Next up in our favorite training tools series: paddles! Now, don’t get me wrong, paddles can have a high correlation with boring filler sets, trust me I know (and have been there - 10x100s pull with paddles? No thank you). But don’t worry your pretty little head about that, because I’m not here to talk about using paddles in the way they were created to be used.
First up is my all time favorite drill that we work on with out clients that is absolutely perfect for working on on your own. Paddlehead Drill take the paddle completely out of your hands and starts a new fashion trend/cap accessory as it helps you work on head position during your freestyle and during your breath. Place the paddle on the crown of your head and start your normal freestyle. When first starting make sure you swim without a breath so you can get the hang of the proper head position we’re looking for. You want to be looking straight down at the bottom of the pool during your freestyle. If your head moves out of position the paddle will fall off, it’s the perfect positive/negative reinforcement as to whether your head position is correct, and you don’t even need a coach to watch you.
Once you’re comfortable with your head position, add in the breath. You want to keep one eye in the water while you turn your head to look back towards your armpit to take your breath. This will help you keep from lifting your head up, which would cause the paddle to fall off. Keep in mind your head will follow where your eyes look, so looking back towards your armpit works to keep your head down as well as stay in your streamline position.
The next way we like to use paddles is for Paddles in Hands drill. This drill forces you to learn to use your forearm as a paddle, as well as how to use the position of your elbow - not your wrist - to create the paddle. Holding the paddle in your hand takes your hand out of the equation and helps you understand the need to have a paddle from your fingertips to your elbow.
Holding the paddle this way, as illustrated in the above photo, prevents you from bending at your wrist during your catch and pull. Bending from your wrist removes your forearm from being able to be a part of your paddle, therefore giving you less surface area to use to push back against the water during your pull. Holding the paddle helps you feel the entire amount of water you’ll be able to push back against by bending at your elbow and maintaining your paddle from your fingertips all the way to your elbow.
This drill not only helps you feel the water against your forearm during your pull, but it helps you understand how dropping your elbow affects your ability to catch and pull efficiently. Dropping your elbow is another way that prevents you from using your forearm as a paddle. When practicing this drill start by focusing on keeping your wrist straight and not letting it bend. Then work on bending from your elbow and keeping it forward and up in order to feel how you can use the area from your fingertips to your elbow to push back against the water during your pull.