Feel the power and the water at the same time
Many swimmers, especially the seasoned ones, have been taught that the best way to get better at swimming is to just swim. Although that’s essentially true, I think we can all agree that swimming is one of the most complex sports on the planet and full of movements that we just don’t do in normal terrestrial life. Trying to learn and do everything all at once, from gross to fine movements and breathing and timing, as well as training your body from a physiological standpoint, is pretty overwhelming.
This is where training tools and equipment can play a role in making you a better swimmer. This is why I love fingertip paddles.
Why Do Fingertip Paddles Work So Well?
Like many other pieces of swimming equipment, paddles play a significant role in helping swimmers improve. There are many styles and sizes, but here are a few things you should think about when considering whether to get a pair of fingertip paddles.
- Paddles, regardless of size, put extra stress on your joints. Fingertip paddles, however, are small enough that they’re unlikely to lead to injury.
- One reason to use training equipment is to strengthen a movement. A bigger paddle will certainly do that, but will the movement be correct? Small fingertip paddles will allow you to maintain better technique than a larger paddle.
- Fingertip paddles don’t take away the feeling of the pressure of the water against your palms. Our grip and hold on the water are critical, not just to fast swimming but also to recreational or fitness swimming. It makes us feel like we’re effortless and gliding through the water instead of fighting with it.
- Fingertip paddles work with every stroke. If you slap your knuckles on backstroke or overreach rather than enter cleanly, these paddles will let you know. If you sweep out on breaststroke with your fingertips in the wrong place, these paddles will let you know. If you do any number of weird things on your butterfly entry, these paddles will let you know.
Interpreting the Feedback
The leading surface of your hand (your fingertips) is going to dictate the next thing that happens to your hand in the water. The paddle just increases the surface area of that leading edge and provides a gentle amount of extra resistance for strengthening.
The big deal here is that if you choose to use them—and I hope you find a spot in your swim bag for them—and your stroke is doing weird things and your hands are going in directions that you don’t intend, that’s very instructive. Adjust your entry, pitch of your hand, and movement to maximize your pressure on the water. The best coaches can’t see some of these subtleties, and none of them can feel what you feel.
Every person is different and there are no easy adjustments, but many swimmers have found that the awareness they get from using fingertip paddles leads to better times, more strength, and more enjoyment of swimming.
- Technique and Training