No way? Yes way: the little strapless number that helps you swim faster
Knowing what kit really makes a difference in the pool is tricky but with paddles, the sheer number of people using them means there is smoke and therefore fire with these nifty devices. We take a look at how and why they light things up in training.
Experienced swimmers often forget why paddles rock. Strap them on and you swim longer (like better distance per stroke) and faster. Ask any coach and they say one common issue is a tendency for swimmers to press down or sneak some lateral movement in with hands, instead of simply catching water efficiently.
This seriously hampers the pull phase and forward propulsion. Pressing down instead of back causes lift at the front of the stroke and that can compound drag issues from the hips and legs while lateral hand movements can induce ‘snaking’ and increase drag. Paddles can help both swimmer and coach identify and correct these problems.
How does the FINIS Agility Paddle make improvements while not even sporting a hand or finger strap? The FINIS swim scientists love getting into the dynamics of the design but basically the Agility Paddle is nothing short of genius, so much so it received the reddot design award.
Unlike traditional paddles, the Agility Paddle is a convex paddle without straps but featuring a lateral thumb-hole. The shape promotes correct placement of the hand.
Sounds awesome, and they are, but many swimmers opt for more conventional paddles because they don’t get the design and what it offers. The lack of a strap is in fact it’s secret weapon. Keeping the paddle in place means maintaining perfect technique throughout your swim.
Perfect technique shouldn't be seen as a bad thing, quite the contrary, but for most swimmers perfect technique equals hard work. This paddle leaves no room for mistakes or excuses. The palm positive paddle will only remain in place if early vertical forearm position is maintained (commonly referred to by coaches as “high elbow catch”) making it a golden tool for coaches to teach good technique.
That’s a lot of talk about what swim paddles offer so how we can be sure they deliver in the water? Take a look at these stats:
A group of female swimmers strapped on a pair of small hand paddles (116 cm) and over-sized paddles (286 m) and completed a series of 25m sprints. Both swimming speed and distance-per-stroke increased significantly. While DPS went up, the stroke rate went down. Of particular note was that the pulling phase took longer to execute, while the speed of the recovery was unchanged.
A group of male age groupers swam a series of 25m sprints (the oversized paddles were bigger at 311cm). They were instructed to hold a consistent stroke rate via an underwater speaker that helped them maintain pace. Same results: increased speed and distance per stroke and handspeed in the push and in-sweep phases were down when wearing paddles.
A group of nationally ranked backstrokers performed a bunch of 100s with and without paddles. When the 100s were swum at full max the rate of perceived exertion and blood lactate concentration were lower when swum with paddles compared to without. In other words, the paddles made the swimmers more efficient when they were swimming all-out.
Want to get a grip on what FINIS swim paddles can deliver? Try this catch and pull tune up to measure the benefits for yourself:
400m FS. While swimming, observe and note the depth of catch after hand entry on each stroke.
300m PULL. Now observe the degree of elbow bend on left and right arms as each travels below your shoulders and body.
200m doggy paddle with fins or pull buoy. Observe the transition from catch into pull. Does the arm move as one continuous limb from hand to shoulder (i.e. like a pole) or does the elbow remain forward as the forearm swings down (arm movement in two parts)?
100m FS. Build pace from 60 to 90% and note speed and effort level where your catch & pull feels together and consolidated.
Take 30s rest after each.
400m with paddles (fins optional) alternating ‘kick-on-side’ drill and freestyle each length. On the drill, keep your leading hand slightly flexed with your palm consistently facing the bottom of the pool when kicking on your side, breathing in or breathing out and looking down. Apply a deliberate (but subtle) flex of your wrist as your hand reaches 20-30cm below the surface.
Compare to the catch position and depth you observed during the warm up. Use Finis Freestyler paddles with only the middle finger in the loop (not all straps) to gain feedback on hand movement via wrist flexion or lateral movement on breathing.
400m FS negative split (no paddles). Work on applying an effective catch technique (flex your wrist slightly after hand entry) and remain at effort level where your technique feels consolidated.
2 x 200m (+30 sec rest) alternating single arm drill into FS each length. Use FINIS Agility paddles and work on a bent elbow pull with hand traveling below the shoulder as you finish your pull phase towards your thighs. Aim to maintain the elbow high and forward as the forearm approaches vertical, observe this as the arm passes the head.
2 x 200m FS at CSS pace + 30 sec rest. Maintain effective pull technique and note impact on times and perceived effort.
4x100m as pull & paddles. Consolidate catch and pull by observing the elements above.
4 to 8 x 50m FS at aerobic pace (no paddles). Consolidate and correct technique in FS from paddle swimming feedback. Note any impact on times.
Take 30s rest after each.
- Total distance: 3600m