The Best Swimming Kickboard

When coaches call for kicking sets, most swimmers usually groan… kicking sets can be a killer, however, kicking is an essential part of any stroke and a strong kick adds power and speed to your overall stroke. The kick set is a staple in any swimmer’s workout – it’s designed to strengthen the leg muscles, create a balanced stroke, and add speed to overall performance.

Kick sets are usually done using a kickboard, which helps to create a good body position in the water, allows you to keep your head out to breathe (unless you are using a swim snorkel), and lets you chat to your teammates while kicking (much to your coach’s chagrin!)  

The benefit of using a kickboard is simple: it helps develop a stronger and more fit kicking motion. This can help your overall performance in several ways:

          a stronger kick allows your technique to stay together for longer;

          it allows you to drive your hips (and pull) with more power;

          you maintain better body position in the water;

          your underwater breakouts become explosive.


A stronger kick allows your technique to stay together for longer. Swimmer using kickboard by
Simply Swim UK / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Type of Kickboards

A swimming kickboard is a simple piece of swimming gear – it is a piece of foam or plastic that you hold with your hands while you kick. As simple as it is, it is an important piece of equipment for both beginners and professionals. It helps beginner swimmers stay afloat as they learn to kick and build strength in the legs of professional swimmers to increase endurance, power, and speed to their overall performance.  

There are several different types of kickboards. They range in size and shape, as well as the material from which they are made. Sturdy, rectangular-shaped kickboards are great for teaching young children to kick while ergonomic kickboards are good for swimmers with shoulder problems.

1. Tombstone Kickboards

These are the classic, traditional kickboards that are shaped like a tombstone and made of firm foam. These are great for teaching beginner swimmers or for swimmers who like to have a large surface area on the board to rest their arms. These are not great for swimmers with shoulder problems.

2. Arrowhead Kickboards

Arrowhead kickboards are hydrodynamic in design and streamlined in the water. They are smaller and provide less buoyancy in the water while you are kicking, however, they cause your body to become flatter and more streamlined in the water, creating a slimmer drag profile.

3. Pull-Kickboards

Pull-Kickboards are dual-functioning pieces of swim equipment that combine a pull-buoy with a kickboard. While they are a great piece of equipment with dual functionality, they do not offer much flotation and are best used with swimmers who already have a strong kick.


Tombstone kickboards are the classic, traditional kickboards. Stacked by
ashleigh290 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

How To Choose the Best Swimming Kickboard

It is important to choose the correct type of swimming kickboard for your needs. The size, shape, and style of the kickboard can make a big difference to your kicking workouts and you want a kickboard that gives you sufficient buoyancy, helps you maintain the correct body position, and allows you to kick comfortably in the water.

When you are holding the kickboard with your arms stretched, your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart to achieve good buoyancy in the water. This also helps with body alignment and positioning in the water, which contributes to swimming greater distances.

If you are learning to swim, look for a board that is very buoyant as this will keep you afloat and give you confidence in the water while you learn to kick efficiently.


It is important to choose the correct type of swimming kickboard for your needs. Lauren Roudebush by L. SOWERS / Whitney Details / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Best Swimming Kickboards

I jumped into the water with a range of different kickboards and tried them all out. Here is a list of some of the best swimming kickboards on the market for both beginner and professional swimmers.

TOMBSTONE KICKBOARDS

These classic, traditional kickboards are made of firm foam and are great for teaching beginner swimmers or for swimmers who like to have a large surface area on the board to rest their arms. These are not great for swimmers with shoulder problems.

BEST OVERALL – Arena Swim Kickboard

This is one of the best-looking kickboards on the market (in my opinion) and is available in different colors which is great! The board is made from 100% ethylene vinyl acetate which is super durable and resistant to chlorine and sun damage.

It has dual-grip hand holes with molded handles in the top of the board, which provide super stability in the upper body, which allows you to work on the lower body and power and technique of the leg kick. The Arena Swim Kickboard’s contoured edges offer comfort and safety in the water.

Pros

  •         Made from 100% ethylene vinyl acetate
  •         Dual-grip hand holes with molded handles for comfort
  •         Contoured edges for safety and comfort
  •         Stylish design and available in a variety of colors

 Cons

  •         One of the more expensive swimming kickboards on the market

Speedo Team Kickboard 

The classic Speedo Team Kickboard is a traditional tombstone board that is one of the best swimming kickboards on the market. It is made from lightweight, rigid, and textured EVA foam which has a non-stick surface and a cool scallop design on the sides for your fingers to easily grip the board. This design also promotes the correct hand position on the board for beginner swimmers, which helps with body position in the water.

Pros

  •         Super durable rigid textured EVA foam
  •         Non-slick surface
  •         Easy-grip finger grooves on the sides
  •         The large surface makes it comfortable for front-grip  
  •         Good buoyancy
  •         Lightweight and easy to carry

Cons

  •         The large size makes tumble turning with the board difficult

The TYR Sport Kickboard

The TYR Sport Kickboard is a stylish kickboard and the thickest of the tombstone kickboards on the market. Measuring two inches thick and 20 x 11.5 inches long, this board is longer than most other kickboards and is ideal for taller and heavier swimmers.

This is a classic kickboard with a basic tombstone design and is made from high-quality EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) with a closed-cell structure. It has a special non-slip surface, and it is very resistant to damage from chlorine and the sun. It’s super comfortable to use and very buoyant, which makes it a great board for professional swimmers who want to work their lower body while kicking and teaching young beginner swimmers. This board is available in black and pink.

Pros

  •         Made from high-quality EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) with a closed-cell structure
  •         Non-slip surface
  •         Thick and long and very buoyant
  •         Ideal for both beginner and advanced swimmers
  •         Damage-resistant
  •         The large surface makes it comfortable for front-grip kicking
  •         Available in black and pink

Cons

  •         The large size makes tumble turning with the board difficult
  •         Not comfortable for swimmers with shorter arms

Kiefer Training Kickboard

The Kiefer Training Kickboard is a great all-around tombstone swimming kickboard that can be used by both beginner and experienced swimmers. Measuring one inch thick and made from molded EVA foam, it is very sturdy and provides good buoyancy.  

It is comfortable to kick with and has an easy-grip surface. It also comes in a variety of funky colors for adding some brightness to a grueling kicking set and is well-priced.

Pros

  •         Made from molded EVA foam for good buoyancy
  •         Sturdy and durable
  •         Easy-grip surface
  •         Comfortable to kick with
  •         Well-priced
  •         Available in a range of bright colors

 Cons

  •         The large size makes tumble turning with the board difficult

BEST FOR BEGINNERS – The Swim Board Trainer

The Swim Board Trainer is a super buoyant, lightweight, and ultra-sturdy kickboard made from unbreakable polyethylene, which makes it very durable. This kickboard is ideal for beginner swimmers and heavier adults due to its buoyancy and floatability.

The Swim Board Trainer has two sets of integrated handles for optional body positioning indents at the top of the board for comfortable thumb placement. The swimming kickboard is available in two sizes – large and small – so caters to all levels of swimmer. The high-quality plastic is chlorine, sand, and sun resistant and can withstand rough handling.

Pros

  •         Made from unbreakable polyethylene – ultra-durable
  •         Sturdy and lightweight
  •         Integrated handles for easy gripping
  •         Indents at the top of the board for thumbs
  •         Ideal for beginner and heavier swimmers
  •         Well-priced

 Cons

  •         Not suitable for experienced swimmers

ARROWHEAD KICKBOARDS

Arrowhead kickboards are hydrodynamic in design and streamlined in the water. They are smaller and provide less buoyancy in the water while you are kicking, however, your body position is often flatter, producing a slimmer drag profile in the water.

BEST OVERALL – FINIS Alignment Kickboard

The FINIS Alignment Kickboard is exceptional and works wonders in the water. Designed to be as streamlined as possible, the ergonomically designed triangular shape of the board allows your body to take a more natural position in the water.

It is slightly shorter than standard kickboards, which makes it possible for the kickboard to be submerged under the water. This helps your body to take the best possible position while swimming, reduces pressure on the lower back and shoulders, and keeps your legs in line with your body so you are kicking in a straight line. It also allows you to do flip turns with this great swimming kickboard!

The FINIS Alignment Kickboard also has stabilizing hand straps to place your hands in the proper streamline position and allow you control of the board without gripping. This kickboard is ideal for using for one-arm drills and side kicking in every type of stroke.

The kickboard is made from EVA foam, which is very durable and resistant to chlorine and sun damage. It’s a great kickboard for using with a swim snorkel as it allows you to submerge under the water and swim in a streamlined position.  

Pros

  •         Ergonomic triangular design for perfect body positioning
  •         Stabilizing hand straps for a grip-free handle
  •         Small and streamlined allows for flip turns
  •         Made from durable and damage-resistant EVA foam
  •         Can be used for standard kicking, one arm drills, and side kicking in all four strokes

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The Speedo Elite Kickboard 

The Speedo Elite Kickboard is a fantastic arrowhead swimming kickboard and is a good compromise between the tombstone and the arrowhead designs. It’s made of buoyant and thick foam and has a tapered tip which is easy to grip and wrap your fingers around.

It has a sleek, ergonomic design, is streamlined in the water, and has been engineered for optimum buoyancy. This is a great board for experienced swimmers who want to improve their leg strength and kicking technique.

Pros

  •         Ergonomic design engineered for optimum buoyancy
  •         Sleek arrowhead design is streamlined in the water
  •         Lightweight foam and easy to carry
  •         Tapered tip provides a good grip for fingers

Cons

  •         Not suitable for beginner swimmers

TYR Hydrofoil Kickboard

The TYR Hydrofoil Kickboard is another excellent arrowhead kickboard that provides good buoyancy and has a streamlined, ergonomic design that helps with the correct body positioning in the water. One of the best features of this swimming kickboard is the concave base, which allows you to roll the upper body, as you would when swimming freestyle, which many of the other kickboards don’t allow.

The board has contoured sides for easy grip and a comfortable resting position of the arms and hands, similar to the position your arms would be in when you’re pulling through a stroke. This means there is no excessive stress on your shoulders, so this is a great choice of kickboard for swimmers with shoulder problems. It is light and compact and easy to carry in your swim bag.

Pros

  •         Made from lightweight EVA foam
  •         Ergonomic design for streamlined body positioning in the water
  •         Contoured sides for natural arm position
  •         Tapered, non-slip, easy-grip section for the fingers
  •         Great for swimmers with shoulder problems

 Cons

  •         Not suitable for beginner swimmers

Arena Kickboard Pro

The Arena Kickboard Pro is an arrowhead-shaped swimming kickboard with a sleek design and a lightweight, non-slip surface, and a tapered tip for an easy grip. It is made from 100% ethylene vinyl acetate, which is super durable and resistant to chlorine and sun damage and has contoured edges that offer comfort and safety in the water. The board has smooth grooves for your forearms when using with a top grip that is very comfortable.

This model has dual-grip hand holes with molded handles at the bottom of the board, which I didn’t like as when you hold the board here and kick, it tends to flip upwards when kicking at any speed. This then causes your legs to drop and your body position to change. Despite the bottom-hold handles, the kickboard has a good ergonomic and hydrodynamic shape that slips through the water when held at the top.

Pros

  •         Made from 100% ethylene vinyl acetate for extra durability
  •         Ergonomic and hydrodynamic design for streamlined body positioning in the water
  •         Contoured sides for easy grip
  •         Smooth grooves for the forearms when using a top grip

Cons

  •         Dual-grip hand holes with molded handles at the bottom of the board render useless as the board flips upwards when kicking at speed

PULL-KICKBOARDS

Pull-Kickboards are dual-functioning pieces of swim equipment that combine a pull-buoy with a kickboard. While they are a great piece of equipment with dual functionality, they do not offer much flotation and are best used with swimmers who already have a strong kick. Pull-kickboards are also great if you don’t want to carry too much equipment around as they are lightweight and take up half the space of a separate pull buoy and a kickboard in your swim bag.

BEST OVERALL – Speedo All-Age Elite Pullkick Swim Training Aid Kickboard

The Speedo All-Age Elite Pullkick Swim Training Aid Kickboard is a specially designed, two-in-one combo that serves both as a kickboard and a pull buoy. It’s quite small – it only measures 10.5 x 9.25 inches – and very lightweight so can easily fit in your training bag.

Its unique shape allows a comfortable fit between your legs as a pull buoy and as a kickboard with extended arms. It is also a good swimming tool for one-arm drills and backstroke. Its size and shape require more effort when kicking as it does not provide as much buoyancy as regular kickboards and swimmers with shoulder or back issues may feel some discomfort when using it to kick.

Pros

  •         Dual functionality is ideal for carrying less equipment
  •         Ergonomic and hydrodynamic design
  •         Contoured sides for easy grip for both legs and hands
  •         Good swimming tool for one-arm drills and backstroke

Cons

  •         Not as buoyant as regular kickboards
  •         Suitable for experienced swimmers only

Arena Pullkick Pro Swim Kickboard

This amazing little piece of dual-function training aid is lightweight, practical, and good-looking. Designed for optimum buoyancy and comfort, it combines the design of a pull-buoy and a kickboard, allowing swimmers to use it as either.

When used as a kickboard, the Arena Pullkick Pro Swim can be used for two-arm, one-arm and underwater drills, as well as regular kicking, and its asymmetrical shape is streamlined and ergonomic in the water. Its size and shape require more effort when kicking as it does not provide as much buoyancy as regular kickboards and swimmers with shoulder or back issues may feel some discomfort when using it to kick.

Pros

  •         Dual functionality is ideal for carrying less equipment
  •         Asymmetrical, ergonomic, and hydrodynamic design
  •         Comfortable, easy grip for both legs and arms
  •         Good swimming tool for all kinds of drills

Cons

  •         Not as buoyant as regular kickboards
  •         Suitable for experienced swimmers only

Arena Pull Kick – 2-in-1 Pull Buoy and Kickboard

The Arena Pull Kick – 2-in-1 Pull Buoy and Kickboard is another great dual-function pull-kickboard that is designed for optimum buoyancy and comfort. Rectangle in design with channels and grooves for handgrips and forearm comfort, the 2-in-1 Pull Buoy and Kickboard is ideal for working on both your arms and legs in one set. It’s lightweight (weighing in at 14 grams!), streamlined and ergonomic, and is available in different colors.

Pros

  •         Super lightweight and ergonomic in the water
  •         Comfortable, easy grip for both legs and arms
  •         Grooves and channels for easy finger, arm, and leg grip
  •         Designed for optimum buoyancy and comfort

Cons

  •         Suitable for experienced swimmers only

Why is Kicking in Swimming Important?

Now that you have the right training aid, let’s hit the pool for some leg workouts with your new kickboard! Kicking sets are an important part of any swim workout to increase leg strength and power and develop a stronger connection between your kick and your arms.

Adding kick sets with frequencies and intervals has been found to increase the overall speed of your stroke in a couple of ways:

  1. Improves your kicking speed

Working out with a kickboard and adding kicking to your swimming workout will make your kick faster – it’s that simple.

  1. Simulates race fatigue

Your legs have the largest muscles in the body (the quads) and they use the most amount of oxygen, so they are usually the first part of your body to get tired when racing. Building up their speed and training them to fatigue will help to condition them for those last brutal moments during a race.


Kicking sets are an important part of any
swim workout to increase leg strength and power. Kick-board Splash by Boyce Duprey / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Best Kicking Sets with Kickboard

Here are a few sample kicking sets with a swimming kickboard that will help improve your kicking speed. These small sets can be included in a full swimming workout:

Set 1 (Repeat two to three times)

          300m shoe kick drill: swim 25m using only the weak leg; 75m focusing on distance per kick.

          100m kicking with fins concentrating on distance per kick

          1 x 50m kicking for a time

          50 m easy swim

          1 x 50m kicking for a time – must be at least one second faster than the previous time

Repeat two to three times.

Set 2 (Repeat two to three times)

          8 × 50m freestyle kicking on 1:30 seconds

          8 x 25m freestyle or butterfly kick with fins on 40 seconds. Alternate odd lengths: underwater fast and even lengths: explosive kicking at a fast pace

          300 quiet kick (no bubbles, no splash)

Set 3 (Repeat two to three times)

          200 quiet kick (no bubbles, no splash)

          16 × 25m kick IM order on 45 seconds with a weight belt

          4 x 50m freestyle kicking alternating easy/fast kick

Set 4

24 × 100m kick on 1:40 seconds (50m specified pace / 50m +10 seconds / 50m +8 seconds / 50m +6 seconds

Set 5

          30 × 100m – broken up into 50m kick / 50m swim on 1:30 seconds / Every 5th 100m is a sprint pace

Here are some additional kicking sets that can be added to a workout for an extra challenge for experienced swimmers and some fun for young swimmers.

Vertical Kick

This form of kicking doesn’t use a kickboard but is a fantastic exercise for working both the legs and the core. The vertical kick is done with butterfly kick or flutter kick and fins can be used if needed. Swimmers need to kick from the hips rather than the knees in this drill.

Build kicking endurance with this set:

          5 x 60 seconds of vertical kicking with 20 or 30 second-rests

Build maximum strength with this set:

          10 x 20-second bursts of vertical kicking with one-minute rest, keeping the shoulders completely out of the water

Leg Burst Breakouts

Exploding off the wall, doing an intense butterfly kick in a streamlined position, and breaking out of the water with a fast quick is a vital part of backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly and can make or break a race. Breaststroke swimmers have a different turn, but still, need to practice pushing off the wall with power and breaking out into the stroke.

          20 x 25m breakouts in butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle with intense underwater fly kicking and breaking out at no further than 15m as per FINA rule.

          20 x 25m breaststroke breakouts: four underwater breaststroke kicks in streamlined position before doing a pulldown and breakout stroke.

Sprint Swim with Fins

Even though the arms are used in this kicking set, sprinting with fins is primarily kicking sets as the goal is to train the legs to tolerate high-intensity kicking. The sets can be mixed up with 25m / 50m / 100m and should be repeated at least five to six times per set.  

Fish and Fly Kicks

Butterfly kicking, also known as flutter kicking, is an excellent drill to work the core, lower back, and hips for all four strokes. Fish kicks are butterfly kicks on the side with the front arm extended and they are great for practicing streamlining in the water.

          4 x 100m Fly-and-Fish kick set (25m right fish kicks / 25m fly kick on front / 25m left fish kick / 25m fly kick on the back

Board Wars

This is a fun drill that swimmers love doing! Swimmers must pair up with another swimmer of similar ability and have kickboards. Swimmers start on either side of the width of at least 10m apart and command kick as fast as they can towards each other. When they meet, they need to lock their elbows straight and push their boards against each other and try to push their partner backward to the other side by kicking. All levels of swimmers love this kicking drill and it’s a great way to end off a swim workout.

Happy Swimming!