I try not to live by too many rules as they tend to constrict one’s ability to think creatively, however I do have a rule when it comes to kickboards (also referred to as swimming boards).
Do not use them when you are learning to swim!
Ok, it is not entirely true that kickboards do not have a place around swimming pools, but let me explain why I suggest not using swimming boards at the start of ones swimming journey.
USE: impediment to your swimming progress
If you remember from one of my previous articles, body and head position is one of the key elements to a successful swimming stroke. The problem with using a kickboard for kicking is that your body defies the proper positioning. With your head above the water, your legs sink deeper into the water and instead of swimming in a horizontal position, you suddenly find yourself swimming up a hill with your feet angling down towards the pool floor. This is totally not the position you want to be imprinting into your brain:). If you learn to rely on a kickboard while you are learning to swim or learning a proper body position, it will take you that much longer to actually achieve your goal. If you resist the temptation to use a kickboard and practice your kicking without it, it might be a bit more difficult at the beginning, however, you will not only gain great body position, but also better balance and strength in your core body. Not convinced to leave your kickboard at home yet? Well, just think about what is the reason that you started to use your swimming board in the first place. Chances are that you just do as others do and kick with a kickboard, because everybody else kicks with it (we are after all a society with monkey ancestry). Or you find it easier to kick that way, because you can breathe as much as you'd like or you use kickboard as a flotation device. Whatever your reason for using a kickboard is, trust me when I say you don't need it and here are more reasons why: 1) I already mentioned the improper positioning of your body with your hips down and your legs sinking, but this is so important I mention it again. This is definitely a no no. Instead you should work on keeping your head under the water and your butt at the surface while you kick, so your body is in a nice streamline. 2) Yes, it is easier to breathe while kicking with a kickboard as you can take in as many breaths as often as you'd like. However, if you practice kicking on your sides with your face down, or in a streamline with your face down, you can at the same time practice your side breathing and a proper breathing rhythm.
3) After you drop the kickboard, you can concentrate better on the kick itself and not on what your swimming board is doing or how you hold it. It is important that you focus only one thing at a time, so keep it simple. 4) You can eliminate the neck ache from kicking with your head above the water and any shoulder tightness due to extended periods of kickboard holding. Remember, keeping a flat, wrinkle free neck during the time your head is underwater is important to keep a nice streamline. So, now you might be wondering. What do I use a kickboard for then? Did I throw my money away? Well, you did not throw your money away completely. Firstly, you supported your local swim shop :) but, more importantly, you could use your kickboard in more advanced swimming situations. For example if you want to kick fast for a time. Getting a lot of oxygen is very important during a timed swim. You could also use your kickboard as a resistance tool by holding it in front of you in the water in a vertical position as if you'd kick against a wall. Or if you kick on a side with your bottom arm forward, you could press on the kickboard to get it under the water (if the kickboard is small enough) and thus raise your hips and legs to the surface to improve your core body strength for better body position or to stretch your lat muscle. So, enough about kickboards, now it is time to improve your kicking skills.