For swimmers there are fewer things they like hearing more than “paddles and fins!” The reasons are simple, it’s a break from the monotonous nature of most swim workouts, that can last up to two hours and cover nearly 7,000m per session, and of course, wearing paddles and fins is simply fun.
After all, you get to go a whole lot faster than you normally would.
Here are some best reasons that swimming paddles will help you become a faster swimmer.
They help improve your feel for the water. As swimmers we are always seeking to improve the way we move through the water. The goal, along with increased conditioning, is to be able to swim more efficiently. This results in being able to swim quicker with less energy. Mixing up paddle use with regular swimming has the curious side-effect of infecting your swimming with incerased efficiency.
With the strap removed they can become an exceptional teaching aid. One of the biggest reasons to use paddles, in my opinion at least, is that it reinforces a better catch during the beginning of the pulling motion. With the added surface area you get a better sense of how important it is to get your forearm vertical as quickly as possible when swimming. Removing the wrist strap helps with this, and also teaches you a much better hand entry—after all, if your hand doesn’t enter properly the paddle will twist and come off. There is no more visceral demonstration of a bad hand entry than a paddle that comes off.
Good for breaking up long pull sets. As a reformed distance swimmer our coach would prescribe us long, dull pulling sets frequently. And one of the ways that he would break them up and add some stimulation was to add periodic paddle use during the set.
Power development. One of the most cited reasons for paddle usage is that it is resistance training in the water. It’s about as sport-specific as it gets, adding load to the movement patterns that you want to strengthen and power up.
How to Make the Most of Your Swim Paddles
Of course, with any training aid you should be introducing it slowly and using it in moderation. If you are leaning on paddles in order to make a faster interval than you are probably not using it for the right reason. Another note—if your shoulders are injured, or they are beginning to ache (the bad ache, not the good ache), than you should back off of their use.
Similarly, when choosing a pair of swim paddles to wear down to your next swim workout make sure that you size them correctly. The instinct is always to go for the absolute biggest pair of paddles you can find, which is understandable—the bigger the paddle, the more surface area, and conceivably the faster you can go.
But over-sized paddles create a couple different problems. It creates an inordinate amount of strain on the ligaments and tendons in your arms and shoulders, while also causing your stroke tempo to plummet. For sprinters this particularly problematic.
Pick yourself out a pair of paddles that are about 10% larger than your hands. This will give you a good balance of strength development, added speed, and allow you to wear for extended periods of time without crushing your shoulders. Happy swimming!