Have you ever watched a top swimmer walk into a swimming pool with a bright coloured mesh bag in hand and wondered why they use all that extra equipment?
Are all those training accessories necessary if you’re a regular swimmer just wanting to improve fitness or prepare for an event? Are they important?
Training accessories can provide a number of key benefits for every ability level. When used correctly they can help improve body position, isolate muscle groups and alter the intensity of a swimming session. These benefits are only possible if the gear is used purposefully and correctly.
If you’ve always wanted to try swimming gear but not known how we’re here to de-mystify swimming accessories to help you be the best swimmer you can be!
Pull buoy: Tips and benefits
Pull buoys are placed between the legs of a swimmer to help promote an efficient body position by lifting the hips high in the water. When a swimmer’s hips are close to the surface they produce less drag and move more efficiently. Many swimmers adore ‘pulling’ (using a pull buoy) as it gives them a break from kicking which uses substantial energy. Using a pull buoy also gives a swimmer an opportunity to work on water feel, which is the way they catch and pull through the water. Other benefits of using a pull buoy include:
- Isolating the arms to work on muscular mechanics
- Allows you to focus on technique
- When combined with paddles it provides an intense arm workout
Pull buoy: What to watch out for
While pull buoys do offer a number of benefits, it is important to remain mindful of your body position. Remember to keep your core tucked in tight! It’s easy to rely fully on the training aid and relax the torso. This will affect the efficiency of your swimming when it’s taken out. Efficient swimmers are able to fly through the water because they use their body as one seamless unit, from fingertips to toes. When we isolate parts of our system- as we do with the pull buoy- it reduces the time we spend working on being more efficient in the water.
- Always mix pulling with swimming
- Keep the core strong
- Avoid ‘swinging’ the legs and aim to keep the hips rolling and not flicking out to the side
Paddles: Tips and benefits
Paddles are a fantastic training aid for swimming because they can help develop strength, power and feel for the water when used purposefully. If you’re looking for a real upper body workout, try combining paddles with a pull buoy. Finger paddles are particularly good for working on technique. Much smaller than regular paddles, they encourage wearers to enter in an effective fingertip first position. The primary benefits of paddles include:
- Helps to promote fingertip entry
- Offers an upper body workout
- Builds strength
Paddles: What to watch out for
Stay mindful of technique when swimming with paddles as many swimmers will try to stretch extra-long while wearing them. When the going gets tough and the arms grow tired with the added pressure of paddles it’s important to keep the elbows high during the pull phase. Drawing the elbow back first releases power, imagine you are pushing a barrel back behind you. When wearing paddles make sure you remain wary of:
- Short stroking or overreaching- maintain your regular swimming style
- ‘Crossing the centre line’. If you enter in front of the face this can start to impinge the shoulder over time
- Dropped elbow. Power comes from pulling through the water with the elbow high