Are hand-paddles a "No-No" in TI ?
I know Pull Buoys are "strictly-forbidden" because they unnecessarily send the wrong message to the body: "No need to worry about Balance, it is guaranteed". And then when you remove them your hips and legs sink like a stone !
But what about Hand-Paddles? Do they help the Total Immersion Stroke or not?
Is the Catch/Pull phase in traditional swimming not the same as TI-Style?
Terry has a series of blog posts with very thorough and judicious discussions of all the different toys, or "tools"; the one on paddles is dated December 26, 2010 (http://www.swimwellblog.com/archives/945.) "Hand Paddles are a clear and present danger to shoulders and encourage misguided focus on power. If you use them at all, swim ó donít pull ó at moderate pressure with a meticulous stroke." I don't have data, but my observation is that most people who use them a lot get shoulder injuries eventually, since they almost inevitably overload the rotator cuffs. Plus, they don't make sense in terms of improving your stroke -- quite the opposite, really, as Terry explains in that post. The whole series, on fins et al., is great.
At times, most swim tools can be of value within a comprehensive training plan, but it is extremely important to not become reliant on any of them for your best swimming. After 44 years of competitive swimming behind me, I have yet to use hand paddles - nor will I start. Occasionally I use longer fins at certain times during the training season to help leg strengthening and ankle flexibility. Somedays I just enjoy the beauty of swimming streamlined underwater dolphin kick with fins to break up the monotony. If I am swimming a longer set of repeats butterfly, I may use fins if I am concentrating on keeping my chin low on the breath while surging forward. As I work grueling hours on my feet in the restaurant world (sometimes 10 -12 hours at a time), I will occasionally "cheat" with pull buoys simply because my recovery during demanding sets at the age of 54 is different than when I was 34, and pull buoys help me avoid cramping. The most significant tool that I highly advocate is the Tempo Trainer. It is a terrific way to focus on the incremental improvement of stroke rate. Although I continue to compete at the higher levels of master's swimming, I never wore the full body fast suits, figuring that at my old fart age it should be more about the "engine" (my own body) than tail fins(fast suits).
I firmly believe that first and foremost, one should develop great technique completely unencumbered. Learn first how to use your own body to move through the water efficiently. When you are comfortable that you are swimming well, all the tools can have benefit for different reasons. Just remember though, that having a trained swim professional monitoring their use and watching how you use them will allow you to get the best from your tools.
Spread the love through swimming.
Its been said already but I will reaffirm that - in my opinion - gadgets such as paddles, fins and pull buoys are no substitute for solid technique. If you want to get more oomph on your stroke (i.e. on your catch and pull) then try using fist gloves. I received a pair when I did the workshop back in '08 and they are a great way to see how good your balance and streamline are. Try doing some 25 meter or 50 meter sets with those on and then take them off and swim without them. It will feel like you have dinner plates instead :) Anyway, that's just my opinion.
Swim in the rough water to appreciate the smooth!
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