Kickboard Swimming Techniques Guide


As one of the oldest helping tools in swimming practice, although not as popular as it was a few decades ago, kickboard is still being used all around the world as the main part of the equipment needed to learn proper swimming techniques.

Nowadays many other devices could help, like snorkels, parachutes, etc., but most of the swimming schools turn to swim with kickboard as the best way to teach, adjust, develop or change some stuff in an individual’s swimming technique. It may not be so attractive, but that little piece of foam, if used the right way, can help you get the most out of your strokes and kicks, and therefore help you swim faster. This article will go through some of the most basic kickboard swimming techniques and it will show you how to maximize the outcome of your swimming with kickboard practice.

Why Are They So Popular?

Some will say it is time to let go and move on from the kickboards, some will say they don’t work that well, but the facts are that most swimming instructors love to use them at least with the beginners who are just learning how to swim. Their main purpose is to isolate some aspect of our kick and help the swimmer to work especially on it until it is improved. One of the main benefits is that it keeps the swimmer’s head above the surface, so it makes the communication way easier.

Holding The Kickboard

It may vary and some swimming coaches may have their own unique style of holding the kickboard, but three ways are most spread around the swimming community:

  • Holding it at the nearest end to the swimmer’s head
  • Holding it at the furthest end, away from the swimmer’s head
  • Holding the kickboard sideways, with hands located at both side ends

So, is there a perfect way? No, try all of these and stick with the one that suits you the most of the drill you’re doing requires. It’s that simple.

Pros For Kickboard Swimming

We’ll start this article with the arguments that go in favor of using kickboard as your swimming aid.

1. Great For Legs

Learning the proper kick in swimming is as important as learning proper stroke. To practice your kick, you’ll need the kickboard. It will help you increase your fitness level, your speed, and the strength of your kick.

By leaning on it with your hands, you’ll focus all the work onto your legs, without the help of your arms. You’ll have to lean solely on your legs, concentrate, and find the best movement that fits you and your technique. You may try different styles and measure the time to see which one is the fastest.

Also, no matter what style you prefer – freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke, practicing with the kickboard will help your legs learn the technique and how to do it continuously, and in a motion, so it looks flawless.

2. It Takes The Load Off Your Shoulders

Another benefit comes in the shape of letting your upper body parts rest. Most swimming techniques, actually all but breaststroke, include lots of water pulling as the main movement force. This means the most “workload weight” falls onto upper body parts. That’s why it is OK to switch to the kickboard practice once you feel your upper body is tired.

3. Kickboard Swimming Requires Concentration

For successful and easy swimming, the person’s hips have to be high, near the water surface. If you don’t use the kickboard properly, your hips may sink.

For instance, if you hold the kickboard by its bottom and stretch your arms completely, yes, the lower part of your body will sink, or if you try to hold your head up high above the surface. But if you place the board under your armpits and place your chest on it, your hips should be up. So, in case you hear the stories about kickboard creating poor hip positioning, know that most of the time the problem is in the way it is being used rather than the kickboard itself.

4. Great For Short Distance Swimming Disciplines

If you plan to go swim or compete in a short distance competition, or would just love to be able to break your own short distance record, then kickboard swimming is the practice you absolutely have to include. Proper usage of the kickboard will place your hips as close as possible to the position they are in during sprints.

5. Also, Great For Breaststroke

Learning to perform the best kick in breaststroke can be complicated, but using the kickboard will make it easier. Its ability to float will simulate the strongest stroke, so you’ll be able to concentrate on your legs and learn how to perform it best way possible.

6. Amazing For Beginners

If you’re a beginner and swimming is something new to you, then using the kickboard will help you from a few different aspects:

  • You’ll be able to focus on your kicks during your practice, without thinking about staying afloat.
  • It will allow you to hear and see everything around you, so it will be easier for someone to suggest something in case you’re not doing it right.
  • You could use it to practice your breathing
  • Also, kickboard is sometimes used to limit the practice only on one arm. For example, if your left arm stroke is not as good as the right one, you’ll be able to make it better by concentrating just on that.

The Cons Of Using Kickboard For Swimming

Like everything else in life, even the kickboards have their own cons that make some people switch to some other swimming aids.

1. It Excludes The Hip Roll

As you move through the water, not only your hands and your legs produce the power. Lots of it comes from your hips. The arm recovery and the hand entry are all powered by hips. While it will keep you afloat, kickboard will also limit their movement by keeping them flat, so you won’t be able to produce all those power-ups.

2. Sometimes It Is The Worst For Your Shoulders

When your shoulders are exhausted and you want to rest them but don’t want to stop your session, it is recommended to turn to the kickboard. But, when the condition of your shoulder is more serious, holding your arms high for a longer period of time could be counter-effective, and it can cause even more discomfort. If that is the case, you should stop and take a rest or learn how to prevent swimming shoulder injury. Or call it a day and come back tomorrow.

3. Bad Head Position

Using the kickboard means you’ll have to keep your head up 10, even 15 minutes straight. This is not a natural head position and you’ll have to fight to keep it that way for an extended period of time, so using it for longer sessions may be a bit problematic for your neck.

4. Dolphin Or Butterfly Kicks Are Not Recommended

Yes, you can use it, but because the natural movement of your body for a good dolphin kick requires the upper body to be included, limiting it with the kickboard may eventually lead to back pain.

To avoid it, it is better to work on it with the help of a kickboard for a shorter distance, and then to try it out in a complete stroke.

Swimming With Kickboard Techniques


Now we’re done with both the pros and cons, it is time to talk about different techniques you may use the kickboard.

1. Mix The Kicks

We’ve been through the cons and you know that it limits the hips movement and holds your head unnaturally, so you could try changing the kicks you’re working on. After one lap of freestyle switch to bicycle, then move to breaststroke kick and finish with the second round of freestyle or with the butterfly. This is great for all-around swimming improvement.

2. Concentrate Solely On What You Want To Boost

There may be some specific kick you don’t know how to perform really well, so you could focus only on that kick and repeat it until you learn how to do it the right way. Also, this is good if you want to improve only one part of your swimming technique. If there is something you need to be improved while you’re satisfied with the other kicks, and then feel free to do that one over and over again, until you’re satisfied.

3. Combine It With Other Swimming Accessories

Sometimes you may need to give your neck and your head a break, so here you may use the snorkel mask. It will put your head in a more natural position, relieve the neck muscles, and prevent the cramps from forming. Another great swim snorkel benefit.

The second swimming accessory you could use is the swimming fins. It sure does make swimming more fun, but swimming fins have also some of their own advantages that go really well with the kickboard.

  • You’ll achieve short and quick kicks, narrow them down and make them compact by adding the resistance to the “up-kick”, so your muscles needed for this part of swimming will be reinforced and trained for this move, making you faster and your kick will be more efficient.
  • Ankle flexibility will increase. Remember how kickboard swimming focuses solely on your legs? This includes your ankles. Practicing with swimming fins will help your ankles become more flexible and get better amplitude out of your kick. If you don’t manage to perform it instantly, don’t worry, you’ll achieve it with time.
  • Swimming fins will add some more resistance so you’ll have to perform proper kick if you want to move as fast as you want. After some time, you’ll see the clear difference between your pre-fins and post-fins time.

4. Change It Up A Bit

Yes, it is most often used for kicks, but you may also use the kickboard for some other purposes.

  • Reducing the knee bend on your backstroke kick can be achieved with the help of the kickboard. It has to be long enough. Start swimming on your back with arms by your side. Take the kickboard so the round end is in your hands, and the flat end is placed above your knees. Hold the board on the surface, not above it. When you start kicking, the goal is to hit the board with your knees, while making the water boil with your toes.
  • The tombstone drill is done by holding the kickboard in the upright position. It will create additional resistance, so you’ll have to put much more effort to move. It serves as a great workout and affects all your lower body muscles. If you’re a beginner or haven’t been swimming lately, don’t do it because it is really intense and you could easily get cramps.

5. Fun With The Kickboard

You may use it also to have fun because there are some games made for it:

  • Kickboard baseball is played with a Wiffle ball using the kickboard as the bat. You may make bases using the other kickboards. You could follow all the baseball rules, or make up your own.
  • “Kick battle” is an activity where two swimmers face each other while holding the kickboard, with their hips on the surface. Then, at the signal, they start kicking. The goal is to move the other swimmer over the designated line three to five meters away. This way you may add a bit of competition, and it is really fun.

Globo Surf Overview

Our main goal when we enter the pool is to swim better and faster. This is achieved by improving the swimming technique. Being one of the crucial parts of swimming techniques, any way you could improve your kick is more than welcome. Kickboards will serve that purpose. Yes, you could improve your kick without using them, but kickboards are not one of the most popular swimming aids all around the world without a reason. Will you give them the chance is completely up to you. Now find the best time for swimming and go!

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!