Have you been struggling to set a new personal best despite having put in the work? Are you looking for new ways to increase the intensity of your training? Look no further, in this article, we will be introducing some swim tools that you can utilize in your training. We will also go over the purpose of these items and how to effectively make use of them to reap maximum benefits.
The items that are mentioned in this article have a resistance aspect to challenge the user and would require some technical expertise to ensure proper execution of the movement. Just like all forms of resistance training, it is important to sufficiently warm up the body before using the tools. Athletes should also take note of how much stress is being placed on different parts of the body. After all, performing an intense exercise without warming up risks injury and should be avoided at all costs.
As a disclaimer, these tools should not be used in excess. In fact, senior coaches believe that the usage of any type of training equipment should be limited to less than 25 percent of a training session per equipment. Individuals without a strong background in swimming should also take note and start slow. This is because incorporating swim aids into swim drills is a double edge sword — it can either strengthen and improve the execution of proper swimming technique or increase the usage of bad swimming form and result in the development of bad habits. Over time, bad techniques and habits would put the athlete at a higher risk of getting injured. However, when used properly and in moderation, swimming aids can help athletes take their training regime to a higher level.
With that in mind, we will now look at the swimming aids that you can introduce to your training program, their functions, and extra tips to maximize its utility.
For individuals who are looking to improve their kicks, fins may be able to assist you with that. Fins help improve flexibility in the ankles and increase the efficiency of your kicks in the water by providing more propulsion. It is important to note that due to the nature of fins, you will be moving forward regardless of your kicking technique. Hence, pay extra attention to your kicking technique and remember to always kick from the hips.
Furthermore, fins are an excellent addition to body-position drills. Often, swimmers struggle to focus on the drill as they are too caught-up with producing powerful leg kicks to stay afloat. With fins, the need for a strong leg kicks and the anxiety of having to constantly move to stay afloat is reduced, allowing them to fully concentrate on the drill.
The use of fins may also lead to the development of blisters around the feet and toes. We recommend that you put Vaseline on these susceptible areas to reduce the friction.
Ultimately, when utilized properly, swimming with fins may help instill proper swim strokes in athletes. Having a more efficient swimming technique can have a carryover effect onto their swim times once the fins are off.
Paddles allow the swimmer to increase the workload on their upper-body. This is because paddles make the hand look bigger in size, allowing each stroke to hold more water, increasing the resistance of each stroke. This added resistance taxes muscles in the arms, back, and shoulders. However, it is important to practice caution and not choose extremely oversized paddles as we do not want to expose our shoulders to sudden amounts of excessive workloads. As a rule of thumb, a paddle that is slightly bigger than your own hand would suffice.
For starters, you may want to focus on practicing your sculling technique without the use of the straps on the paddles — start slow! You know your sculling technique is on point when the mere water pressure alone is sufficient to keep the paddle to your hand.
Once you are comfortable with using the paddles, you can proceed to swim with it but use only the middle finger strap. This set-up ensures that your hand placement when entering the water is smooth and you are actively pushing your arms backward throughout the stroke, reinforcing proper freestyle techniques.
#3: Pull Buoy
Similar to the paddles, a pull buoy aims to increase the workload placed on the upper body by limiting leg involvement. However, it should not be seen as a method to hide poor kicking technique. You should start by placing the pull buoy in between the thighs and your arms should continue executing your freestyle strokes as per usual.
Some athletes may feel a little off-balance when starting out with the pull buoy. To address this issue, when performing the pull, remember to keep your body as streamlined as possible by straightening your legs and pointing your toes out throughout the movement.
As you become more comfortable, you can increase the difficulty by using a smaller and flatter buoy and placing it between the knees. For those looking to really challenge themselves, place the pull buoy between your ankles. Your core will have to work extra hard just to maintain balance in your strokes and prevent the float from moving excessively during your swim.
#4: Drag shorts
While swimmers actively try to reduce drag by utilizing full-body suits, it should not be seen as something to completely avoid. One can consider using drag shorts in their training sessions to increase the amount of effort in the water. This increases productivity as your body ends up working harder with the same amount of time in the pool.
Currently, there are drag shorts made out of specialized teabag-style material which offers increased drag rates of up to five seconds per 100 meters. However, for those on a budget, a pair of ordinary loose fitting shorts would be able to offer adequate amounts of drag for your training needs.
Do note that you do not need to keep your drag shorts on for the whole training session. They should be used when you feel the need to increase resistance on some of your sets.
When it comes to improving your lap timings, a good leg kick goes a long way. A poor kicking technique can exhaust you prematurely during your race as the energy used is not efficiently transferred into propelling you through the water.
When performing leg kicks using the kickboard, keep your head down. This ensures that your body is in a streamlined position and less strain is placed on your neck. Simply lift your head up when you need to breathe.
When starting off, we recommend that you use a large float and balance it around your stomach area. At the same time, perform the freestyle movement using your hands and treat it as a relaxing swim-down drill. The purpose of the float is to stabilize your upper body as the lack of core strength can cause your upper body to wobble when performing the leg kicks. Hence, as your core gets stronger, your body would be able to remain more stable throughout the motion. A sign that you are proficient in the movement is when you are able to perform leg kicks with a still and aligned upper body without the assistance of the float.
Overall, the repetitive nature of swim training can be fairly boring. However, by including the recommended swim aids in your training sessions, you would have more challenging variations to choose from. These tools would also aid you in your journey of perfecting your swimming techniques, which would lead to that eventual personal best that every athlete is always gunning for!