How to Train With Swim Paddles

Swimming improves cardiovascular fitness and tones your entire body. Overcoming the water's resistance on your body requires strength, and minimizing that resistance takes good technique. Swim paddles help swimmers build both and help you focus your workouts on your upper body. Swim paddles are usually flat or contoured pieces of perforated plastic held in place on your hand by adjustable loops of surgical tubing. The larger the paddles, the greater the effort needed to push it through the water.

  1. Get in the pool and leave your swim gear including swim fins, pull buoy and hand paddles on deck. Swim an easy 400m warm-up without any equipment. Put on swim paddles by slipping your fingers and hands through the surgical tubing straps and pull on the tubing ends to secure them. Read over the instructions that come with the paddles if you are uncertain about how to put them on.

  2. Slip the pull buoy, which is a streamlined dumbbell-shaped foam flotation device, between your thighs. The pull buoy prevents your legs from kicking while assisting in keeping your legs elevated in the water. Pull 600m at a moderate pace. Pulling means swimming with your legs trailing.

  3. Perform 1 X 100m one-arm freestyle drill, in which you pull with only one arm while your other arm is fully extended in front. Alternate your arms at the 50m mark. Remove the pull buoy and pull a 1 X 100 breaststroke, concentrating on the catch, or initial phase of the arm movement.

  4. Put the buoy back between your thighs and pull a 2 X 100 backstroke set. Concentrate on the angle your hand enters and leaves the water, trying to grab and push past the water with every stroke.

    Pull another 6 X 100 freestyle breathing every three strokes, then every five strokes and then back to every three strokes for the entire set.

  5. Remove the pull buoy and put on your swim fins. Remove the paddles temporarily if it is difficult handling the fins while the paddles remain on. Put the paddles back on and swim with your fins. Focus on reducing the number of strokes taken in one lap. Kick rhythmically and glide before engaging the next stroke.


    Different types of swim paddles suit different strokes better. Freestyle paddles usually have rounded or star shapes and flat profiles. In a United States Masters Swimming product survey, backstroke swimmers preferred curved paddles that more closely follow the lines of your hand, narrowing near the wrist.


    Using paddles increases resistance and pressure on your shoulder joints. Improper technique combined with overtraining results in weakened muscles and shoulder injury. If an injury occurs, leave your paddles out of the workout until your shoulder fully recovers its strength and stability.

Things Needed

  • Long swim fins
  • Pull buoy

About the Author

Barrett Barlowe is an award-winning writer and artist specializing in fitness, health, real estate, fine arts, and home and gardening. She is a former professional cook as well as a digital and traditional artist with many major film credits. Barlowe holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French and a Master of Fine Arts in film animation.