.

In addition, we can use the scissor kick with backstroke as part of a survival stroke. If you find yourself in difficulty, it can help to ly on your back and use a gentle survival stroke to help you move through the water without using too much energy.

To learn more about the survival strokes, check out this article, “What Are The Survival Strokes? (And why they matter)”

Is The Scissor Kick Good For Fitness?

The scissor kick can be good for fitness, depending on the goals of the individual swimmer. For example, if you are looking to work on strengthening your legs, then incorporating a scissor kick into your routine can help.

If you are looking for an aerobic workout or an increase in your stroke distance, then the scissor kick is not the best option. It is more of a technical drill used to improve coordination and technique rather than a way to get an aerobic workout.

If you want an aerobic workout to get your heart pumping, then using a flutter kick is a better option.

Final Thoughts

The scissor kick is a great way to work on coordination and technique in the water. We can use it for fitness, but it’s best suited for improving your side stroke or as part of a survival stroke.

However, if you’re looking for an aerobic workout, then using a flutter kick will provide better results. Ultimately, when deciding which type of kicking technique to use while swimming, consider what your goals are and how each one affects your performance in the pool.

Happy swimming!

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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