Using Swim Paddle Size to Train Correct Muscle Groups and Fibers

Academic rigor is important. Creativity inspires outlying innovation. And the scientific method validates an experience as replicable to a wider audience. But eventually, swimmers and coaches have to try out the best swimming gear to learn how it fits our unique needs. And if it adds value to our swim, we might just build upon it with a companion app that digitally enhances the first experience with augmented reality on a swimming paddle.

Hand Paddle Size to Create Flow

The concept is nothing new, but the application and materials have certainly improved since Ben Franklin. Thanks to the combination of a more rigid and softer material at opportunistic locations throughout the paddle, the surface area of the Mimic Swim Paddle actually changes when the bottom is under tension with the water, and the top surface is under compression from the hand.

The use of larger hand paddles decreased COT, cadence, VO2, and HR and increased distance traveled per stroke (all p < 0.001). However, the magnitude of the change of COT decreased as paddle size increased, indicating diminishing marginal return with increasing paddle surface area. The largest sized paddles increased COT per stroke compared with swimming without paddles (p = 0.001). Therefore, results from this study suggest that an optimal hand paddle size exists (210-358 cm) for proficient, adult swimmers, which reduces COT without increasing COT per stroke.

Training Form for the Back half of Your 100m

Good coaching builds upon an initial idea to incorporate swimming equipment and gear into the overall process of improving specific skills and tasks. Every swimmer wants to 'come home' with a great second 50 in their 100. And to do this many swimmers speed up their tempo to compensate as they 'slip' (technique fails) and 'the piano drops' (physiological exhaustion).

The results showed that stroke length tended to increase significantly when wearing hand paddles (p < 0.05) during both the first and second 50 m sections whereas the increase in swimming velocity occurred only in the second 50 m (p < 0.05). Conversely, the stroke rate showed a slight decreasing trend with increasing paddle size. During the 100 m freestyle trial the stroke kinematics were changed significantly as a result of the increase in propelling surface size when hand paddles were worn.

Maximum Physiological Force with Swim Paddles 

And who wouldn't want to train at greater speeds for longer periods of time to maximize swimming fast while reinforcing great technique? By decreasing perception of and biological markers correlated to fatigue, swimmers can utilize paddles and other swimming equipment to recruit the correct muscle groups and fibers for specific strokes and distances.

Blood lactate concentration (10.03±2.96 vs. 5.85±2.23 mmol/l) and Rating of Perceived Exertion (17.43±2.07 vs. 12±2.82) were greater without the use of swimming paddles only at 100% of maximum speed. Thus, swimming backstroke with paddles compared to unaided swimming, at a similar speed, showed a greater efficiency at maximal but not at sub-maximal intensity.

What all this means for Finding your Feel for the Water

Specificity is key to completing a skill to perfection, but prioritization is tantamount to task completion. When a swimmer begins to feel comfortable in the water, they have struck a balance between the two. The next training paradigm is to find experiences that gradually and systematically challenge the initial understanding with higher level attention to detail.

swimming technique


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