You may have seen many people working with ‘Swimming Toys’ at your local pool & asked yourself what it’s all about? There are many common misconceptions around what swim toys are for , so I thought it would be worth writing a blog to identify which ones you might need & how best to use them.
Primarily swim toys should be used during drill sessions to assist with the correct execution of drills & reinforce good technique. As always some are more useful than others so I have split these into two categories, essential & nice to have. All of the items below are provided with links to Wiggle’s online store should you wish to purchase any.
Whilst there are many brands and variants of all of these products I generally like the FINIS range of swim toys & find that they offer some advantages over other products.
The Pull Buoy is a fantastic tool for isolating the legs to concentrate on the arms & body rotation, it also helps to improve alignment in the water & core strength.
Some people find they are in fact faster with a pull buoy, this is normally a symptom of a poor leg kick causing the lower half of the body to drag in the water.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of using your pull buoy as a crutch to compensate for poor technique.
Make sure your pool buoy is a sensible size for your body type. Too small & it won’t support your body, too big and you will have too much buoyancy. The example shown is a good size for most adults, there is also a junior version available which is a little smaller.
Use the Pool Buoy for the following drills:
- Pulling with Paddles
- Doggy Paddle
Hand paddles are normally used in conjunction with the pull buoy & contrary to popular belief they are most useful in improving technique, rather than strength.
Hand Paddles help you to get a feel for the water during the catch & pool phase to improve the efficiency of your armstroke.
Due to their unique design these FINIS freestyler paddles are also useful for improving the alignment of hand entry and stability of your freestyle stroke. As the name would suggest though these are only really useful for freestyle & if you are wanting to use them for other strokes you might want to choose something like the FINIS Agility paddles instead.
These paddles also have a minimalist strap attachment making them quick & simple to put on & take off poolside.
Use Hand Paddles for the following drills:
- Pulling with Paddles
- 6/1/6 & 6/3/6
Similarly to Hand Paddles it is a common misconception that fins are primarily for improving leg strength. Whilst this can be a useful bi-product by far the biggest benefit is in improving the leg kick technique, it’s really tricky to bend the leg at the knee too much when kicking with fins on.
Fins also assist in performing drills correctly, by providing extra forward propulsion & a degree of buoyancy at the feet.
The FINIS floating fins also have a good flex & many people find that they are less prone to foot cramps with this style of fin, particularly runners who tend to have slightly less flexibility in their ankles.
Use Fins for the following drills:
- Torpedo/Corpse Kicks
- Kick on Side
- 6/1/6 & 6/3/6
- Broken Arrow
- Single Arm Drills
NICE TO HAVE....
To get the most out of your training it’s important to ensure you are able to swim at the right pace for each specific workout. A good way to do this is to use Critical Swim Speed (CSS).
To calculate your CSS check out the Swim Smooth CSS Calculator.
The FINIS tempo trainer pro allows you to set your CSS time so you get an audible ‘beep’ at the end of each length to ensure you are always swimming at the correct pace.
The alternative Cadence mode allows you to set your desired stroke rate to keep pace with whilst you swim.
For those of you with overly flappy legs this is a great tool to assist in keeping the legs steady & ankles together whilst swimming with a pool buoy. Whilst you can buy this specific product it’s also possible to achieve a similar effect with an old inner tube.
Note: Some swimming pools may not allow you to use this in public swim sessions, due to the perceived risk of swimming with your ankles tied together.
The swim snorkel allows you to swim without needing to turn your head to breathe, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of your stroke. This can be a useful tool whilst developing the catch & pull phase of your stroke.
Note: Some swimming pools may not allow you to use this in public swim sessions, I’ve yet to hear a valid reason why other than ‘it’s the rules’…