11/1/13 - 12/1/13

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Nov 27, 2013

8 Ways to Use your Hand Paddles

Hand paddles are commonly used in the swimming pools around the world. In fact, you hardly ever see a pool deck or the infamous Lost and Found basket (yes, they do exist) without a pair of them laying around. They are either loved or hated. The main rudimentary idea behind the original hand paddles was to increase the surface of your hand to pull more water, however, apart from the 100s of different paddle types, there are many other ways to utilize this piece of swim equipment. So without further ado, here is a list of top XX ways you can use hand paddles (note: I am not focusing on the different types of paddles, just different ways to use the regular hand paddle):

1) Strappless paddles - Even though they are used on your hands, they serve an additional purpose. By taking the wrist straps off or using the strapless paddles (ex: Agility paddles from Finis) you basically are more inclined to lose them from your hands if your underwater stroke has some unexpected deviations form the straight pull. The paddle only attaches to the tops of your middle finger(s) forcing you to think about what your hands do.

2) Kickboard - You don’t necessarily need to use a kickboard to do your kicking. Just hold onto one paddle with your outstretched arms and voila. Many swimmers press down on the kickboard when they kick which is not good. You need to be gentle and relax in your shoulders, so the water can carry you. The kickboard is there just to guide you, so using hand paddles instead of it, is a great practice to steady those front arms. Keep your face in the water and when you breathe, keep the paddle without going down.

3) Lopsided swim - This one is a lot of fun. For this you don’t need to put your paddles on different appendages as above, but you will only use one paddle on the hand of your choosing. By using a single paddle, you are basically offsetting the balance in your core body, so one side of your core is forced to work that much harder to keep your body from snaking around the swim lane. You can also make it more interesting and add one flipper to the opposite leg :).

Holding with hand to increase forearm power
4) Sculling - Either put the paddles on the normal way or just grab them between your thumb and your fingers and utilize their surface to make your sculling efforts a bit more challenging. Remember, sculling movement is not a breaststroke movement, just do very narrow figure eights from side to side and feel the water pressure on your skin. The pressure is the same the entire time, refrain from putting a lot of pressure pushing out to the sides and easy bringing your hands back together.

5) Hand holding - Since we mentioned earlier removing straps from your paddles, why not just grab the paddle with your fingers in the front, thus allowing the paddle to extend further into your forearm and therefore, forcing you to swim more with your forearm ores rather than just your hands. It will create a very similar effect as the Tech Paddles

6) Catch up swim - There is no need to put on your paddles for this exercise, but you can definitely utilize them in a different matter. As with the kickboard paddle exercise, just hold one or both paddles in front of your body in one hand and every time you bring your moving arm forward, just replace your grip. This catch up drill is great for working on your underwater catch. Keep those paddles submerged below the surface, so you always have your hand below your elbow in terms of how far they are below the surface.

Homemade breaststroke kicking paddles
7) Breaststroke kicking - If you adjust the paddle straps in a bit different way you can slip the paddles onto your inner ankles and use them to increase the surface area of your foot during your breaststroke kick. Thus giving the correct idea of how it should feel when you push off the water with your inner legs. This is a bit more tough to do properly and not all paddle straps are long enough to achieve this foot fit. If you do go after this, I suggest getting a smaller set of paddles which you dedicate specifically for this. NOTE: I don’t recommend you try this while swimming very hard as it puts a lot of pressure on your knees, so you could end up with an injury right after you spend an hour adjusting your paddle straps :). Patiently and slowly to start with.

Paddle only with a finger strap
8) Splashing your fellow swimmers :) - Since paddles have larger surface, it is very easy to throw larger amounts of water at your swimmer friends or even the onlookers outside of the pool. Try it, it is fun :). You can even make huge water bubbles on top of the water, but about that another time.

And there you have it. 8 ways to utilize your hand paddles without having to spend money on additional swim equipment. You can actually just have one entire workout with your hand paddles without putting stress on your shoulders. So, if you were a skeptic about hand paddles, maybe you can re-evaluate your position and be creative. Now it is time to dust off those good old plastic plates and get in the pool to enjoy them once again :).

If you have any other uses that were not mentioned here, please do share. I'll be happy to include them.

Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

Nov 8, 2013

How To Do Back to Breast Turns (Open vs. Bucket vs. Cross-Over)

In the individual medley races, there are a lot of transitions between strokes: fly to back, back to breast, breast to free where each swimmer could either gain or lose time on the opponents. Usually the most complex turn is the one from backstroke to breaststroke and in the history of swimming this turn has evolved into a very fast and sophisticated movement sequence which is quite tricky to master for a lot of us and even very good swimmers take a bit of coordination and time to learn it. Here is a run down of the turn evolution from the time it was required to touch the wall on swimmer's back to execute the turn.

Back to Breast Open turn or Touch turn

The open turn is basically very similar to a one hand touch freestyle open turn with the only difference that one glides to the wall on back. The most important part here is to reach for the wall on a side still slightly leaning on the back and then very quickly bring your legs to your chest. In other words basically you are pivoting on your butt to make this rotation turn. This turn is the easiest to master and when done well can be very effective.


Backwards flip turn or Bucket turn or Rolling turn or Suicide turn

The bucket turn requires a bit more skill, but it basically is just a backward flip with the touch on the wall. The main point to talk about here is that the start of the turn has to be with the palm touch way below the surface of the water. So actually the swimmer has already initiated the turn before the hand touches the wall. After that again tucking your knees is the common element. One problem with this turn is that it requires quite a good lung capacity to execute the breaststroke pull out afterwards, so unless you can hold your breath long enough to not cut the breaststroke pull out short, I would not recommend it. Hence the name "Suicide Turn" I presume :).


Cross-over Turn

This is the newest of the turns. If executed well, it is much faster, so in shorter individual medley distances such as 100 or 200 it would make more sense to learn it. However, if you look at it quickly, you will probably feel confused as to what hand touches the wall and on what side to flip your body to:). No worries, the below video is very good at describing how it is done. I couldn't have explained it better. In short though, after you touch the wall with your upper arm over your body (keep on your back slightly), you will need to drive your butt in the direction below the hand that touches the wall to complete the turn. So in a way it could be performed on a side or as a regular tumble turn depending how coordinated the swimmer is.


Confused? No problem, the pool is yours and with time you will get it :). Maybe the below video will help. It has more detailed explanation with some dryland practice for the open turn and the cross-over turn:


Learning to swim is priceless and SwimSmooth Learn to Swim DVD is a great start