If you like gear that makes things easier, then the FINIS Alignment Kickboard might not be right for you. But if you’re the type who craves improvement and knows it doesn’t come easy, then this piece of equipment will become your new best friend in the pool.
Kick sets are really important, as any competitive swimmer will tell you. Strong and skilled kicking is a critical component of all four strokes. Whatever our favored strokes, its kick sets that help us build power and swim faster, and when we kick too low, or too high, we lose efficiency. I’ve heard quite a few coaches rave about the Alignment Board for kicking, so when FINIS gave me one to try I was anxious to give it a go at my local pool. After four weeks of incorporating it into my workouts (kicking around 1200 yards, three times a week), I don’t think any serious swimmer- at any level- should go without it. Here’s why:
Traditional kickboards are no good at getting us into proper alignment. Even if we can maintain length in our arms on them, we’re still left with a floating device that floats on top of the water. This in turn puts our upper bodies and shoulders higher than our legs, which descend into the water, while our backs arch to accommodate this un-natural position.
The first time I put my hands through the Alignment Board and pushed off the wall, I immediately noticed that I had only me, myself and I to keep it steady and stay streamlined from my fingertips to my toes. With your hands under the strap, the board rests a couple of inches below the water surface and puts your entire body in a single, perfect line. Coupling it with the Swimmer’s Snorkel (which I can’t live without), I can keep my head straight and low, with my body outstretched to really target my core and legs. Plus, I have the added benefit of breathing through the snorkel’s small air passageway which mimics training at altitude and gets my heart pumping.
Power steering… with your fingers!
Instead of gripping a floating piece of foam, your body stays straight as you steer the board with only your hands and fingers. That means you have to be in the proper position or else the board will let you know immediately. I’m more aware than ever of my positioning in the water thanks to this single piece of equipment.
Because of its smaller size and maneuverability, I feel totally in control compared to using a kickboard. Nowhere is this more striking than when I do flip turns. You heard me right. Flip turns.
You can do them with the Alignment Board. You feel like you’re in the driver’s seat as you streamline off your turn with power. If this sensation doesn’t hit you right away, give it some time and practice.
If you are wobbling through the turns, that means you’re not streamlining appropriately. Eventually, you’ll be pulling flip turns with the Alignment Board and grinning from ear to ear.
For better (and for worse if you aren’t up for the challenge), the Alignment Board gives you immediate feedback. If you don’t listen to it and take corrective action, you’ll be wobbling the entire length of the pool. Because it requires some arm strength to keep slightly under water, it also offers some unexpected arm conditioning (you may even feel a little sore in your triceps after a long set with it). Unlike a kickboard which can let us get lazy, the Alignment Board requires a nice, steady kick to keep it, and you, moving forward. Too little of a kick and you won’t go very far; too high of a kick and you’ll wobble. That’s the immediate feedback that not even coaches can give you.
Kicking made fun
I really love how I can work on a variety of kicks with this board. I also switch it up and do single arm and side kick drills. As a lifelong ‘flyer, I only wish I had this earlier in my career because there is nothing comparable for butterfly kick work. For breaststrokers, too, I can’t think of a better technical device for working on the kick than this board thanks to the body’s positioning. And, of course, the board keeps you long and straight for flutter kicking.
I suspect some of you out there are gadget geeks and trend setters. I’ve had a lot of fun seeing the faces of my fellow swimmers at the pool as they watch me use it, oogling over it like kids in candy shops. There’s no better way to convince people of its strengths than to simply let them try it out (assuming you’ve got some time to kill). And because it’s fairly small, I’ve been able to pack it with me when I travel.
The Alignment Board is certainly a challenge worth rising up to. My workouts have improved, my core and legs have strengthened, and I enjoy the heck out of it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Until next time, keep on swimming!