What Are Hand Paddles?
Hand paddles are plastic paddles that can be used on the hands during training either with or without other training aids such as a pull buoy or fins. The usually attach to the hand with rubber bands around the fingers so the paddle is in the palm of the hand.
Why Use Hand Paddles?
Hand paddles are designed to be used to improve the swimmer’s arm/upper body strength so work the muscles in the back, shoulders, arms and chest. They do this by preventing any water from travelling through your fingers and so allows you to push more water with more power.
Types of Paddles
There are a number of different types of hand paddles:
[caption id="attachment_657" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Finger Paddles"][/caption]
Finger paddles – designed to fit to your fingers and can be used for all strokes
- Han’s Paddles – the original holed hand paddles
- Sculling Paddles – for building strength in the upper body. Similar appearance to the finger paddle but slightly larger.
Each type of hand paddle does a different job so do a little research before making any quick decisions about which paddles you’d like and which would be best suited to you.
Benefits of using Hand Paddles
Using hand paddles has a number of benefits, not just the fact that over time will make you a much stronger swimmer by improving your upper body’s muscle groups.
Hand paddles can help to improve your technique even though this isn’t their primary job. They can do this though by making you more aware of you stroke and arm pulls. You can tell whether your arm pull is good or bad by using paddles as if you can feel the pull without changing your stroke.
When you use paddles your stroke naturally slows down as you have to work harder for each stroke. By slowing your stroke down you can work on all areas of your stroke as well as developing your strength. You’ll also notice that your strength lengthens and you get a better distance per stroke which means each pull is more efficient.
Your body awareness improves as you think about your arm position and you can feel the most effective way to pull. It also allows you to focus on your body rotation to get the best pull and longest stroke. If you have an issue with a low elbow when swimming then wearing paddles makes it much easier to notice whether or not your hands drag in the water in the recovery phase.
The training that you do with hand paddles is much more time efficient as you tire much sooner and so don’t need to swim for so long – great if you’re in a rush or pushed for time!
Top Tips for using Hand Paddles
- Build up gradually – if you start using paddles to much and too quickly then you’re at risk of shoulder strain and injury so start by using them for short distances then build up. For a first time user avoid the larger, wider hand paddles and go for a smaller size.
- When using them, keep the palm of your hand open and allow the flow of the water over your hand so it feels more natural to use.
- Don’t expect it to be easy! – Using hand paddles for the first time is going to be hard work. Don’t expect to be able to swim the same distance at the same speed with your paddles on as you will tire much quicker. This is all part of the paddles developing your strength as a swimmer.
- For those who are experienced swimmers and are looking to up their training further, try using a pull buoy with your hand paddles to prevent any leg kick. Another option is try using a larger, wider paddle to increase the resistance further.
- Consider using hand paddles whilst doing drills and technique work as you can work strength and technique in one go.
- If it hurts then stop! They are meant to push you but not hurt you at all and improving doesn’t mean hurting.