TechPaddle Review: Forearm braces for better propulsion (Early Vertical Forearm Trainer)

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Oct 3, 2011

TechPaddle Review: Forearm braces for better propulsion (Early Vertical Forearm Trainer)

Swimator Blog October 3, 2011 Final rating: 4.5/5

Getting more propulsion during a swim is a huge problem for many swimmers and even more advanced individuals shouldn't stop exploring their stroke for potential improvement in propulsion. Actually, nobody should ever stop improving their stroke, no matter how good a swimmer they are. It is one thing to reduce drag by streamlining your body or strengthening your core to keep a nice and straight body line. However, it is a whole other ball game to increase your propulsion to swim at a higher speed. There are two main ways a swimmer can increase his/her propulsive power. Let's just assume I am not talking about increasing your strength in core body and other swimming related muscles in the gym with the aim of getting stronger in the water to generate faster arm movements (also called turnover or stroke rate). Instead, I am referring to changes in your swimming stroke that, allow you to generate more propulsive force and thus swim faster. One way to move faster through the water is by utilizing your arms to catch/pull more water. As it is with many aspects of swimming, there is a piece of equipment which helps to guide your arm, specifically the forearm, in the right direction so you get more out of your arm movements. Say hello to my little friend the "TechPaddle (Early Vertical Forearm Trainer or EVF Trainer)" (not to be confused with Speedo's totally different and not so useful IM tech swim paddle).

TechPaddle - Early Vertical Forearm Trainer - Reviewed
If you read this swimming blog regularly, you might notice I do not recommend using too much swim gear unless it has a particular purpose, be it technique related or keeping your swimming workouts boredom free. Not too long ago I was raging about the triathlete community and how using paddles to swim with a bad technique is a really bad idea. TechPaddles, along with the AntiPaddles invention, however, do not fall into this category as they are no ordinary paddles. In fact, the word paddle in the TechPaddle name is probably not the luckiest branding effort as TechPaddles are not used for paddling to make you go faster or to exert more power in your stroke. Without seeing or reading any instructional materials, many swimmers could initially get the wrong idea about the TechPaddle. TechPaddles could be perceived more as very light braces for your forearms which keep them in the right motion for the swimming stroke. Perhaps a different name like "Catch Master" or "Extreme Catch" would be more appropriate. However, since the word paddle is so universal and very well known in the swimming community, it is catchy.

What are TechPaddles and what do they do for you?

TechPaddle can be also called the Early Vertical Forearm Trainer. As the name suggests this unique swim equipment encourages the swimmer to keep the elbow nice and high during the initial catch phase of the freestyle stroke (or any other stroke for that matter). The EVF (Early Vertical Forearm) is a very difficult motion to master as it requires strength in muscles you don't even know you have. The TechPaddle will help you strengthen the right muscles and will also move your forearm in the right position. As with any swim equipment, this swimming product will not do the work for you. You, as a swimmer, still need to think about the proper hand/forearm coordination in the front of your stroke, however, the TechPaddle will help you remember and will make it easier for you to do so.

Velcro straps, front stubs, inclined front - all good features

TechPaddle Specifications

The TechPaddle is made out of a very light and fairly flexible material which is a bit of a change from the regular heavy duty paddles as we know them. Also, what is different is the attachment that secures these paddles to swimmer's hand. In regular paddles, there is usually rubber tubing that attaches to the swimmer's fingers and wrists. However, in the TechPaddle the attachment is made by a velcro strap that wraps around the wrist. I have to say that putting on the paddles is not as quick as with regular rubber tubing, however the TechPaddle is so much more secure and can be used in other ways than just for the early vertical forearm catch training as intended (see bonus section below :)). So, in the TechPaddle design, this is definitely a huge plus. The front of the paddle has a tilted tube like structure which allows for a nice and relaxed grip in the swimmer's hand. This is also totally different to the more traditional paddle where the hand is placed flat on the paddle. Furthermore, the front tip of the paddle does not start at the swimmer's finger tips but at swimmer's wrist and it is not straight. The front part of the TechPaddle is bent down towards the bottom of the pool. Finally, the paddle part itself snugly touches the swimmer's inner forearm instead of sitting on the palm as in the traditional paddle style.

The TechPaddles come in a nice small mesh bag and with an educational DVD made by the product inventor Coach Tom Topolski who gives a very nice introduction to the strengths and usage of the paddles. Every time I watch Coach Topolski's high energy delivery I itch to jump into the pool and have another smart training sessions with the TechPaddles.:).

The TechPaddle is not a one size fits all product (that does not really work with swimming equipment and don't let anybody tell you otherwise). It comes in three sizes to fit shorter or taller swimmers.

What do TechPaddles do for me?

Ordinary paddles focus on generating propulsive power with your palm by increasing its surface. With TechPaddles, most of the paddle surface is on your forearm and your hand is closed around the front stub, so your forearm is forced to do most of the work. In a way, the principle is very similar to the AntiPaddle, however, with the TechPaddle, your wrist is nice and stable since the paddle spans from your hand to the middle of your forearm. This allows you to focus on increasing your underwater forearm catch instead of only the hand catch.

You have probably heard the term muscle memory where repetitive movements get ingrained into your brain and, after a while, you do not have to even think about the motions as your body will just perform them. In the same manner, the TechPaddle helps you to get rid of dropped elbow syndrome by constantly driving your hand underneath your elbow. Remember the front ledge of the paddle which is like an incline instead of being flat? This part of the paddle is responsible for pushing your hand deeper into the water and rotating it, so your palm faces to the rear of your body sooner. The earlier you get your palm facing backwards and underneath your elbow, the more powerful front catch you will have and the faster and more efficiently you will swim. Ideally, all this happens in front of your shoulder and not after your arm has passed the shoulder area, otherwise you are loosing the advantage of the early vertical forearm.

One thing I have to stress though, is to make sure you swim slowly with TechPaddles as they are not meant for fast swimming. Make every stroke count and move your arm through the water in a nice and smooth early vertical catch. It might feel a bit awkward and you will have to adjust a few things at the beginning, but trust me if I tell you that it is all for a good cause :).

Extra Bonus: Backwards Swimming

Interestingly, since the TechPaddle attaches with a velcro strap to swimmer's forearms, it is possible to use them to swim in the opposite (backward) direction. What I mean is, instead of pushing backwards on the paddles with the palm and the inner forearm, turn yourself around with feet first and push forward with the top of your forearm and the top of your hand. Ordinary paddles do not allow for this as the rubber tubes are too stretchy and would come out in the reverse pressure scenario. I will not get into details on how to swim backwards freestyle in this article, but stay tuned for more detailed tutorial. Swimming backwards is an awesome way to work on keeping a straight body line and on awareness of what your body is doing in the water.


Summary: Pros and Cons

I think the TechPaddle is must-have swim gear in your swim bag if you are just starting out in your swimming technique adventures or would like to move into open water or triathlon swimming. I really like the design and the way the paddle attaches to the forearm, however, if I were the inventor, I would not make it so wide as it could cause you to feel a bit awkward at the beginning of your TechPaddle training.

Everyone likes to swim faster and win over competitors, however, not that many of us like the hard work which this entails. The TechPaddle might just be the answer to get you swimming faster without having to work very hard. So, this is your chance to get on the Free Speed train and swim smarter, not harder :).


Pros:
  • very light and flexible material
  • wonderful forearm attachment
  • great cost only $26.95
Cons:
  • takes some time to get used to
  • bit too wide for my taste
Final rating: 4.5/5
  • usability/effectiveness - 4/5
  • material - 4/5
  • look and feel - 5/5
  • price/value - 5/5

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2 comments:

Martin said...

I was considering investing in some swim paddles and this have given me food for thought. My thinking was to get some that were more for propulsion but these ones to develop technique are intriguing.

Libor J said...

@Martin: thanks for the comment. these are also worth a look