How to use a kickboard to improve your swim technique

Kickboards shouldn't be limited to kick sets and developing leg fitness, says swim coach Andrew Sheaff. In fact, used effectively, they can help improve your fundamental swim skills. Here's how…

Zach Rusk, foreground, and Mandy McLane do kick drills during a master's swim class at Colorado Athletic Club.(Photo by Marty Caivano/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

Kickboards are a staple of any swimming programme, almost a mandatory piece of equipment. Just about every aquatic facility has kickboards available for use, and just about every aquatic athlete spends at least some time kicking on a kickboard.


Yet while there’s a lot of value in doing so, why do we have to limit the use of a kickboard for completing kick sets?

I’d like to suggest you use your kickboard to actually improve your swimming technique. Rather than just develop the fitness of your legs, let’s use the board to improve your fundamental skills.

Why are kickboards so popular for swimmers?

To get started, what’s one reason kickboards are so popular? Because they float! Triathletes love them as you don’t have to worry about staying above the water when you use them! Let’s use that to our advantage.

I’ve addressed the importance of floating exercises to improve your technique before. It’s a critical aspect of improving your comfort in the water, which sets the foundation for improving your freestyle swimming technique.

However, some individuals need a little extra push to really understand how to float and how to use their natural flotation to enhance their technique. As the kickboard floats, we’re going to use this flotation to improve your skills.

How to start using your kickboard to improve swim technique

You’ve probably seen young children supposedly taking swim lessons, and instead spend their all of their focus and energy trying to float on their kickboard. We’re going to do the same.

  • Place the board under your chest, aiming to keep the bottom of the kick board above your hip bones.
  • Now, lean into the board, lean into the water, and float.
  • You’re going to have press your chest and face down into the water to keep the board in place, exactly the skill you’ll need to perform when aiming to move through the water with the hips up at the surface.

If you can successfully accomplish this skill, try to shift the board closer to your head, further away from your hips. Alternatively, you can add another board to increase the challenge.

How to improve your body position in the water

Once you’ve gotten the hang of floating, it’s time to get moving. Start by finding some stability while floating, then start kicking.

It’s more challenging to maintain your balance and stability once you get moving. If you can do so, you’re well on your way to achieving great position in the water, without using your legs to achieve that position.

Feel free to use fins during this exercise, particularly if you’re not a strong kicker. It will help you keep moving.

At the same time, keep the kick light so that you can focus on your position, ensuring that you’re achieving that position by leaning into the kickboard rather than just kicking harder.

Once you’ve spent some time kicking on the board, try swimming regular freestyle, aiming to feel the same support of the board, this time coming from the natural source of floatation in your chest – your lungs!


Top image: Marty Caivano/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images