How to Use a Kickboard in the Pool: Your Full Guide

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While swimming can be a great workout, it might be one of the hardest sports to master especially for those that aren’t acquainted with water.

Swimming can be challenging in part due to the number of muscles that are used throughout your body. It also requires skilled coordination of posture, breathing, and arm/leg techniques.

Fortunately, using a kickboard can improve your swimming technique regardless of experience level.  Even professionals can see benefits from training with a kickboard!

Kickboards will let your upper body rest, so you can focus more on improving your leg technique and other parts of your body. 

This may lead you to wonder how to use a kickboard in the pool.  Well, you’ve come to the right place!  

This in-depth guide will provide you with the details on how to use a kickboard and why you should consider using one. Let’s dive in!

How to Use a Kickboard in the Pool

While many of us have probably had some experience using kickboards –whether to aid with swimming or simply to play around with– there are some key tips in using kickboards to actually improve swimming ability.

If you’re familiar with the basics of swimming, you’ll be able to use kickboards just fine. 

Let’s check out the basics of using a kickboard:

Before You Start Using a Kickboard

Before you jump into the pool with your kickboard, there are some things that you need to know.

Safety First: While a kickboard is a flotation device it is not considered a lifesaver.  Someone that is unable to swim unaided should not attempt to use a kickboard without appropriate supervision.

When using a kickboard, don’t arch your back or your neck frequently. Aim to minimize the movement of your neck while keeping your back straight to avoid risk of injury.

Shoulder pain is also common due to overstretching of the arms. Your arms should be slightly bent. Extending your arms for long periods can be painful.

Finally, before you learn to kick fast, you need to learn how to kick right. Ideally, you need to kick with your entire leg.

So, the kick comes from your hips, not your knees. Therefore, it’s best if you don’t bend your knees.

How to Hold a Kickboard

Let’s kick things off with how to hold the kickboard. There are three ways to hold a kickboard: through the holes, over the top of the kickboard, and from the middle of the kickboard.

The way of holding the kickboard depends on the level of the swimmer and the exercise they want to perform. Beginners should hold it through the holes, while more advanced swimmers may find it best to hold the board’s top or sides. 

How to Use a Kickboard as a Beginner

As a beginner, you first need to know that kickboards will help you float. So, if you find you need a quick break, you can simply rest your chest on the kickboard.

Ensure you have an appropriately sized kickboard that is comfortable when resting upon.  

When you start training, the first thing you should do is hold the kickboard through the holes with both hands. Next, adjust your posture by pulling your hips up and keeping your back straight.

Ideally, you want your body to be straight, but allowing for natural curvature of your spine. Then, stretch your arms out and in front of you while holding the board. Finally, start kicking evenly with your legs.

The most important thing to do is to kick using your hips, not your knees. In other words, you need to kick with your entire leg, not just your feet.  Kicking with your entire leg will ensure that you are using your strong thigh muscles rather than your weaker calf muscles.

To get more efficient kicks, you need to point your toes slightly upward to create a fin-like posture.  Try to keep the legs straight, but not stiff in order to get the most from each kick.

Additionally, your breathing is an essential aspect. Therefore, you need to make sure you’re applying good technique.

You can either tilt your head up to catch your breath or tilt it to the side. Alternatively, you can use a snorkel to keep your head in the water as long as you want.

If the kickboard is uncomfortable and causes issues maintaining balance, you may find it easiest to turn the kickboard sideways.  This may force you to grip it differently.

Advanced Kickboard Training

Once you get the hang of using a kickboard, you can proceed to more advanced training.

There are many exercises you can follow. Each one helps you improve certain aspects of your swimming technique along with improved muscle control.

Let’s discuss some of the most popular kickboard exercises for advanced swimmers.

Backstroke Kick

As the name suggests, you can use the board to exercise while floating on your back. You simply float on your back and hold the board to your chest.

You’ll then just use your legs to kick rather than both your arms and legs.

During this exercise, you should keep your body straight and your head over the water.

Arm Circles

Start by doing the basic kickboard technique. Then, hold the edge of the board with both hands. After that, do a full circle with one arm while holding the board with the other arm.

Next, repeat the same step with the other arm.  You can slightly lift your face from the water to take a breath when you need to.

Benefits of Using a Kickboard

There are many reasons why you should use a kickboard while swimming. Not only does it make swimming a lot easier, but it can also improve various swimming skills. Some of these benefits include:


The first and most obvious benefit of using a kickboard is it helps you become more stable. When swimming without a flotation device, you’re both focusing on your technique and staying afloat. 

Doing both these things can be challenging, especially if you’re a beginner. So, kickboards eliminate that problem by helping to keep you afloat in the water so that you can focus more on specific technique.

Additionally, beginner swimmers might be held back by fear. By using a kickboard, they can gain more confidence and swim freely. 

What’s more is that kickboards allow your head to be above water at all times, thus making it easier to communicate with others.

Better Form

If you’ve ever wondered how professional swimmers have such great form, the answer is kickboards. Many swimming techniques rely on kickboards as a starting point.

For example, using a kickboard, you can quickly grasp the breaststroke kick. That’s because you’ll be dividing the drill and mastering each section on its own. First, you start with your legs; once you’ve mastered them, you can move to your chest and arms.

Focus on Legs

The best way to get your legs in shape while swimming is by using the kickboard. As the name suggests, all you have to do is hold the board to keep you floating, then kick away with your legs.

Kickboards allow you to isolate your legs during the training, which will provide you with a great leg workout.  well in working out your legs because they allow you to isolate them completely.

In fact, kickboards allow your trunk and your arms to rest, so you can focus your energy on kicking. This way, you can get more leg exercise for longer!

Train Through Injuries

Injuries can completely ruin a swimmer’s training schedule, and the worst part is that swimmers are incredibly prone to injuries, especially in their upper body.

So, kickboards can be lifesavers in these cases. They help swimmers train through their injuries by cutting the work from their upper body. This way, the swimmer can train their legs while still healing their shoulders, backs, and arms.

DIY Kickboards

If you don’t have a traditional store-bought kickboard available, you can attempt to make your own.  While these may not be as long-lasting as a purchased one, they should do the trick at least for a bit of time:

  • Styrofoam: If you have some spare styrofoam inserts, you may be able to rig up a quick kickboard.  Cut them to a comfortable size that will fit your chest.  You can secure multiple pieces together with duct tape for increased thickness and buoyancy.  You can even cut holes to allow for hand grips.
  • Pool Noodles: Almost all pools have noodles laying around.  You can cut several to a decent length for your upper body, and tape them together to make a small kickboard.

You can get creative with various other materials from around the house.  The key is that you want to assemble floatable materials in a manner that will fit the size of your chest, and that you can grip.

Alternatives to Kickboards

Aside from a traditional kickboard, there are other products available that can provide comparable benefit to allow focus on swimming techniques.  A couple of them include:

  • Boogie Boards: These are like mini foam surfboards.  They are often a bit larger than a kickboard, but can often be positioned to serve as a substitute for a kickboard.
  • Pull Buoy: This flotation device is held between the thighs in order to allow focus on the upper body and arms.  It allows you to strengthen techniques in a totally different part of your body than that of a kickboard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are kickboards for beginner swimmers only?

Kickboards are for swimmers of all levels. From kids and beginners all the way to professional athletes and Olympic swimmers. Every swimmer can make use of the various benefits of kickboards.

In fact, some athletes and bodybuilders use kickboard exercises to increase their leg muscles.

Which kickboard should you choose?

Kickboards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Yet, picking a type of kickboard is a matter of personal preference, as anyone can use any type of kickboard.

Children have a specific style of kickboards that’s smaller and lighter. Adults, on the other hand, have a lightweight ergonomic kickboard, the pull-kickboard, or just the traditional kickboard.

Can you use a boogie board instead of a kickboard?

A boogie board is a foam board that mimics a small surfboard.  A boogie board often has a curved front portion in order to handle waves.

Depending on the size of the boogie board, it’s totally possible to use it as a makeshift kickboard.  Just ensure it’s comfortable when holding it. 

If the boogie board feels too large, try turning it sideways to see if it gives you the proper balance to then practice your kicking techniques.

Final Takeaway

So, how to use kickboards in the pool? 

The process is simple. You simply need to hold the kickboard either in front of you or against your chest. Then, flatten your back and your legs. Finally, start kicking with your whole legs. 

There are more advanced methods like arm circles and backstroke kicks. The kickboard is great if you’re looking to train specific muscles, especially your legs.

That’s why professional swimmers and Olympic athletes use kickboards in their training. 

Did you know that while pools are great for training with kickboards, they can even be useful in training with scuba gear?

Happy Swimming!

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