Swim Training With A Kickboard

Using a kickboard while swimming is a brilliant way to change up a workout.


1. Swimmer using kickboard

A kickboard is a flat device constructed from buoyant substances such as foam.

  • They are an essential piece of a competitive swimmer’s kit.
  • A kickboard is mainly used to isolate the swimmer’s legs for specific kicking training.
  • They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Using A Kickboard

BECO Kickboard - Blue and Yellow | Simply Swim UK

When utilizing a kickboard while swimming, the swimmer should maintain a similar frame to his/her normal swimming stance.

  • Swimmers should hold their heads still just above the surface of the water, looking forward.
  • They should not lean on the kickboard, as this will affect their body position.
  • Swimmers should also engage their core to ensure their body remains in a streamlined position.
  • For most kicking drills the swimmer should grip their kickboard with both hands on either side of the board.
  • Swimmers should keep their arms as straight as possible to reduce drag.
  • They should kick from the hips and not from the knees.
  • When freestyle kicking, swimmers should focus on eliminating any knee bend.

Considerations When Swim Training With A Kickboard

Although utilizing a kickboard during practice has many advantages, certain aspects need to be taken into consideration. These are,


When performing freestyle and backstroke kicking drills, both the swimmer and the coach should take note that using a kickboard can restrict the natural rotation of the swimmer’s trunk and hips.


When doing drills for breaststroke, butterfly, or underwater dolphin kick, the swimmer and coach should be aware that using a kickboard can stop the regular up-and-down movement of the swimmer’s body.

Swimmer’s Shoulder

A swimmer with either a shoulder or neck problem ought to avoid kickboards since they can induce strain on those areas.

Younger Or Less Experienced Swimmers

Novice swimmers typically find it difficult to include regular kicking exercises in their routine, given that the activity does not generate a lot of momentum.

  • As well as the aid of a kickboard, many coaches use swim fins as a way of gradually helping to develop their kicking technique and strength.

Kickboard Drills

Listed below are some of our favourite kickboard drills.

Body Position Drill

This is an excellent introductory kickboard drill. The swimmer ought to begin this practice by grabbing hold of the kickboard’s end.

  • They should ensure that their arms are fully extended.
  • The swimmer should place their face in the water between their arms, with their ears level with the surface of the pool.
  • They should raise their head to breathe.
  • Some coaches introduce a snorkel when conducting this drill.

Kicking Pyramid Drill

This is an outstanding exercise for boosting a swimmer’s stamina for kicking. This drill is conducted at a medium intensity, with a 10-second rest interval between each step.

  • This drill is performed by gradually increasing and then reducing steps of 50m
  • Namely, 50m, 100m, 150m, 200m, 150m, 100m, 50m.
  • Once this drill has been mastered the distance can be slowly increased.

Speed Play Drill

This is a great drill to increase a swimmer’s kick velocity.

  • From a push and glide from the end of the pool, the swimmer performs ten fast leg kicks, and then performs ten slow leg kicks (10/10), initially over 50m.
  • Once mastered this drill can be made more difficult by progressively reducing the number of fast and slow leg kicks.
  • For example, seven fast leg kicks, then seven slow leg kicks (7/7)
  • Keep this drill to short distances, in sets of 2-4 lengths, as the emphasis of this drill is a great technique

Kickboard ‘Hugging’ Drill

This is an excellent backstroke kicking recovery drill.

  • The swimmer starts on their back, in a horizontal (supine) position.
  • They should hold a kickboard across their chest as if they are cuddling a ‘teddy bear’.
  • The swimmer should perform a gentle flutter kick.
  • Swimmers should kick from the hips and buttocks.

Types Of Kickboard

Speedo Eco Kickboard - Blue / GreenMaru Swirl Two Grip Kickboard - Blue / PinkSpeedo Fastskin Pullbuoy

There are three main types of kickboards. The classic, the water-powered and the amalgamation of kickboard and pull buoy.

Traditional Kickboards

Traditional kickboards are tombstone-shaped kickboards.

  • They can vary in size and thickness.
  • As a general rule the larger and thicker the kickboard the more buoyant they are.
  • Competitive swimmers tend to use smaller kickboards, so they can adopt a better-streamlined body position.

Hydrodynamic Kickboards

Zoggs EVA Small Kickboard - Orange

Hydrodynamic kickboards are usually arrowhead-shaped kickboards.

  • They are usually smaller than the traditional kickboard and therefore tend to be less buoyant.
  • They help to ensure that the swimmer’s body position is flatter than the traditional kickboard, therefore they tend to reduce drag.

Combination Kickboards And Pull Buoys

Kickboards and pull buoys which have been combined are created as a piece of swim paraphernalia that serves two purposes.

  • Although some swimmers prefer the combination kickboard and pull buoy, others prefer specialist pieces of kit.
  • Those who prefer them, like the fact that it’s one less piece of kit to worry about.
  • While others find that they are not as good at either function.
  • This can be especially the case when kicking as many find they a poor shape for effective kicking.

The Pros Of Using A Kickboard

1. Great Leg Workout

A major advantage of incorporating a kickboard into your swim routine is that it allows you to target your lower body technique without having to think about the use of your arms.

Your head is higher than the surface of the water, allowing you to breathe without difficulty. This can be to your benefit since relying on your legs when you are in the water can cause you to become exhausted and fatigued quickly. Permitting yourself to breathe in deeply while exercising your lower body can benefit you by enabling you to do more reps for a longer duration.

2. Cardiovascular Workout

If you intensify your leg activity in the water, you will notice a boost in your pulse and feel your heart and lungs working hard.

All swimming strokes are a great cardiovascular workout. Concentrating on your lower limbs will get your circulation going rapidly. To get the most out of being in the water and utilizing your legs, one has to possess a good baseline level of physical fitness, as it can be strenuous.

This is the reason why long-distance swimmers put less emphasis on kicking with their legs by relying on body motion and stronger strokes from their arms. Most long-distance swimmers ordinarily use a two-beat kick, executing two kicks for each one-stroke cycle.

If you’re wanting to bolster your physical strength and stamina, you can use a kickboard and start utilizing a 6-beat kick when you swim; this means you’ll kick six times per arm stroke. This is a kick that is frequently employed by competitive swimmers.

No matter which type of kicking progression you decide to do, working your legs is an excellent aerobic activity, and you can benefit greatly from using a kickboard to support you.

3. Good For Breaststroke Kick

If you are having difficulty understanding the breaststroke kick, utilizing a kickboard helps hone your skills.

The kick done while doing the breaststroke is similar to the way a frog would swim; your legs will come out to the sides, and then move back around inwards.

With the breaststroke, the upper body is largely out of the water, making kickboard usage a comfortable way to practice without worrying about hand motion and underwater breathing.

Make sure you don’t hurt your back when using a kickboard to practice breaststroke by pushing your head out of the water too hard. Keep your body position relaxed and comfortable.


4. A Break For Your Arms

If you are a frequent swimmer, you could find yourself in the water daily. Having a great time is thrilling, but if you only stick to one swim stroke or have inadequate form, you can become injured, like developing a repetitive strain injury.

Injury can be a frequent issue for frequent swimmers, especially for those who are competing. Using a kickboard as part of your practice can give your arms a rest.

Removing the burden from your arms permits you to still swim and let your arms recover.

But if you opt to employ a kickboard to help with a shoulder injury, be certain to place the kickboard in a manner that will not worsen the injury.

Although you can take a break and avoid using your shoulders, if continuing to have your arms ahead of you causes more harm, having the kickboard in such a spot will only draw out the injury. Make sure to put the kickboard in a secure spot that gives your arms a rest.

5. A Good Learning Aid

It is possible that your initial contact with a kickboard was when you were just starting out to learn how to swim.

Kickboards can be beneficial for new swimmers because their buoyancy allows them to have something to cling onto while they learn to swim and become used to the water.

It is important to understand that kickboards do not act as flotation devices, thus they cannot be used to actually stay afloat. However, they are handy tools of assistance when learning to swim, they provide a sense of security while getting arms and breathing movements coordinated.

Furthermore, they can be useful for someone new to strengthen their endurance and swimming style while having the capability to inhale normally.

The Cons of Using A Kickboard

There are some major downsides to using a kickboard. It is essential to be aware of the drawbacks of using a kickboard before you make it a regular part of your swimming routine.

1. Bad For Shoulder Recovery

As mentioned in the advantages of using a kickboard, one can give the shoulders a break. Studies have revealed that utilizing kickboards for certain shoulder injuries sustained from swimming can worsen the condition.

Many swimmers place their kickboards ahead of them while they’re in the water. If you possess an aching shoulder due to swimming, being in that position can exasperate the injury and make it more severe.

If you intend to rely on a kickboard to rest your shoulders or aid in recovery, be mindful not to position it in any way that will impede your recovery.

2. Neck Strain

When swimmers – especially those who are just starting out – use a kickboard, their legs tend to sink and they will usually do their best to keep their faces above water by arching their necks back.

Craning your head back as you swim could lead to neck strain.

If you are using a kickboard, pay attention to what body position you are holding, as you might place your neck or lower back under strain by trying to stay afloat.

3. Flat Hips & Poor Roll Technique

This is an issue regarding the implementation of a kickboard that various coaches have disagreed on.

Some trainers suggest that a kickboard can benefit technique, however, a lot of people contend that it causes bad body positioning in the pool, where the body does not roll and the hips remain flat.

To propel oneself quickly and efficiently when swimming, rolling the body from side to side is beneficial.

If you are teaching yourself to swim with the aid of a kickboard, you could end up keeping your hips in a static, flat position while in the water and overlook the important step of rolling your hips and body from side to side.

If you are given a kickboard but don’t make much progress when using it, I would suggest strengthening your ankles and rotating your hips.


4. Bad Idea With Dolphin Kick Practice

This is an issue involving the utilization of kickboards that is frequently debated. There are many instructional videos available on YouTube that can guide you on how to correctly do a dolphin kick while using a kickboard.

The dolphin kick utilizes a rolling motion of the body to move forward in the water effortlessly. The body has to oscillate back and forth in the same way as a sine wave.

Certain swimmers begin their dolphin kick from the arms, but others will maintain a more stable arm stance and concentrate the wave action chiefly from the middle of the body downwards.

No matter what strategy you use to execute the dolphin kick, be sure that you don’t hinder your motions by grasping a kickboard or create a back injury by limiting your motions.

Be cautious when attempting to use a kickboard to create a forceful, unnatural wave-like weaving action as this can cause harm to your back muscles.

Side notes

Using a kickboard provides the swimmer with many benefits. These include,

  • A kickboard allows a swimmer to isolate their legs for specific kicking training.
  • It helps to keep a swimmer’s body in the correct position, with their hips high in the water.
  • This helps to develop a swimmer’s kicking technique and speed
  • It can also help to develop their ankle strength and flexibility
  • Kickboards can be used for a variety of kicking-based drills.
  • Kicking-based drills can be performed over short distances, at a high intensity to develop speed and power.
  • They can also be performed over longer distances at a lower intensity, to develop endurance.
  • Many coaches use easy kicking sets with a kickboard as recovery sets.


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