Last night I pointed out to a couple of athletes how the paddles helped their technique. This was, I believe, due to the resistance they provide allowing the athlete to “grab the water” a bit better. An important piece of the puzzle especially at the end of the set when the hands tend to go wider than they should due to fatigue.
Below is a bit of a rundown on the way I like to use pull buoys and paddles in the pool. Hopefully by knowing a bit more behind my intent you will get a better feel for how they can help you.
With respect to what type / size of paddle to get, I have no real preference. Even speaking to Gavin, the head coach of the National Squad at Sutherland, he also isn’t fussed with type. I believe just getting a pair of paddles that you feel comfortable with and can use easily is the main objective. Maybe next time you are swimming you could borrow a different pair to see if you can notice any differences and develop some preferences yourself.
If I put “pull” into the swim program it is generally paddles and pull buoy with the optional use of a band around the ankles. This is purely for strength work. Use force on the paddles and don’t kick. The reason the pull buoy is in there is to keep the hips up a little due to not kicking. If poor hip position / low legs are an issue then I highly recommend using bands as it forces you to work on using the core muscles to get the legs and hips up. You will struggle for a while but persist with it and it will help a lot.
Reinforcing Good Technique:
This is one I personally like to use for technique development – using paddles only. I have been putting paddles only work in the warm up lately and the intent there is to assist with working on the early catch and high elbow pull. Being in the warm up I’m trying to set the stroke up for the main set. I want you to maintain a normal kick when it’s paddles only.
Sometimes we can use the pull buoy and / or paddles in the recovery pieces between hard intervals. This is due to using paddles in most cases makes it easier to swim. In fact I have found a lot of the pro athletes I have coached over the years quickly reach for the paddles in the cool down as it helps pull the heart rate down and makes it easier to get through the water.
You can use the pull buoy between the legs when doing sculling practice as it helps keep you keep the legs afloat whilst being able to fully focus on the sculling motion with the hands.
Getting to know how and when to use these pieces of equipment and using them correctly (not just for strength) will help develop your stroke.