This post is courtesy of A3 Performance partner Swim Like A. Fish.
Hand paddles for swimming are a phenomenal tool for solving some of the most common problems in a swimmer’s technique.
In swim coaching, knowing how to solve problems is part of the everyday job description. 5 swimmers in 1 lane could have 10 different problems all going on at once. But over time a seasoned coach will come to identify common themes that almost every swimmer needs to work on. From there, the challenge is helping each individual swimmer work through their problem as fast and as effectively as possible. Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most common mistakes we see in a swimmer’s Freestyle and give you an easy tool from A3 Performance to fix it.
Let’s Get Started…
One of the most crucial points in the Freestyle stroke is at the entry. When done correctly, the hand/arm enters the water smoothly and without drag. This sets the swimmer up to get into a high elbow position which helps generate A TON of propulsion from the pull. But, more often than not, we see swimmers enter the water in a way that causes them to slow down, or doesn’t set them up for success with their pull.
An ideal hand/arm entry:
The swimmer’s middle finger enters the water FIRST (Not the Thumb or the Pinky Finger)
The swimmer’s hand consistently stays relaxed with the fingers slightly separated
The swimmer’s arm acts as a paddle to the water, rather than a body part that “slips” through the water
What Mistakes To Look For…
Incorrect hand/arm entry technique presents very differently from swimmer to swimmer. Some swimmers enter with their thumb first. Some put their entire arm in at the same time. Others have uneven, disjointed strokes. And through the pull, many swimmers just try to swim too fast and end up slipping, rather than using their arm to anchor themselves and physically pull their body over their anchor spot. If you want more information on what common mistakes look like for swimmers in Freestyle, Check Out This Blog.
The hand paddle for swimming is an inexpensive, effective piece of equipment that helps a swimmer feel multiple things:
Their anchor point
The feeling of the water against their flat, “paddle-like” hand-shape
The correct entry of their hand
Although The Fusion Paddle has both a finger and wrist strap, slipping the wrist strap off during drills allows the swimmer to be automatically corrected if their hand entry isn’t correct. That’s because the only way to keep the paddle on without the use of the wrist strap is to enter correctly. If a swimmer was to enter the thumb first, for example, the paddle would twist around the swimmer’s fingers, and the swimmer would have to stop to adjust and get their paddles back on properly.
Hand Paddles For Swimming
As a former swimmer myself, I used to dread paddle sets, because they took so much concentration in order to keep the paddle on properly. In other words - the paddle got me better and did its job.
The other way to use hand paddles for swimming is to keep the wrist strap on, and to draw your swimmer’s attention to their “anchor point.” The anchor point occurs after the hand and arm are completely in the water and the swimmer goes into the “high elbow” position.
The Fusion Paddle allows a swimmer to work on their “feel” for this point and have a better understanding of what and why to strive for the High Elbow Position.
Pro Tip: Try running a normal set that your swimmers are used to doing, but add in paddle work into the middle. For example, maybe that’s 12x25s Freestyle. The first 4x25s should be without paddles. Then, the second 4x25s should be WITH their paddles. The final 4x25s would then be without paddles again. The purpose here is to really illuminate the changes in the feel of the water. Incorporating just a little bit of paddle work into every practice will go a long way come championship season.
The other great thing about paddles is that they’re one of the most accessible tools out there. It’s relatively easy to get every swimmer access to a pair that they can carry with them to and from practices. And, with how much it benefits the Freestyle Hand and Arm Entry, it is an incredible solution to one of the most common mistakes we see!
If you want even more hands-on help with your Freestyle, you NEED Swim Like A. Fish’s Video Analysis Packages. Get custom, virtual coaching feedback on YOUR stroke and get better TODAY!