View Full Version : Kick Boards in Practice

June 9th, 2002, 05:51 PM
Hi All you Coaches -

In another thread, there was discussion about the use of kick boards in practice. Many coaches advocate not using them, while other do advocate using them. This could be an informative topic for coachs and swimmers (coached and uncoached) alike.

For me, I like using a kick board. I kick almost exclusively dolphin kick to strengthen back and abdomenal muscles. I don't feel nearly as fast without the board, so, for me, the perception of speed plays into using a kick board.

I also like using the kick board because it provides stretching of the underarm muscles while you kick.

And, contrary to some comments, I find that my swimmers develop better body position with a kick board than without because it forces them to kick with their hips down as opposed to being bent at the waist a little.

For most swimmers, kicking is one time they can talk and move along fairly well. The social side of swimming is very important to most swimmers and, perhaps while unproductive to swimming strength, it is productive for the mental enjoyment side of the sport.

For strong kicking I assign sprint sets of 25s, 50s, and 75s for fly and freestyle and 200 swims for backstroke and breaststroke.

What do others do and think?

Paul Windrath

Rain Man
June 9th, 2002, 08:51 PM

Personally, I advocate the use of a kickboard for flutter kick. I think it helps swimmers ride high on the water and really is a good workout when done at high speeds. That being said, I wouldn't send off swimmers on a 400 yard freestyle kick with a board. But 25 and 50, (sometimes 75s or 100s depending on the level of the swimmers) sprint kicks are really a good workout and allow the swimmers to maintain proper kickboard form. Other than that, we really don't do much flutter kick alone. Some vertical.

Obviously backstroke is OOTQ. Fly... when working on the underwater dolphin kick we'll go without a board. Not too much fly kicking with a board but if we do, it's short and quick. Or vertical (always fun), or on your back (no board). I believe there was an article by Stanford's coach about dolphin kick on your back and its benefits.

Breaststroke never. Causes really improper position at the finish of the kick, and its benefits as far as a workout with a board would be miniscule.

Just one opinion for you to consider.


Bert Petersen
June 10th, 2002, 01:06 AM
This question should stir up a firestorm of controversy........ When I was coaching, we used boards for dolphin on the front and breast kick. No boards for free or anything on the back. I think we had pretty good results with that scenario. Social is indeed important to kids and young adults. Me, I blow bubbles as I pass other swimmers...............:p

June 10th, 2002, 11:57 AM
For me, the board vs. no board question has more to do with my shoulders. I have "bad shoulders". When I do a lot of kicking with a board, especially high heartrate kicking like 100's on 1:30, etc., it tends to tighten my shoulders up a lot. It takes 500-1000 yards of easy swimming to loosen them up enough to do hard swimming again. If I kick with arms at my side, I can keep them loose more easily, and also take a stroke into and out of each wall (more to keep my arms moving and loose than to cheat).

So usually if kicking is at the beginning of workout, I do it without a board. If it's at the end, I do it with a board, since with a board is a lot faster for me.


June 10th, 2002, 01:32 PM
I have bad shoulders too. Instead of using a kickboard with my arms outstretched and using the shoulders as shock absorbers--I've been instructed to hold the board close to my chest (just below the bust if female) and then place hands along sides of the board. Result-- no shock absorber reaction to shoulders. Also elbows are in a bend position so less stress on them too.
This was recommended by physical therapists years ago (in the late 80s) and I've been using ever since. I've mentioned it to the docs too--they seem to approve. Two permitted me to use this positioning following shoulder surgery as less stress on the joint.

Philip Arcuni
June 10th, 2002, 03:24 PM
I would be interested in hearing how many swimmers ever use a kickboard with outstretched arms. I have never seen that; everyone I know for as long as I have been swimming hold the front end of the board, with the arms resting on the surface of the board. Certainly holding the back end of the board would be a stress on even the strongest shoulders.

I think that if your coach lets you do that you should send him/her to coaching school, or get a new one.

Sally Dillon
June 11th, 2002, 01:27 PM
I started using one of the Speedo "short boards" a number of years ago. I have my own and bring it to workouts (even travel with it when possible). It allows me to have my hands at the front of the board but my face can go in the water while I kick and my elbows are always bent - at least slightly. This method is not stressful on my shoulders which have been "bad" from time to time over the years. I work on breathing patterns when I kick (hypoxic practice) since my neck does not "like" me to hold my head up. Kicking is not a social time for me with my face in the water.

My previous coach included virtually no kicking in the workouts but my new coach is including kicking more and more. Often the kicking is integrated into a drill set so it's not too intense. That's probably a good way to get my teammates into liking kicking. Hopefully we'll start doing some intense kicking sets in the future. They are good for us, just ask Laura Val!

I am also a big proponent of fly kicking on the back in a streamlined position. I can really get my abdominals heated up doing it. I like to use zoomers for some of my kicking - they make me work hard and also allow me to feel some speed since I'm really a slow kicker relative to most swimmers. A favorite kick set with zoomers is to kick 25 inverted fly, stop short of the wall and vertical kick for 30 seconds, kick 50 inverted fly, stop short of the wall again and vertical for 30 seconds, kick 25 inverted fly. I use flutter for the vertical kick to mix it up and do sets of 4 or 5 100's this way with about 20 seconds rest between 100's. I don't do this during organized workouts - only when I'm on my own.

June 11th, 2002, 07:00 PM
This is an interesting subject. I think I've been all over the board on this idea (excuse the pun)...usually depending on how my shoulders are feeling and reacting when using a board. My own workouts I use zoomers during my warm-up and kick a 400 IM - my initial 40 yards dolphin is u/w, then finish the next 60 on my back and/or sides. Later in the workout - after the main set - I do vertical kicks: 4 x :35 on :45, alternating dolphin and flutter. It's important to do these with a short amplitude to get the work out of your inner core. I watch my swimmers so they're not using a stroll (a long amplitude kick) during the vertical kicks.

Some years ago I used to do a 500-yd straight kick with a short-board - all dolphin - always a great personal challenge. I even kept track of my time - about 8-9:00. I'm thinking I should try that again - but it's so hard on the shoulders. I really believe that vertical kicks offer better quality work than horizontal if they're done right. Just my 2 c's worth.

June 11th, 2002, 10:26 PM
Hi Dick and others -

I have to admit, I am surprised by the number of people who say that kicking with a kick board hurts their shoulders. Mine must be very loose because it is very comfortable for me to hang onto the top of a 2' styrene board with my elbows on the board and kick along forever.

As I mentioned, I usually dolphin kick everything. A number of years ago, my friend John McCall and I would race every day - 500. His best time was 6:30. My best ever was 6:45. Then he moved to Florida and I got lots slower.

Has anyone tried kicking a 1650 dolphin??


June 12th, 2002, 09:44 AM
For me, the shoulder aggravation is two-fold. First, there is the pull/strain on the shoulders with the arms outstretched like that, with the kickboard beating through the waves, etc. Second, when kicking with a board, my arms are not moving... so as my body produces lactic acid, I find that it tends to pool in my arms and shoulders, making me very stiff there. The stiffness tends to make swimming hard after that more "dangerous" in that my shoulders are more prone to hurt.


Paul Smith
June 12th, 2002, 11:46 AM
Paul, I'm with you in being surprised at the number of people saying using a kick board aggravates their shoulders? I went through shoulder surgery 18 months ago, kicking with a board never bothered me before or after.

What I did find was that the vast majority of people (like myself) who developed shoulder problems we're doing far to much pulling, often times with very poor technique (thumb down entry which causes quite a bit of stress on that area) and not nearly enough kicking.

With very few exceptions most Masters Teams I've trained with, the majority of the swimmers used the "masters perogitive" and opted to pull most of the workout, very few emphasized kicking.

Personally I don't care what people use or don't use for kick sets, its just important to do them (and do them hard). One of the best ways to extend a career is to lay off all the pulling, kick a lot more and emphasize more drill and/or TI types of programs.

By the way, Natalie Coughlin it just the latest world class swimmer to come off a shoulder injury and train kicking only for several months then blow away records!

June 12th, 2002, 12:46 PM
I agree with Paul's comments about the value of kicking--and it doesn't really matter with board or without board as long as you kick.

I swim with Cambridge Masters (same group as Rick Osterberg) and we do a kick set in just about every workout. Our coach is especially partial to underwater kicking-obviously without boards. .

It's pretty rare to see a pull buoys on deck at a Cambridge Masters workout. In fact, I've NEVER seen a pull set in the years that I have worked out with CMSC. (I have seen CMSC swimmers occasionally use pull buoys but it's a rare sight). I wonder if pulling is really that popular among masters. What is the practice among other groups?

June 13th, 2002, 07:32 AM
Kickboards irritate my shoulders too. I think there are a few individual factors which contribute to this:

My shoulder flexibility (streamline) is not great, so there is a fair amount of pressure on the board, leaning on it.

Kickboards are really not wide enough for me.

Kickboards also irritate my neck, as you have to crank your neck up nearly perpendicular to your body, sort of like swimming heads up freestyle.

I usually kick breastroke no board, and throw in an occasional length on my back to avoid the arms overhead numbness and stiffness.

Swim fast,

Ion Beza
June 13th, 2002, 09:01 PM
Myself, speaking as a Master Swimming competitor and not a coach, for more than a decade I am implementing the information from competitive swimming that advices to kick about 1/3rd. of the weekly mileage.
This develops leg muscles, and blood vessels connecting the legs with the heart.
In swimming races, kicking is a weapon, even though it takes lots of oxygen.
I do most of my kicking with a board, outside of Masters Swim practices, since it is overlooked.

In 1996, at a time when I was registered with the Stanford Masters, I kicked by myself in a 50 meter pool, a 3,000 meter in 59:50, a sub 2:00 per 100 meter.
When I told a Stanford Masters coach, the coach was horrified, I guess since not knowing better. Ray Carey swimming then with the Stanford college team, made the 1996USOlympicTeam in 200 meter butterfly, by kicking more than 1/3rd. of his weekly mileage, each week of the year, year after year.
The last time I kicked a 3,000 meter straight in slightly less than one hour, was in 1999.
Since then I kick now on my own more softly, Saturdays, when I am recovering from coached workouts.
However, in short distances I still didn't lose my kicking speed from the 90s: last year, in a bet I kicked 100 yards in 1:18, same as in 1996, and last Sunday in a racing bet, I kicked 50 yards in 34 seconds, same as in 1999, while my opponent, a recent international level swimmer from University of Texas, kicked 50 yards in 30 seconds; two days ago, Wednesday, in a 50 meter pool, at the very end of a workout including cruising 400 meter free in 1:24 pace and 600 meter free in 1:25 pace, I kicked a 200 meter in 3:32.

I wish I could have developed fast twitch upper body, matching what I seem to have developed in legs.
Or maybe I wish I could have developed better distance-per-stroke from the upper body, but last week I started working on this privately...