Last up in our series of our favorite training tools we use in our lessons that you can also use on your own: fins! I know what you’re thinking, “Lissa, everyone has fins, we all know how to use them, where are you going with this?” To which I say you’re exactly right. Fins are a very well known training tool, one that I’ve been using for over 2.5 decades at this point as a matter of fact, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get the spotlight they deserve. Not to mention, I’m willing to bet I’ll write about at least one thing you hadn’t considered using fins for in this blog. And if I don’t? Well, I’m not sure...I’ll buy you a donut?
First and foremost, fins are most commonly used to build leg strength by simply wearing them during swim practice. Growing up I always wanted to use them before they would help me go faster, but little did my adolescent brain know that they wore me out much more quickly because they were forcing my legs to work a lot harder than I was used to.
The resistance you’re adding by putting on the fins is what helps you gain strength in your legs and improve your kick. Without fins, you’re only having to push back against the water with the back of your legs and feet. BUT when you add the fins, you now have to push back against the water with the back of your legs, feet, and the entire surface area of the fin. Since fins are (usually) rubber, the way they move in the water in unpredictable and changes with every kick you make. The added resistance and unpredictability of movement forces your legs to work much harder than normal, providing you with a great way to strengthen the exact muscles in your legs used for your kick.
Another way we use fins with our clients is to help take their legs out of the equation when we want to focus on one piece of their stroke at a time. Wearing the fins (or fin, when we’re talking about a monofin for butterfly) allows you to create momentum without putting forth much effort. This momentum provides you with stability in the water, allowing you to maintain your balance while staying focused on the task at hand. Which could be working on your hand entry, head position during your breath, proper timing of your hip rotation, etc. Whatever you’re working on, the use of fins allows you to not have to think about what your legs are doing and gives your brain that much more power to keep your thoughts - and your body - streamline (see what I did there? Man I crack myself up).