Swimming: our tips on how to use your equipment

Using swimming equipment is essential to perfect or maintain your swimming technique. A close-up on the accessories you can use to improve your technique and swim lengths more efficiently!

Swimming: our tips on how to use your equipment

If you are in the habit of swimming with just the bare necessities (a swimsuit, goggles and a cap), then it's time to change your ways. But you are not sure where to start, and you are worried that using cumbersome equipment during your practice session could be complicated and not very helpful. Well, don't worry. Swimming with accessories is a piece of cake. And we will prove it by explaining how to use fins, boards, pull-buoys, paddles and front snorkels in a way that will efficiently improve your swimming technique.

Let's go!

BEFORE SWIMMING…

It's butterfly time! Remember that you must always warm up your joints before diving into the water. You can do this by making large circles with your arms, forwards and backwards, or by stretching out your arms horizontally and making small circular movements, in one direction and then the other.

Once in the water, and before using one or more swimming accessories, swim a few lengths to warm up your muscles. Why, you may ask? Let's take the example of paddles. "Since the surface area of paddles is larger than that of your bare hands, swimming with this accessory requires more thrust, and therefore more power," explains Nabaiji Product Manager Giuliana. Swimming with paddles, without warming up first, can result in pain in your shoulders.

Swimming: our tips on how to use your equipment

Finally, remember that a good swimming session must be diverse, and must include swimming both with and without accessories. Start by swimming a few lengths to warm up without accessories, then move on to more specific training exercises with swimming equipment, before returning to swimming without any equipment. In this way, you will be more aware of your efforts and you will adopt the right technique.

Swimming: our tips on how to use your equipment

FINS

Fins are ideal for enhancing the sensations of gliding, propulsion and speed. They enable you to feel the wave-like movements of your legs, to work your kicking technique and to make your ankles more supple. By practising with fins, you will exercise and strengthen your lower body more: your glutes, thighs and calves, plus your core muscles and your lower back.

From a technical point of view, fins will also improve your crawl, butterfly and backstroke techniques. But they are not recommended for breaststroke, unless you use a model specifically designed for breaststroke.

To swim correctly with fins, it is important to make supple kicking movements, to avoid any tension and to benefit fully from all the aquatic dexterity that fins provide.A little tip. Pretend to be a mermaid. Really, it works!

You should also pay attention to the wave-like movements from the hips downwards, while keeping your hips straight, and continuing this movement all along your legs, in your knees and in your ankles. And there is no point in making big kicking movements, because the fins must hardly reach the surface of the water, without hitting it too hard.Remember that you are a mermaid: gracious and elegant!

Finally, you should choose short fins. The longer the fins, the more power they will demand from you, and you will be less focussed on your technique, which is what we are really interested in here.

When it comes to exercises, you can combine fins and a board by holding the edge of the board with outstretched arms and kicking your legs faster and faster.

Swimming boards

Boards are THE swimming accessory to work on your legs, for all strokes. Remember what we said earlier. When held in front of you with one or two outstretched arms, the board isolates your legs, so that you can focus on your kicking technique when swimming the crawl or backstroke.And more too! Boards can also help to improve your breathing or to work on your wave-like body movements (breaststroke and butterfly). In a word, just like fins, boards can help to strengthen your glutes, your legs, your abdominal core muscles and your back.

When you swim with a board, make sure that your arms and your neck are not too stiff. Tension is not a good thing when working on your core muscles ;) ! 

Swimming: our tips on how to use your equipment

When it comes to training, in addition to the traditional exercise that consists of holding the edge of the board flat in front of you and kicking your legs faster and faster in order to speed up your heart rate (with or without fins), you also have the possibility to work on your strength. Position the board perpendicular to the surface of the water, half submerged, so that it forms a wall in front of you. In this way, you will make your legs work harder that usual.And it's a good sign when your legs start to hurt!

Swimming: our tips on how to use your equipment

Pull-buoys

The pull buoy is the ideal equipment for swimming pools. Unlike boards, which immobilise the arms and allow you to focus on your legs, pull-buoys allow your legs to float, so that you can swim without them, using only the strength of your arms. This training accessory is particularly popular with triathletes and cyclists, who often find it difficult to keep their muscular legs aligned with the rest of their body.

This swimming accessory offers numerous benefits. Pull-buoys are an excellent means of working your upper body, your back and your abdominal muscles, but also of improving your propulsion, your trajectory, the position of your pelvis and your breathing.Not bad really!

The pull-buoy is placed between your legs, at the top of your thighs, to swim the crawl and the butterfly, but it is not used to swim the backstroke. Take care when it comes to the breaststroke. "When swimming the breaststroke, your legs are completely underwater. In this case, the pull-buoy tends to arch the back, which can be a problem”, explains Giuliana, Product Manager, who has been at Decathlon for 20 years.  “You can also position the pull-buoy between your knees or ankles, but this can be complicated for anyone who is not used to it”.

As you have probably already noticed at the swimming pool, pull-buoys are often used together with paddles in order to focus on working the arms.

SWIMMING PADDLES

Paddles are to the hands what fins are to the feet. They increase the thrusting surface area and enable you to feel new sensations (and the unpleasant feeling of pushing against nothing).

Paddles are also an excellent means of intuitively correcting your movements, because, if you make the wrong movement, the paddles will tend to slip out of your hands. And, as we stated earlier, paddles can also be used to build up your strength. Since, with paddles, you have to push more water than without paddles, the resistance is also higher. This means that swimming with paddles demands more power. As you have probably already guessed, these accessories make your arms work much harder, but they also exercise your abdominal muscles and your back.

You can use paddles when swimming any stroke! And then, there are finger paddles, which you slip onto your fingers, unlike normal paddles, which are held in the hand, that are ideally suited to the very specific arm movements when swimming the butterfly.

To make progress with this swimming accessory, we recommend that you only use one paddle on one hand when swimming the crawl with both arms. In this way, you can compare the difference in the force required by the hand with the paddle, and the hand without a paddle. This will enable you to increase your thrust and force of propulsion!

PS: don't forget to alternate the paddle between your two hands.