If there’s one item in your equipment bag that’s best for improving your swimming performance, it’s the fin! Fins are versatile and can help you improve your technique, flexibility, body position and more.
Check out 8 benefits of swimming with fins:
1) Improved Kick Technique
If you’re like most swimmers, your kick might be the worst part of your swim technique. Whether it’s with a kick board or in streamline, you seem to go absolutely nowhere during kick sets. This has less to do with your leg strength and more to do with your kick technique.
A proper flutter kick technique is narrow and compact. The best kick is short and fast, rather than big and powerful. Your legs are essentially straight and the power is generated from the hips. Toes should be pointed, and you should strive to kick both up and down — the “up-kick” is usually weak in many swimmers.
The up-kick engages your hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles, and fins can help build strength here. Adding resistance to this range of motion helps improve your technique, providing you with the positive muscle reinforcement (and propulsion) to make you more efficient and faster.
2) Improved Ankle Flexibility
An efficient kick has a small amplitude. Your feet should separate no more than 12 inches during any part of the kick. To do this, you need straight legs and, most importantly, great ankle flexibility. This is something that only develops over time, and some swimmers are naturally more flexible than others.
Applying fins to kick training and swimming will dramatically increase your ankles’ adaptation to a more efficient flutter and dolphin kick. The added resistance of the fins will reinforce proper kick mechanics and help increase your flexibility.
3) Reduces Shoulder Stress
Swimming is a very low-impact sport compared to land-based physical activity, but your shoulders still take a beating! With so much repetitive movement, the shoulders are bound to give out if you push too hard. We recommend adding a strength training component to your swim program. Check out the Dryland Training Plans in the MySwimPro app!
In addition to strength training out of the water, adding a pair of fins to your workout will lessen the impact on your shoulders and allow you to work on technique.
Related: Shoulder Surgery: How I Persevered
4) Improved Body Position
One of the key differentiators between swimmers of different levels (Olympic to novice) is body position in the water. When you watch an elite swimmer cruising through the water they look like a speedboat that was designed to maintain high elevation in the water. Most swimmers do not hold this body line, but fins can help.
Swimming with fins adds velocity to the stroke and also teaches the body how to swim faster on top of the water. This works with kicking as well – when you’re in streamline on your back or front, you’ll be able to holder a higher body line with the added propulsion of fins.
Related: How To Swim Faster With Fins
5) Improved Stroke Technique
Fins can help improve your mechanics in every stroke. The added propulsion and stability of fins allows you to focus on specific components of the stroke that you’re working on. Completing drills with fins gives you a realistic feeling of speed while isolating one part of the stroke.
Fins also allow you to do more advanced drills you otherwise may not be able to do without fins. For example, single arm freestyle or backstroke is very difficult without the added propulsion of fins for most swimmers. This is a fantastic drill to work on balance and the arm pull for both freestyle and backstroke.
6) Increased Strength and Endurance
There’s no question you can swim faster with fins. Fins not only make you swim faster, but they also allow you to swim and kick for longer periods of time, building endurance.
Related: 30-Minute Tethered Swimming Workout
Muscle recruitment is at an all time high when you’re wearing fins, so they’re a great way to challenge your legs and build endurance for longer races.
7) More Efficient Workout
If you’re in a rush, fins allow you to get more work done in less time. Adding fins can push your body into a higher heart rate zone for longer in a shorter period of time. #SwimSmarter
8) It’s More Fun!
Swimming fast is fun! It’s also fun to mix up your workout with the added use of equipment like swim fins. For example if you do a set twice through, on the first round you can go ‘all natural’ and on the second round you can add a pair of fins, and swim even faster. There are a number of different ways you can vary workouts with fins. You’re only limited by your own creativity!
How To Choose Fins
When it comes to choosing a pair of fins, you have two main considerations: Fin length and flexibility.
Check out our gift guide for swimmers!
The length of your fin is the most important consideration when choosing fins because it can dramatically impact how they affect your stroke technique and speed. Traditionally, shorter fins are best for everyday kicking and swim training. Longer fins are better for working on underwater dolphin kick and learning body undulation.
Shorter fins give a more realistic feeling of speed and help refine stroke technique while delivering maximum cardiovascular conditioning. Longer fins allow you to go fast at a reduced kick tempo, which is often the opposite benefit you’re looking for.
At the end of the day (or workout), you need to be comfortable. Stiff fins can make you really fast, but also feel like bricks on your feet. This can cause muscle pain and fatigue. If the fins are too soft, they’ll bend too much when power is applied and you’ll have a reduced benefit. The right firmness and flexibility comes down to your preference and strength level.
Should I Wear Socks with My Fins?
If fins cause blisters for you, there are special socks designed to protect your feet. Ideally you don’t need to resort to these because you’ve found a pair that fits and isn’t too firm.
What About Positive Drive Fins?
These fins are suitable for all four competitive strokes. They have a unique ellipsoidal blade that allows you to have the correct kick propulsion for every style of kick: Dolphin, Flutter, and Breaststroke. These are a useful pair of fins to have in your equipment bag if you’re a breaststroker or Individual Medley swimmer. For butterfly or flutter kick, we recommend more traditional short/long fins.
It can be really hard to take your fins off after a set or workout. It’s important not to rely on your fins, or any piece of equipment, too much.
If you’re a more experienced swimmer and you’re looking to get faster, keep your equipment usage to less than 50% of your total workout volume. Some days you may go over and other days you’ll be under, but keep an eye on how often you’re using your equipment and it will make a big difference in your ability to transition your swimming toys on and off.
Don’t be afraid to use multiple pieces of equipment together in sets. Use your fins to help improve ankle flexibility, develop a more balanced kick, fix your body positioning in the water, and of course, drown the swimmers in the next lane with your massive wake.
For more swim tips and Workouts, download the MySwimPro app! Each MySwimPro Workout includes notes with suggested equipment to help you make the most of each Set. Use code SWIM35 for $35 off your first year of MySwimPro Coach >