For the majority of triathletes, swimming remains the most difficult of the three disciplines, but the positive thing is: there is so much you can do to improve your technique. Pro triathlete Ben Kanute – a very strong swimmer himself – shared a very simple, but effective tip for athletes using paddles. “A helpful tip is to only have the fingers strapped in. If you aren’t catching the water right, the paddle will come off. Take those wrist straps off.”
So instead of having your whole hand in the paddle, just put your fingers through the strap on the top. That way, you will need to catch the water well as soon as your hand enters the water. If you were to pull your arm backwards – avoiding a strong catch, which is necessary to move yourself forward efficiently – the paddle will come off. And of course then you’re not moving forward as much as you should.Text continues below picture
“Swimming this time of year is all about patience and putting in the time”, Kanute continued to say. “I always enjoy paddle sets, but it is especially helpful this time of year for strength building. I use it a lot for lat activation too.”
Another thing that can be said, is that if you use your paddles well, you will feel it in your arms, because like Kanute mentioned, it’s a form of strength training. Needless to say, it’s important to take it easy and not all of a sudden swim half of your swim training with paddles if you are not used to that. You’ll probably struggle with your next swim training if you don’t gently build up the strength work.
It’s also important to start off with smaller paddles and slowly work your way up to bigger paddles. Simply said: the bigger the paddle, the more strength you need to move yourself through the water with it. “The rule of thumb I’ve used is: use paddles as big as you can handle without causing any pain or injury, so just work your way up”, Kanute said.
Another tip could be to use special paddles that focus on the first catch of your swim, as they would also come off if you pull your arm back instead of making a good catch. These kinds of paddles – see below – don’t use straps, you just put your thumb through the hole. If you don’t have special paddles for this, you can just use your “normal” paddles by only using the finger straps, like Kanute mentioned.