Kit to help progress your swimming
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Swimming gadgets - As with many sports, there are often a number of gadgets and gizmos that promise to revolutionize your technique, power output and efficiency, and swimming is certainly no exception. Here are some of the items that you can use to help achieve just that:
Hand paddles. Mainly used within the Front Crawl stroke, they increase the surface area of your hands which in turn increases the strength output requirement from each stroke performed. Associated very much with power training in swimming. They also ensure you enter the water and pull through using the correct technique. For example, if you slice your hands in from the side when entering the water the paddle will hitch and is likely to come off. Equally by not catching the water appropriately in the first phase of your underwater pull, the paddle is likely to slip through the water emphasising this inefficiency. Be aware that over use of hand paddles can increase your chances of causing shoulder injuries if the volume of training is not gradually increased over time. Over time you may also end up relying on them for power and momentum making it challenging to revert back to hands only.
Forearm Fulcrum. The forearm fulcrum is designed to help lock the forearm and wrist into the most effective position to perform an effective catch and pull phase of each arm stroke. It promotes keeping the elbow high to engage use of the strong latissimus dorsi muscles generating greater strength and power in the pull. Repetition of correct technique using this can also improve muscle memory. These can also be used within the Butterfly and Breastroke techniques.
Force Fins. Using fins will help to increase ankle flexibility and overall kick power output. The main muscle groups - glutes and hip flexors will be required to work harder and hence develop their strength and endurance. It is advised that you use these when completing the legs only swim drill allowing you the opportunity to focus on this element of the stroke alone to propel you through the water. Be aware that sometimes wearing fins too often can cause discomfort in the ankles and it could also encourage you to adopt a deeper 'scuba diver' type kick as opposed to a shallow, flutter kick in the crawl. Fins could also be used for Butterfly and Backstroke kick drills.
Drag shorts. Designed to do exactly as their name states. As you gain momentum, the pockets of these shorts fill and catch water causing a parachute drag effect. It goes without saying that this is going to make you have to swim considerably harder than normal. On this note, bear in mind what swim wear you may normally choose as if you've decided upon long, thick, trendy surf shorts these alone will slow you down. Light, close fitting costumes that are specifically designed for swimming only are advised. Again, be mindful that as you're asking more from your stroke it is advised that you gradually increase the distance covered using drag shorts to reduce your risk of shoulder injury.
Kick boards and Pull Buoys. Often two separate pieces of swimming kit but as the picture illustrates, there are products on the market that integrate both a kick board and pull buoy into one, making it easier to transport.
Kick boards allow you to isolate the leg kick only for propulsion through the water encouraging greater efficiency and endurance within the kick itself. Placing the board between your legs and holding it there by keeping your thighs close together will make it act as a pull buoy, isolating the arms, requiring them to work without the usual assistance of the legs. For some swimmers, the pull buoy can give some essential lift of the hips by adding buoyancy to the technique and reducing the possible drag effective of low hips. As a result they might find swimming to be easier and faster. If this is the case, make sure you limit it's usage as you may end up becoming too dependant on it.
All of the above should be used in conjunction with technique coaching and feedback from a knowledgeable and experienced coach. Just using these alone is unlikely to improve the stroke if the foundation of the technique is not where it should be in the first place.
For more guidance on how to perfect your Front Crawl technique and more download the series of swimming books by Mark Durnford.