Most pools are equipped with stacks and stacks of old-fashioned, thick, hard, heavy, and really BUOYANT kickboards. And most teams use these boards not as tools to help their swimming, but as social props. The standard joke among swimmers is that kick time is talk time. Kick sets are when you get to visit with your friends, and they are assigned by coach to let you rest up for the next SWIMMING set. Right? Wrong.
I’m here to tell you… NO MORE! Stop wasting your time and learning bad habits while you’re kicking. This drill is for all swimmers who refuse to purchase a proper board, and who still use the ones provided by the pool. It illustrates a few Dos and Don’ts that you should observe if you are still using a 1950s-style kickboard. Not that there’s anything wrong with them… :)…but if you want to take your kicking into the 21st century, check out my favorite kickboard, the Zura Side Kick. I like it because it’s so small I don’t DEPEND on it. It forces me to actually KICK.
Why Do It:
If you don’t pay attention when you kick, you can end up using your legs in ways you’d NEVER use them in a race. You can put your body into the wrong position, and awaken the wrong parts of your feet and legs. You may feel "the burn," but what good is it if you’re building up muscles that won’t to do you any good when it’s time to swim.
How To Do It:
1. All right. Grab Ol’ Blue and head to the water. Make sure you don’t cross your arms when hold of the board. Simply hold it at the front. I’m not a fan of grabbing it at the back, or at the sides. The first way just feels weird; the second way puts you in a bad position.
2. Make sure the board is far enough in front of you so that you can place your face in the water. You know all the stories of how kickboards put you in a TERRIBLE body position. Well, this is why. If your face isn’t in the water, you’re heading uphill! Place your face in the water when you’re not beathing. When it’s time to breathe, the board will give you enough leverage to get yourself up to air.
That’s the simple advice. Kickboard 101. Now for the advanced class. Here are some images (and video) that show what to look out for when you use a board. Of course, our swimmer is demonstrating everything using breaststroke kick because that’s the best kick ever! 🙂 again!
Photo #1 Where is he going? This is what happens when the swimmer is super intent on staying in the proper position, but uses his arms to get there. Make sure that you send your energy FORWARD (I say that alot around the pool) and not DOWN.
Photo #2 While this looks pretty good, you can see how close the board is to the surface. With a thick board, if you relax and lose your focus for even a SECOND, the board tends to creep up to the surface. So STAY FOCUSED!
Photo #3 Ahhhhhh… very nice. THIS is the position we’re looking for. Everything in a straight line heading forward. Stop nit-picking about his head being a bit high, the kid’s doing great, and getting a LOT out of each kick. THIS is how you hold one of these boards. Nice, huh?
Photo #4 The goal with all kicking is to keep your body in a correct line, and to build the muscles you’ll use when you SWIM in a correct position. Sometimes you need to focus on your HIPS. Allow your hips to rise with each kick, and let your feet follow. You’ll develop a nice flow not usually felt with these boards, AND keep your body in a very nice, streamline position.
Photo #5 When it’s time to breathe, focus on your eyes and on your HANDS. Try not to push down on the board to get UP to air. If you push DOWN on the board, you’ll look like the swimmer in Photo #1 when you start to kick again. Instead of looking up and forward, tilt your head up JUST enough to grab some air. Maintain a low profile (no drag or resistance) when you breathe.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
If you want to learn how to do this really well, kick like this ALL the time, and then learn to do it faster and faster.
There’s no time to talk during a proper kick set, and if your team-mates are talking to you, ignore them. They’re obviously jealous of how fast you are, and want to hold you back. Keep your focus while your ears are above the water, and continue to improve even when others are just going through the motions!