Should Swimmers Still Be Using Kickboards?

Michael Butler
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The Kickboard: A Super, Duper Training Aid

Some adult swimmers still use kickboards for training, and many instructors still use them to teach proper swimming posture.

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, kickboards can help with the following things:

  • Improved body position
  • Improved shoulder position
  • Improved arm position

However, this study also found that kickboards don’t actually help swimmers with any of the following things:

  • Improved timing of arm entries
  • Improved speed
  • Improved stroke length
  • Improved breathing pattern

To be fair, this study was conducted on a group of C-level swimmers and their coaches. Not all swimmers are C swimmers. However, before you ditch that kickboard, keep in mind that the study included other commonly used tools for training, including pull buoys, pull flippers, and hand paddles.

Based on this study, it would be incorrect to say that kickboards are a great tool to use when your training program is lacking. However, if using a kickboard improves your body position and your handling of the water, it can help you give a better performance during the lap pool or open swim.

You can exclusively target your legs .

Swim boards can be used to specifically isolate your legs in the water. This is because the boards only allow you to pull yourself through the water with your legs. If you’re a strong swimmer, this can help you take out the rest of your body so you can use your legs to their fullest extent.

Gives your shoulders a break* .

If you are just getting started in swimming or are getting back in shape, a kickboard is a great way to build your strength and endurance. The board takes the place of your legs and allows your shoulders to take a break from doing the hard work of kicking. The board also creates weightlessness so that you can easily float for long distances. It is also fun to see how long you can hold the board out of the water.

If you are strong enough to swim without using a kickboard, you can still use a workout board to create resistance during your stroke. It is the same board, but you hold it closer to your body to get a better workout.

Even though kickboards are a great way to get your body warmed up, they are not the best training tool for a beginner. The main skill involved in learning to swim is to move your arms and legs in a coordinated motion. Kickboards keep your legs stationary, which means that you don’t have to coordinate your legs during the stroke. This can make it harder to learn how to move your arms and legs at the same time.

You also don’t develop much muscle as you use the board to propel yourself forward. It is better to practice without a kickboard for a while so that your swimming muscles get stronger rather than relying on the board to give you the muscle you need.

Promotes a high hip position *.

A shallow kicking angle in the catch means more hip flexibility than known in competitive swimmers.

Best for: recovering swimmers with tight shoulders, shoulders with instability, swimmers with scapular dyskinesia, swimmers with deeper kick in the glide.

Keeps the body positioned over the center of mass for easy streamlining, and arms are free to follow a front-quadrant spiral path.

Great for warming-up.

Flat hips (good for sprinters).

Oxygen for days .

The title of this blog post is meant to sound provocative and to get you to stop and think. If you’re a swimmer and you’re in the habit of using a kickboard to practice, I want you to ask yourself a question:

  • Are you currently a competitive swimmer or triathlete?
  • If the answer is “no”, then should you even still be using a kickboard at all?

I get a lot of questions from lots of different types of swimmers about swimming equipment, including kickboards. It’s been a few years since I was “into” competitive swimming, but there’s one thing I never forgot to do: study the sport and learn from the Olympic swimmers themselves. So I love it when I come across a new scientific study that allows us to learn a little more about how competitive swimmers can go faster.

And the findings from a new swim study on kickboarding are fascinating and thought-provoking. In a nutshell, the study found that competitive swimmers (“national-level”) using kickboards experience decreases in aerobic fitness and power development that result in slower swim times.

Works well for breaststrokers .

The kickboard is the old favorite of most recreational swimmers. Why is that?

In the simplest of terms , it’s because it’s very easy to use. you place it across your waist and use your arms and core muscles to hold/push it. It’s like swimming without a kickboard. I – good way of keeping your body balanced , building muscle, getting a relaxing swim and getting an all-body exercise.

The kickboard is often considered an entry level piece of equipment because it’s so basic. With only one piece of equipment, you can spend hours swimming and get a great workout. It’s perfect regardless of your skill level.

The kickboard is widely used around the world by not just recreational swimmers, but also by adult fitness swimmers, by competitive swimmers looking for a bit of extra resistance, and by fitness freestyler wanting a core workout.

Easier to learn proper kick mechanics.

One of the biggest problems many swimmers have is how to maintain proper form in the kick while swimming freestyle. Workouts like the kickboard drill or the “kick with the flower” drill can help you develop the correct kick.

Using a kickboard is the simplest way to perfect your freestyle kick. This is because you can rest on the board – with both legs – and use your arms like normal.

Kicking on just one leg isn’t as easy because you have to coordinate your breathing to keep your head above water. This makes it difficult to maintain proper form.

But on the flip side, a kickboard doesn’t give you an idea how it feels like to balance your weight on one leg. What you should also know is that kicking on one leg is difficult and requires more skill than two-legged kicking.

You can see your splits.

Using a kickboard is great for lap swimming and is one way to decrease resistance in the water. The workouts created by the kickboard mimic the movement of pelicans so that your arm stroke is faster and smoother. You can also free kick, where you start about 20 feet from the wall and work your way out towards the deep end. Each time you get to the wall, you take a breath and then start the next lap. You can improve your conditioning by sprinting at the bottom of the pool and then gliding to the wall.

Of course, the kickboard you use is dependant on the size of your pool. Treadmills have a similar way of determining their speed. You want a kickboard that’s lightweight and easy to manage in the water.

The proper stance to push off the wall is an overarm stance. Your arms should be bent and the board should be just in front of your feet. Stay close to the wall and in a full body position. There are numerous variations of the kickboard, but a basic model looks like a chopped-off surfboard.

The Kickboard: The Ugly

Duckling of Swimming?

These days, the kickboard is often seen as a necessary evil – that ugly duckling of the swimmers’ training equipment family.


One of the main reasons is because it’s just plain boring.

Most kickboard workouts are time-segregated. You swim a set and then rest until your rest time is over. You swim again and then rest until your rest time is over. And so on.

The kickboard serves as the wall between you and the rest of the world, which is why you often see it used by people who have a tough time focusing at the pool. Using the kickboard helps them focus while they get their workout in.

Others use it because it can help them strengthen their legs and burn fat. Many use it while they are waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. Some use it because they need some resistance training in their workout (although they would benefit more from swimming in the deep end rather than adding weight to their lap time).

That being said, there are still a lot of swimmers who turn to the kickboard, especially when they are just starting out. Why? Because it helps them stay afloat and build confidence in the water.

No hip roll .

If you practice it in the water, it will translate to the race course. The feeling of having one’s feet at hip level and moving forward by pushing with the arms should be mastered before stepping into the race course.

If you practice it in the water, it will translate to the race course. The feeling of having one’s feet at hip level and moving forward by pushing with the arms should be mastered before stepping into the race course.

It sucks when your shoulder is banged up .

We’ve all been there—recovering from an injury, struggling to get back to your workouts, and wondering if you’ll ever swim the way you used to. This is why so many swimmers come to a gradual halt each summer, as their skills and fitness levels deteriorate at a rapid rate.

Extended bouts of kick with a board will make your neck seize up .

You should not spend extended periods of time during a workout holding your head straight-ahead while doing the kickboard. The idea behind a kickboard is to give you a stable paddle while you are kicking. You are not supposed to relax your neck muscles, pose it rigidly straight, and hold it there for extended periods. If you do, you are going to develop some nasty neck problems.

When you are holding onto the board with both hands while you are kicking, you are giving yourself a brace. It’s the same idea as how you use a cane. The cane is there to help you balance while you are walking around. But if you were to walk around with a cane in your hand, without leaning on it, holding it up over your head, or using it to support some of your weight …you would quickly develop some big, gnarly cricks in your neck.

So if you have no choice but to kick on a board, here are some tips to ensure that you won’t damage your neck:

Not always the best for dolphin kicking .

Ok, ok, you know this, but sometimes you need a bit of a reminder. I think we sometimes need to be reminded of the things we already know but maybe don’t put into practice. Kickboards are a great way to learn how to get your feet up to breathe every few strokes. They’re also good for getting you into a nice body position in the water.

However, when you’re working on developing a dolphin-like kicking motion, a kickboard doesn’t allow you to make as much progress as with freestyle swimming. This is because you can’t kick as fast as you can while dolphin kicking in freestyle and often the pace doesn’t feel fast enough.

This is why straight arm pull buoy drills are also a great tool for this, because you can kick as fast as you’d like.

The best way to get really good at dolphin kicking is to swim as much as possible.

How to Successfully Use a Kickboard In Your Training

It wasn’t that long ago that most swimmers used a kickboard to practice their freestyle and backstroke. But in recent years, kick boards have become less popular, mainly because many swimmers associate them with the stagnant and inefficient “old school” style of swimming. They were also difficult to use effectively on a regular basis.

Kickboards served their purpose in helping beginners learn how to swim. As swimmers grew more advanced, kickboards became less effective.

In recent years, a number of studies have shown that a kickboard can be used effectively to improve the strength, stamina, and speed of advanced swimmers. Many swimmers credit their own success to the unique techniques required to use a kickboard.

When used correctly, a kickboard can help you swim faster and more efficiently and avoid the wasted energy that’s associated with inefficient swimming.

You can also use a kickboard to work on your bracing skills, your flip turns, backstrokes, and freestyle. A kickboard can allow you to approach a med-treading pace in the water and to also practice breathing while tired.

Mix up the way you are kicking.

Most workouts are designed to focus on improving individual aspects of your stroke so that you can develop your form and stroke mechanics.

However, it is easy to end up developing a habit, such as always kicking your right leg, where you can be blocking other muscles and using your legs in a less efficient way.

An easy way to check if you’re doing this is to look at your legs in the underwater camera. When you are in the perfect swimming position, your legs should be equally aligned width-wise.

If you’re always kicking your right leg, use a kickboard for the first ten or twenty strokes one length of your pool, and then switch to kicking your left. This way, you’ll get your body used to the up and down motion of your legs, while you learn to balance your leg kicks.

Combine a board and a snorkel.

And you get the snorkell board.

Maybe you’ve heard of it? Maybe your swim instructor has tried to convince you to purchase one? Or maybe you’ve seen them at the local swim shop?

For those of you who don’t know, the snorkell board is an aquatic exercise device that is essentially a matte board with a snorkel attached to the side. The snorkell board allows a swimmer to swim the same stroke with his or her head and mouth out of the water. It’s a fairly popular training device with both competitive and recreational swimmers.

Although the snorkell board can be used to improve a swimmer’s fitness level in addition to enhancing technique, some coaches are still skeptical about it.

This post will discuss a few reasons why you probably shouldn’t buy a snorkell board.

Spice up the kickboard work.

Suppose someone gave you a kickboard and told you to swim with it. Would you be able to swim with it? I’m not even talking about swim laps, but just swimming from one end of the pool to the other.

Chances are you probably wouldn’t be able to swim using the kickboard the way you were instructed by the enthuastic coach, who probably gave you a demonstration on how to swim with it.

With your head facing up, your hands clutching the shoulder straps, and your center of mass located far behind the line of action of the board, you are at a complete disadvantage. It wouldn’t even feel right swimming with the traditional kickboard.

Swimming with the kickboard straightens the body and allows you to swim freestyle without interrupting your momentum. It forces you to focus on your rotation and keeps your body more streamlined than you would be in freestyle.

With a kickboard, the concerned part of the body is the kick and the kick forces the body from straightening.

Kickboards should be used during the drills and swim sets when you train the kick and rotation. These are the times when kickboards can be used to gather great information, or you can just use as a helper to maintain the correct body position.

The Takeaway

With swim workouts getting shorter and the amount of time kids spend on screen time increasing every year, there isn’t much time for skills to be taught and practiced. This is why more and more coaches are neglecting kickboard drills and opt to use pull buoys instead. There are multiple variations of swimming with kickboards and pull buoys but both are valuable tools for focused swimming development.

Kickboards and pull buoys isolate different muscle groups and help transfer the power from both the upper and lower body and core which improves shoulder endurance and stroke efficiency.

Pull buoys help to steady and stabilize the body while the kickboard helps to push the water with the legs to create a forward direction. Although these two tools create a training effect, they also develop different skills that should be considered when designing a swim workout.

Pull buoys, for instance, concentrate on developing the type of strength needed for the dolphin kick. The kickboard focuses on pushing the water with the lower limbs and building the strength needed for the arm stroke to develop.

Depending on the goals of your swim program, you will want to have an assortment of tools at your disposal – pull buoys, kickboards and paddles. The kickboard and the paddles help distribute the power of the legs to the upper body, and the pullbuoy works the opposite way. All three are valuable tools to help improve swimming performance.

More Kicking Resources

Swimmers are always looking for ways to improve their stroke. The most widely used way to practice is through the use of a kickboard. With so much emphasis on the butterfly kick presently, the kickboard has become the most important piece of equipment for many swimmers. What many swimmers don’t realize, though, is that the kickboard is not just used for beginning swimmers. In fact, many of the most frequently used kicking drills are designed for advanced swimmers.

One of the biggest reasons why beginning swimmers use kickboards is that they help to develop balance and body control. Since beginning swimmers don’t have a strong enough kick to balance in the water, holding on to a kickboard helps them to maintain a vertical position while they learn to kick.

For swimmers who have already developed strong kicking skills, the kickboard can actually have adverse effects. It can make it harder to maintain a proper body position, especially since the kickboards are usually white with a black line, which makes it more difficult to see the orientation of your body. Another problem with using a kickboard is that most kickboards allow you to lean back when you’re kicking, which can make it difficult to stretch out your hip flexors.