Improve your pull one paddle at a time

Been wearing swim paddles on both hands? Well, why wouldn't you?! But just using one at a time could dramatically improve your pull. Andrew Sheaff explains…

Arm with hand paddle for swimming emerging from water, low angle view

By wearing one paddle at a time, you’ll get more out of your paddles than if you wear them both at the same time. 


Many triathletes struggle with improving their pull because they can’t tell the difference between effective pulls and ineffective pulls.

But by using one paddle at a time instead of two, you can develop the sensory awareness to improve your pull.

Questioning standard practice can often lead to some interesting results. Paddles are a common tool in the pool, yet they’re almost universally worn on both hands at the same time.

Of course, there’s no reason it must be that way. In fact, by only wearing one paddle at a time, you’re going to get some great insight into how each arm is pulling, as well as some great sensory information about how you can improve both arms.

Swim with a single paddle

The simplest way to implement this idea is to swim with a single paddle. You can alternate which hand has the paddle on each repetition, or every several repetitions.

You want to pay attention to the differences in sensation between the paddle hand and the hand without the paddle. One hand is going to seem like it’s holding a lot of water and one hand isn’t.

Your job is to try make the weaker hand as strong as the better hand. You’re going to have to change how you position your hand and arm and you’re going to have to change how you pull.

You may not be able to completely eliminate the difference, but you should be able to improve. Any improvement is a big difference.

Likewise, you can time your repetitions or count your strokes while swimming with a single paddle. The goal is to be able to swim the same times or stroke counts, regardless of which hand has the paddle.

If one hand is better than the other, you have some work to do! Figure it out by comparing the differences between the hands, and then work to minimise the differences.

Drill with a single paddle

Just as with swimming freestyle, you can apply the same concepts to pulling drills for greater effect. Using either of the drills below, Power Pulls or Human Paddle, you should be able to get some novel insight into how you’re pulling.

Because the drills are more isolated, the impact of each pull is going to be a lot more significant, for better or for worse.

Pay attention to the differences in sensation from one arm to the other and pay attention to differences in performance when one hand has the paddle on versus the other.  You’ll get some novel insights that would otherwise be unavailable.

Power Pulls

Human Paddle


Top image credit: Getty Images