How to turn one pair of paddles into three for a better swim catch

Coach Andrew Sheaff is your swim magician, who here shows you how to turn one pair of paddles into three to improve your feel for the water and move through it more efficiently

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There are many different types of paddles available for purchase, and they all claim to improve your swimming in different ways. The problem is that it becomes difficult to bring a bunch of paddles with you to the water, let alone the cost.


But I’m going to show you how to accomplish everything you’d ever want with a pair of paddles and, more importantly, I’m going to show you how to do so with the same pair of paddles.

The solution is simple – change how you hold the paddles.

Regular paddles

This is how it’s typically done. Simply hold the paddles like the manufacturer instructs you. This can be valuable for increasing how much water you can move backward as the paddle is bigger than your hand.

Paddles can allow you to feel what it’s like to move a lot of water, and they can help you develop the strength to do so. This is the approach most triathletes will use, and it can be valuable.  But the real fun begins with our next two options.

Upside-down paddles

Several devices have been created with the intention of helping swimmers learn how to establish an ‘early vertical forearm’. The value of this position is that it can allow you to move more water backwards with each stroke.

Fortunately, you don’t need an expensive device to accomplish this task. By turning your paddles upside down, you can effectively create the same effect.

When you hold the paddle upside down, it locks the wrist in place so that the hand and the forearm have to move together. If you want to move the hand straight backward, you have to move the forearm backward as well.

Both the hand and the forearm are oriented vertically at the same time. This is a really simple way to be ‘forced’ to learn this skill because the paddle makes it necessary. A simple trick, that can be very effective.

Pinch paddles

As described above, it’s critical to learn how to use your forearm and hand at the same time. A strong and stable wrist is required to make this happen.

While holding your paddle upside is great for learning how to feel and establish this position, it’s doesn’t necessarily help you develop the strength and skill to control your wrist. The solution? Grab and pinch your paddles.

By pinching your paddles, you’re forced to keep the wrist stiff and stable. If you don’t, you won’t go anywhere!

The only way to pull effectively is to keep the wrist stable, and to make sure the hand and the forearm are moving as unit. You’ll be learning the skill of using your whole arm, while simultaneously developing the strength to hold the necessary positions.

If you’ve never tried this before, or your wrist skills could really use some work, don’t be surprised if you can’t sustain this for very long at all.

Your forearms and hands will likely get very tired in some unexpected ways. Just start with short repetitions and take extra rest, and think of it as strength training.

Over time, you’ll be able to extend the distances as your strength and skill improve. As a result, you’ll be much more effective at using your whole arm to pull water.


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