Paddles are my favorite training tool. They are great for teaching stroke mechanics and are also an important tool in training. For as much as I like paddles it is important to use them wisely.
As a teaching tool, paddles help increase a swimmer’s feel for their pull. When working with swimmers on changing their catch or pull, paddles will slow down their pull rate, and the increase resistance provided by the increased surface area makes their feel more distinct. This combination often give even my students who generally shrug their shoulders when I ask them about what it felt like can usually start feeling more of what they are doing.
As a training tool, paddles allow you to pull more water, which is inherently harder to do, increasing your work load.
There are a few things to be careful about in paddles:
Don’t overdo. You need to work up the distance you swim with paddles. Doing more than you are ready for can create shoulder strain.
Choose the size of your paddles wisely. Paddles that are larger than a swimmer can drive through the water will often cause the swimmer to drop their elbow (a major stroke flaw) in order to take the pressure off of the pull.
While may swimmers will not find this one a problem, I don’t like pulling either first or last in a practice. I want the shoulders to have had more warm-up before you put on paddles. On the reverse end I don’t want to stop swimming immediately after doing paddles work (though a longer than normal warm-down can solve that problem).
As a rule of thumb pulling, for those working out without the guidance for an experienced coach I would recommend keeping your pulling to no more than 15% of your workout.
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