How Swim Paddles Work
On the most basic level, swim paddles add surface area to the hands, which increases resistance against the upper body. Paddles slip onto the hand and are typically held in place by an elastic, adjustable rubber tubing, although there are some strapless paddles that rely on correct form to stay put.
Essentially, a solid or holed slice of plastic covers the surface of the palm and allows swimmers to displace a higher amount of water as they pull. This added resistance targets the shoulders, back, and lats - demanding a higher workload from the upper body. Incorporating swim paddles into your practice results in increased muscle mass, improved stroke efficiency, and can even help fine-tune stroke mechanics.
Upper Body Conditioning
Paddles are great for building in-water strength. While working muscles out on dry-land is important (and necessary for maintaining bone density), nothing beats the swim-specific strength building that water-based training tools can deliver. And oftentimes, dry-land exercises - even those that work the same muscle groups as swimming - often have little correlation to in-water strength and speed.
Besides being an upper body conditioning powerhouse, some varieties of swim paddles help swimmers uncover flaws in their stroke. Technique paddles and finger paddles can help advanced swimmers with vertical forearm entry, hand positioning, and even breaststroke catch. They help improve the mechanics of a stroke so that your muscles memorize the correct positioning and you'll continue the good habits when swimming without the paddles.
Traditional swim paddles are the most common style that you've probably seen around your local lap pool. They typically feature a solid plastic surface, either with or without perforations, that attaches to the hand with rubber tubing. Paddles such as the Finis Fulcrum Paddles are a perfect example of traditional swim paddle design. This style of swim paddle help build strength, promote proper form, and are suitable for swimmers of all levels.
These types of paddles - like the Finis Freestyler Paddles, for example - were specifically designed to help improve freestyle arm entry and catch. They help encourage a high elbow, good extension, early catch, and proper hand positioning. These paddles are ideal for anyone looking to improve the mechanics and speed of their freestyle stroke.
These specially designed devices aid your stroke in a number of different ways. The Finis Agility Paddles, for instance, don't come with straps and only stay on the hand when positioned correctly. This instant feedback helps you quickly correct hand and arm positioning for an always-perfect catch. Another widely-used paddle is the fist paddle, such as the Finis PT Paddles. Mimicking the 'fist swimming drill', these paddles take your palms out of your stroke. They too promote proper arm entry and can even assist with hip rotation.
Rather than covering the entire palm surface, finger paddles, as their name implies, cover only the fingers. These diminutive paddles are ideal for sculling drills and work well with the breaststroke and butterfly.
Although not technically a "hand" paddle, forearm fulcrums teach early vertical forearm entry just as effectively as traditional paddles. Fulcrums slide over the forearm and rest on near the wrist and along the upper forearm. They are perfect for refining any stroke, increasing efficiency, and promoting proper hand, wrist, and forearm positioning.
Paddle Size: Avoid Shoulder Strain
Proper sizing is essential for swim paddle performance. A too-big paddle puts excessive strain on the upper body and can lead to strained shoulder, neck, and back muscles. Experts recommend choosing a swim paddle that increases your hand's surface by about 10%. Thankfully, most swim paddles come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from junior sizes to extra large, in order to accommodate each and every swimmer.
If you're serious about taking your stroke speed, form and strength to the next level, then let us supplement your training with the perfect pair of swim paddles!