What Is the Scissor Kick in Swimming?

Young girl using paddle board in swimming pool

The scissor kick is a lower-body movement that helps propel swimmers through the water. It is easy for beginners to learn because it requires only a simple opening and closing of your straightened legs to provide forward momentum. Used in combination with synchronized arm movements, the scissor kick is an effective way to move through the water.


The movements a scissor kick requires are just like its name implies. Open your straightened legs to create a "V" shape, then close them sharply so that they are parallel. Open your legs again and repeat the movement.


The faster you kick, the faster you’ll move. Also, long strokes are better than short strokes for creating forward momentum, so create a wide "V" shape. Your legs provide significant power when you swim, so practice your scissor kick often. If you’re new to swimming, chances are you’ll tire quickly. With practice, however, your leg strength and kicking technique will improve.


Practice your scissor kick while holding the side of the pool or a kickboard. This allows you to focus on your leg movements to perfect your technique. Even elite swimmers spend time practicing their kicks in this manner because lower-body strength and endurance is vital for success in competitive swimming.


The scissor kick is an integral part of the sidestroke, which requires you to lie on your side in the water, reach your lower arm far forward underwater and pull it back toward your chest. Your upper arm pulls through the water from your chin to your chest. Meanwhile, you perform a scissor kick by extending the upper leg forward and the bottom leg backward. Snap your legs back together to generate force. If you perform all of these moves simultaneously, you’ll surge forward. Use the momentum to glide momentarily and then perform the sequence again.