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Swimming Workouts Set #4: Swim Paddle Drills

Now that you’ve got your lower body into shape with fin and kickboard drills, it’s time to focus your attention on your upper body. While it’s important to have both a strong upper and lower body, it’s your upper body – strong arms, shoulders, chest and back muscles – that do the majority of the work. By strength training your upper body you’re sure to see positive results in your distance per stroke and overall speed.

Swimming workouts with paddles target the upper body and shoulders.
Mixing up your swimming workouts with a pair of hand paddles bolsters the shoulder muscles and promotes proper alignment.

One of the best ways to train the upper body is to use the water’s natural resistance properties. Because water is close to 1000 times denser than air, your body has to work that much harder to propel itself. When swimming competitively it’s important to minimize drag in order to decrease your body’s resistance. But, when training, you can use this resistance to your advantage and make the most out of your body’s drag through the water. Training devices that increase the body’s surface area do a great job at helping swimmer’s strength train in the pool. A hand paddle is one such device that can do just that. Paddles increase the surface area of the hand, which allows swimmers to displace more water, swim faster, and increase upper body strength. Check out all the benefits of swim paddles here.

Now that you know what swim paddles can do for you and your stroke, it’s time to put them to use. Here are a few simple, yet effective, drills that you can incorporate into any level swim routine.

Basic Paddle Drill

Great With: Finis Fulcrum Paddles

Reps: 6×50 – 6×100 yards, depending on your skill level

Basic paddles are a great add-on to any level workout. All you have to do to use them is slip them on and swim as usual. Be sure to focus on the increased displaced water and feel each and every muscle in your upper body work against the water. Add in 300 to 600 yards with paddles in the middle of your basic workout to really get the most out of your time in the pool.

Sculling Drill

Great With: Speedo Biofuse Paddles

Reps: 4 x 50 with 20 second rest between sets

Instead of covering the entire hand, sculling paddles, or finger paddles, only cover the tips of the fingers. They allow swimmers to get a better feel for the water and help them work on sculling techniques, which build forearm and finger strength for a better catch.

An easy, yet effective, sculling drill can be done while swimming a slowed down freestyle. Push off the wall as usually and complete one stroke with one arm. Instead of bringing the arm immediately down and back around your body, leave it out in front for a few extra kicks. As your arm is extended out in front of your body underwater, use the sculling paddle in a wave-like, back and forth motion to get even more propulsion and strength training. After 4 or 5 waves, pull your arm through and repeat the same on the other arm to equally train both sides.

Closed Fist Drill

Great With: Finis PT Paddles

Reps; 10 x 25 yards, rest 15 seconds between sets

This drill is great because it allows you to get a better feel for the water. Instead of using your hand to feel the water, you’ll want to focus on pressing into the water with your forearm. This motion encourages your core muscles to actively rotate and help push your body forward. The Finis PT Paddles are great for this drill because they take the hand out of the stroke’s equation.

It’s important to remember to use training devices, like hand paddles, in moderation. Resistance training in the pool is just like strength training on dry land. Aim to strength train 1-2 times per week, at most. And listen to your body while in the water and adjust the drills and reps to your individualized needs.

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