If you want to get stronger in the water, swim paddles are a great addition to your swim bag (and your training!).
You can think of swimming with paddles like lifting weights in the water. While it’s not quite the same, it’s added resistance that helps you develop strength and power.
To help you dive in, we’re breaking down the different types of paddles, why you should use them and how you can train with paddles to swim faster.
Types of Swimming Paddles
There’s a large variety of paddles on the market these days, so you’re bound to find a pair that work for you. When shopping for paddles, consider the following:
Related: How to Swim Faster With Fins
- Size: Paddles can range from small (we’re talking just covering your fingertips) to a few inches larger than your hands. The general rule of thumb is to start small at first, and work your way up in size as you get stronger.
- Permeability: Some paddles have holes in them to help water move through. These types of paddles will create less resistance for you, so they’re great for beginners. Others are solid plastic, which can be better for more advanced swimmers.
- Flexibility: Harder plastic will be more challenging to swim with than flexible plastic. If you’re new to swimming, try a more flexible paddle to ease your shoulders into the extra resistance!
- Straps: Most traditional paddles come with straps around the fingers and wrist, but these days you may also find paddles with no straps. To start, try paddles with a strap around the middle finger and wrist. As you get more experienced, ditch the wrist strap and stick with just the finger strap!
Why Use Paddles?
Similar to other pieces of equipment, paddles can be a great addition to your training. After using paddles for a while, you might notice the following benefits:
Related: How to Swim Faster with a Snorkel
- Better feel of the water: Paddles add emphasis to your pull, catch and hand entry, helping you better connect with the water and feel stronger even after the paddles come off!
- Build strength, power & endurance: Depending on the types of sets you swim while wearing paddles, you can boost your strength, power and endurance. Longer pull sets with paddles will help increase endurance, while sprint sets focused on tempo can improve your power.
- Improve stroke efficiency: When you wear paddles, minor issues with your hand entry and catch are magnified. You’re forced to correct these mistakes to swim more efficiently. Over time, your stroke without paddles should improve, too.
- Add variety: Paddles are a great way to mix up your workouts and keep sets interesting. Have to swim multiple rounds of a main set? Add paddles for the odd rounds, or mix them into specific reps within your set.
How to Train With Paddles
Ready to start training with paddles? Our biggest piece of advice is to start gradually and save your shoulders. The extra resistance may cause injury if you do too much too soon.
We recommend keeping your total equipment usage (that includes paddles, fins and other equipment) to less than 50% of your total weekly workout volume. If you swim 10,000 meters per week, try to keep your equipment-focused swimming to 5,000 meters or less. This way, you don’t become too reliant on any one piece of equipment.
You may see lots of swimmers using paddles when doing pull sets, with a pull buoy between their legs. This is a great way to use paddles (and one we recommend often), but it’s not the only way! You can also add paddles to regular swim sets if you want an extra boost in your pull.
For more guidance on how to incorporate equipment into your swim workouts, download the MySwimPro app. Each set includes suggestions for equipment right in the app, so you know which items to bring to the pool.
Try This Swim Workout With Paddles
Already have paddles? Give this swim workout a try! Adjust the intervals to fit your speed and skill level (or download MySwimPro and let the app do that for you!)
Distance: 2,500 meters
Duration: 50 minutes
- 1 x 300 Freestyle @ 5:00 Easy
- 4 x 50s Kick @ 1:00 with fins
- 6 x 50s Drill Opposite Fin & Paddle* @ 1:10 (2,2,2)
*For this drill, swim two 50s with just your right fin and left paddle, two 50s with your left fin and right paddle, and two 50s with both fins and both paddles. This will work on balance!
Main Set (4x)
- 1 x 200 Pull @ 3:00 with paddles
- 4 x 50s Freestyle @ :50 Descend 1-4
1 x 100 Freestyle @ 1:30 Easy
Like this workout? For more just like it, plus personalized Training Plans and coaching, download the MySwimPro app! Save $35 on your first year of training with code SWIM35 >