Training > Swim

Swim training session with tools: get more power per stroke

Give your front crawl some extra oomph by training with paddles and pull buoys!

Trying to swim faster can feel like trying to solve a puzzle, especially if you’re new to front crawl. Increasing your stroke rate would seem the obvious solution but this often just results in thrashing arms instead of extra speed.

The thing that makes the biggest difference to your velocity isn’t how fast you move your arms over the water but how much you pull with them under it. And swimming with paddles is a great way to practise pulling more powerfully on the water. Think of it like pedalling a bigger gear on your bike. A paddle should be marginally bigger than your hand – increasing the surface area increases the resistance that you’re pulling against. As long as you’re swimming technically well with the paddles, the harder effort will not only improve your power but also your form.

Why you should be swimming 'off strokes' regularly

12 swim tools to improve technique and fitness

How to use swimming paddles


Swimming other strokes is also good for improving strength as it helps you understand what drives your body through the water. You don’t even have to do them perfectly to feel a difference.


6 x 75m steady
As 25m front crawl, 25m backstroke, 25m kick

15secs rest after each 75m

4 x 25m
As half length scull, half length swim. Swim the reps as entry-point scull, midpoint scull, exit-point scull then doggie paddle

10secs rest after each 25m

4 x 50m swim golf 

(Fastest possible time for lowest possible stroke count)

20secs rest after each 50m


Main set

4 x 50m medley
(You can substitute front crawl for butterfly), moderate

15secs rest after each 50m

3 x 100m
With paddles, vigorous

15ecs rest after each 100m

4 x 50m
With pull buoy and band, moderate

15secs rest after each 50m

3 x 100m 

With paddles, vigorous

15secs rest after each 100m

 x 50m medley 

(You can substitute front crawl for butterfly), moderate

15secs rest after each 50m

3 x 100m 

With paddles, vigorous

15secs rest after each 100m 



As 2 x 75m front crawl, 50m any other stroke

Adapt for beginners

Take longer recovery periods and swim 25/50m instead of 50/100m. On the medley reps, swim 25m of each stroke, then 25m front crawl.

Adapt for Ironman

Increase the number of reps. Push harder on the 50m reps and swim the pull buoy reps with the buoy between your ankles.

3 tips for learning to feel the water


Getting hold of the water and understanding what that feels like can be a challenge. Try to get your elbow wide and your forearm vertical so that your hand points toward the bottom of the pool.

Tied up

A pull buoy will help you isolate your arms, forcing you to focus on your pull. For extra help, tie a band round your ankles. You can buy bands or just use a piece of old inner tube.

Fly away

Learning to swim butterfly can improve your power. You don’t have to go the whole hog, though – just push off the wall and practise bending your elbows and pushing back against the water. 


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