Are you looking to improve your swim technique and feel for the water? If you do not have a coach’s eye on you, one of the best ways to improve technique and feel for the water is through the use of swim toys. Swim toys, when used properly, force your stroke into a specific pattern. These patterns then teach your brain and muscles to work in a way so when you take off the equipment, you can still follow that specific pattern.
Even though swim toys can be great, not all are created equal. Some work well with most athletes, while others reinforce bad habits.
Here are our top swim toys to use to improve swim technique:
1. Finis Agility Paddles: These paddles, when used correctly, teach the arm to have an earlier catch. If your hand enters the water poorly or you do not have the proper catch, they fall off. They can be used in place of normal paddles if your catch needs further developed. However, you need to avoid using your thumb to keep them on once your hand enters the water.
2. TYR Cross Blade Fins: Most triathletes that come from a biking or running back ground have a lack of functional plantarflexion which negatively effects kick efficiency. The easiest way to improve this is to kick with flippers. These flippers are just the right length that they put the foot into a proper position in the water to increase plantarflexion, without slowing the kick down too much.
3. Kickboard: A kickboard is one of the most under appreciated tools in a triathlete’s arsenal of toys. Many drills can be done on a kickboard such as catchup drill and single arm drills that allow athletes to isolate elements of their stroke, such as eliminating crossing over the body. The kickboard can also be used with the fins to help improve kick efficiency.
4. A Swim Snorkel: Swim snorkels allow you to not worry about breathing and key in on head position. Since you are not turning your head to breathe, you can experiment with different head positions and postures to find what you are most comfortable with.
Here are the swim toys to avoid:
1. Ankle Bands: This piece of equipment drop the hips, increases turnover too quickly and increase the rate of kick when they are removed. Ankle bands are often used to increase turnover in open water swimmers, but fail to address the timing and rotational issues which undermine efficiency. When the ankle bands are removed, the athlete’s turnover will still be increased, but they will kick at a faster rate to match the higher stroke rate. This often leads to swimmers working significantly harder in the water, but not moving any faster through the water.
2. Flat Hand Paddles: While these paddles will work to build strength, they do a number on your hands. Instead of getting paddles that have a flat surface for your hand, look into paddles that a have contour shape to ergonomically fit your hand. This will make swimming after you use the paddles feel easier and your hands will thank you!