Swimming blog - TRAINING and PULL 3 reasons to swim with hand paddles

You have probably seen them laying around on the pool deck in all different colors and sizes. Hand paddles! Swimming with paddles will strengthen your upper body, especially your back muscles, shoulder muscles and triceps. You can also use paddles to improve your technique. Here are three ways paddles can improve your swimming.

1. Improves your strength endurance
Paddles make the surface area of your hand bigger so you propel more water with each pull-through. Propelling more water means you need to use more strength with each pull through. It’s like switching to a higher gear on your bike while maintaining the same cadence. Using paddles when swimming on an easy pace will improve your strength endurance. It allows you to stay more efficient in your strokes when swimming longer distances. Swimmers usually use paddles when pulling with a pull buoy. By doing this, you fully isolate your pull so you can focus on strengthening your arms. Use paddles regularly and you will develop strength over long distances. 

2. Improve your power
If you have trouble speeding up in the pool, paddles are great tools to get stronger and faster in the pool. When using paddles during sprints, you work on your explosiveness and pure strength. You can see it as weight training in the pool. Use paddles during a sprint set, either with a pull buoy to isolate your pull or with fins for a full blast effort. Make sure you’re doing short sprints, to keep the quality of your sprints high. Not sure what to do for your sprint training? Watch our ‘How to sprint’ video on SwimGym.com. 

3. Improve your technique
Due to the larger surface area of your hands when using paddles, you create more feel for the water. Hand paddles are therefore a great tool to improve your technique. By doing drills with paddles you can get instant feedback on your swimming technique. We have a couple example drills we do with paddles. 

Grab paddle freestyle
Flip your paddles around, grab them with your hands and swim freestyle. This is a great drill to improve the catch phase of your freestyle. The paddle forces you to keep the elbow up during the catch. If you let your elbow drop too much, the paddle will catch water and you will lose it. 

Single paddle freestyle 
Because the paddle increases your hands’ surface area, you are able to propel more water during your pull through. Using a paddle on just one hand will cause a disbalance in your stroke. It makes the hand without a paddle compensate and search for more efficiency during the pull through. Swim on an easy pace and try to even out your stroke as much as possible. 

Paddle breathing drill
A common mistake is to lift your head out the water when breathing. You can use a paddle to fix this problem. Place the paddle on top of your head and try to keep it in place while swimming. When you turn your head sideways to breathe, keep your head in the water and the paddle WILL stay in place. If you pick up your head too much, you will lose the paddle. This drill will give you instant feedback on your head position while breathing. 

As you see, paddles can be used as a training tool in many ways. There are different shapes and sizes you can choose from depending on how big your hand is and your swimming level. Build up the use of paddles carefully to avoid shoulder injuries and always alternate swimming without paddles to maintain good feel over the water. 

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