The 10 Best Hand Paddles
This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in October of 2015. If you're a competitive swimmer seeking to improve your form, strength, stamina, and stroke technique, add a pair of these hand paddles to your collection of training gear. They also make good workout accessories for those who prefer low-impact aquatic exercises to cardio on dry land. As with many accessories of this nature, you'll want to study up on their proper use to prevent injuries. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 19, 2020:
A sturdy pair of hand paddles can be an excellent training aid, but when used by new and unskilled swimmers, these pool toys can cause injured shoulders or encourage bad habits. Education is key in preventing these issues, so don't be afraid to seek out a coach or online training resources. And if you ever feel any pain, stop training immediately.
With that said, we still believe the Finis Agility is the choice to beat for most — even though some users find them uncomfortable on the thumbs when used for longer periods. But this choice more than makes up for this slight drawback by helping you to maintain a proper stroke, something not all options can do. And because they are bright yellow and float, you aren't likely to lose them too easily. We've opted to add a finger paddle at this time, as well, the Arena Elite. They can help you focus on how your hands enter the water, and even improve strength, just like larger paddles and aquatic gloves.
For a more traditional choice, we still like the Speedo Nemesis Contour and The Clutch, also by Speedo. These come in several sizes, which aids in both fit and amount of resistance. There's also the Roka Pro; offering a number of holes, they make it a cinch to choose your strap positioning for customized comfort. They're on the more expensive end of the price spectrum, however.
Dolfin Feedback Paddle The Dolfin Feedback Paddle does exactly what its name promises: gives you feedback through the pull phase by opening and spreading if your arm is not in the proper position. Their use isn't necessarily 100 percent intuitive, though, so you may need some extra help in employing them properly. dolfinswimwear.com
Who Benefits From Swimming With Hand Paddles?
As such, it is best to understand who stands to benefit most from using hand paddles.
Hand paddles are one of the most popular swimming tools on the market, due to their ability to create a substantial improvement in a swimmer's power and feel. If used incorrectly, however, they can exert too much stress on the body, leading to incorrect muscle usage and potential injury. As such, it is best to understand who stands to benefit most from using hand paddles.
Putting hand paddles on a swimmer who has technical issues may not actually help them until some of the technical deficiencies are corrected. Technical swimming issues like dropped elbows, bi-lateral imbalance in hand entry, and a lack of feel for the catch should all be corrected before employing hand paddles during practice laps.
Hand paddles help create a better feel for the water because they take the hands out of the swimming equation. The swimmer thus learns to incorporate the entire arm through the stroke; along with better positioning of the hands, high elbows, and the best point of entry to maximize the catch and hold the water through the entire cycle.
As the single greatest difference between normal swimmers and elite swimmers is the efficiency of their catch and pull, hand paddles can help take training to new heights. Many amateur swimmers ignore their catch. They are either unaware of how important it is to their swimming or unsure of how to improve it. Using hand paddles in practice helps to eliminate the hands and get the entire arm engaged into the stroke.
Improve Your Swimming Technique By Improving The Catch
While many people think that power in swimming comes from the arms and legs, the true power in swimming comes from the core muscles. This includes the shoulder muscles, upper back, abdominal muscles, upper leg muscles, and trunk.
The best way to gain control of this power is with a great setup at the beginning of the underwater pull, which is commonly called the catch. The catch occurs in the first 9 to 12 inches of the stroke, when a swimmer’s hand connects with the water and starts to pull. The catch is commonly mistaken for the main propulsive part of the stroke, which it isn't. The catch sets up a powerful stroke though, and if properly executed the catch enables a swimmer to be more effective in their propulsion.
The catch occurs in the first 9 to 12 inches of the stroke, when a swimmer’s hand connects with the water and starts to pull.
During the catch, the swimmer begins their pull by pressing the fingertips down while keeping the elbow up. The renowned Olympian swimming coach James "Doc" Counsilman was known for his analogy of pulling over a barrel.
Elite freestyle swimmers will anchor their hands in the water and use their core muscles to rotate their bodies past their hands, rather than pulling predominantly with their arms. By keeping the elbow and hand anchored in place at the catch spot, the instinct is to use the core muscles to rotate the body past that spot.
The catch is one of the main areas of the stroke which can be improved by using hand paddles, as it is often the place where amateur swimmers begin to make mistakes. The average swimmer sees the act of swimming as pulling great amounts of water past their body with the arms. By eliminating the hands from the equation, the swimmer must rely on the full-body working in harmony to create their power.
Novice and intermediate swimmers also lack the strength and flexibility to hold their shoulders and elbows in the proper place throughout the entire freestyle pull. Utilizing a stretching program outside of the water can greatly increase an amateur swimmer's performance in the water.
Avoiding Heart Diseases By Swimming
To avoid serious heart diseases, the body simply must stay active. In the past, many health practitioners and doctors recommended walking as a type of exercise to make things easier for the general population. Walking is a rather low impact and most people already do it, meaning there is less perceived friction in asking someone to simply do more of it.
In recent history, swimming is becoming more widely recognized as the heart-healthy exercise that it is.
While the focus has been on land aerobics such as walking and running, aquatic exercises such as swimming have taken a backseat. In recent history, swimming is becoming more widely recognized as the heart-healthy exercise that it is.
One reason swimming is so great for the heart is that it works out the entire body. unlike exercises like walking or running; swimming engages many different muscle groups, which is very stimulating for the circulatory system. Working out many muscle groups at once gives the heart a strong workout, as it must pump faster to supply all the muscles with fresh oxygen.
Another benefit swimming has over other exercises is that it improves the body's respiration. In a study focusing on the effects of both yoga and swimming on the respiratory system, researchers found that swimming was slightly more beneficial than yoga; though both modalities cause significant improvements in respiratory health. Improved respiration means more fresh blood is taken with each breath. This reduces the stress on the heart, reducing the amount of work it takes to supply the blood with fresh oxygen in a restful state.