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How to Do the Kip in Synchronized Swimming

The kip figure is one of the simplest vertical figures to learn — at first. You just roll over and lift your legs, right? Well, yes. But once you try to slow it down, add sculling technique, and proper alignment, you might find that the kip figure can be surprisingly tricky.

This guide will take you through the kip step-by-step, then at the end there is a partner drill for practicing the kip.

Back Layout to Tub Position

  1. Begin in a back layout, using standard scull, with your ribs in line with the marker or center judge.
  2. Bend your knees in toward your chest. Keep your shins at the surface, from your knees to your toes, the whole time. Also, make your ribs in line with the marker and only move your legs.
  3. Finish in a tub position with your knees as close to your chin as possible.

Tub to Kip Position

  1. Begin to roll over into the kip position. As your face goes under, tuck in your head so that your goggles point right at your kneecaps.
  2. To keep your palms down while you scull, you have to bend your wrists as if you were doing reverse standard scull.
  3. Do a catch into support scull in front of your shins. That will keep you from rolling all the way over.
  4. Finish with your shins in line with the marker.

Hot Tip: Fingertips Turn Inward

Every time you do a catch, your hands should rotate the same way — inwards. That means that each hand should rotate so your fingertips pass by your waist and closely to your body. This will keep you from doing arm circles which make your transitions bumpy.

Kip to Vertical Position

  1. Lift your feet straight up so that your shins start to come out of the water. You can keep support sculling, or you can use paddle scull if you prefer just for the beginning of the lift.
  2. Keep your eyes looking at your knees until they get to the surface. Then, lift your chin and spot the wall in front of you. This is called the chair position — because you look just like you’re sitting in an upside down chair when you’re doing it right!
  3. Continue lifting your shins toward a vertical position and bring your hips forward underneath them.
  4. Finish in a vertical position, and hold in support scull at your maximum height.


  1. To start descending, gradually decrease the amount of pressure you are creating with your support scull. You don’t need to try to sink off the top — sinking is easy — you just need to slowly stop preventing yourself from sinking.
  2. When you get to the water level that is closer to your floating point, turn your hands over and begin to pull yourself down.

Practice This Partner Drill

It can be tricky to keep your shins on a straight path and in line with the marker. Have one of your teammates or your coach help guide your shins.

  1. Your partner will have to hop out of the pool first.
  2. Next, go upside down in your kip position close enough to the wall that your helper can reach you easily without falling in.
  3. Have your partner slowly pull up on your feet without allowing you to move forwards or backwards. This could be a bit of a struggle at first.
  4. As your helper guides your shins, line up your body underneath them just as you did in Step 3.
  5. Repeat this at least three times or until you feel that you can successfully repeat it without the help.

Kip It Up

Practicing the kip is a great way to work on your body awareness. You have to imagine what your shins are doing and control them without being able to see them yourself. Eventually you will memorize the correct feeling, and the ability to memorize the feeling of correct positions is an essential skill for synchro swimmers.

Keep working on your kip and you will have added not only the kip figure to your list of skills but some general synchro skills to go a long with it. Practice your standard scull, support scull, back layout, and vertical positions every time you do your kip.

The kip is the perfect figure to learn and practice for many synchronized swimmers; from beginners, to those at the junior level. Here's a guide to the basics.
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