Would it be possible to outline the difference between Tech-Paddles and Power Paddles, that so often bubble up in the Purple Patch swims? I assume there is a different tool for different jobs, but I want to ensure I understand the ‘why.’
You are absolutely correct in your assumption around a tool fit for purpose in a specific job. These paddles could not be more different, and each has a very specific purpose. Before we dive into the difference, let me outline a snapshot summary of the main swimming tools, with a one-liner on purpose for each:
Snorkel: Connection between pulling arm and hips, alignment, and avoiding cross-over of entry/pull, remove breathing to allow focus on other parts of the stroke.
Ankle Strap: Bound the legs to force proper body position, posture, and development of propulsion in the pulling arm.
Parachute: Only utilized by advanced swimmers: develop power and force of the pull.
Eney Buoy: A versatile buoy that simulates open water body position if empty, but acts as a power development device if full.
Tempo Trainer: A simple metronome to assist in understanding stroke rate -- when combined with a good stroke is a path to feeling the difference of rhythm and stroke rate.
Fins: Not a kick-power developer; instead utilized to lift the hips and improve body position to help feel proper arm pull. Mostly used as an ‘assist’ instead of power development.
Meetings with Matt on Swim Toys and "The Why"
Purple Patch Recommended Gear List
With this summary, we now get to the difference between tech-paddles and power-paddles. Lets outline each and their use:
Please note: if you are unable to purchase tech-paddles then you should utilize a closed fist in these drills.
Tech-paddles are a technical development tool, not a power tool. These uniquely shaped paddles will not speed you up, and are designed to assist in a few key areas:
- Ensure you do not cross over the midline in your stroke
- Ensure your pull is in alignment (not spreading wide or crossing over)
- You achieve great ‘connection’ with the pull by being forced to get fingers lower than the wrist, that is lower than the elbow, before commencing the pull phase of the stroke.
These paddles penalize poor habits, hence many struggle with them to begin, but the reward comes when you take them off and feel a great connection with the stroke. They require a real presence when utilizing, and most swimmers will slow down while wearing them.
- Bigger isn’t better with these. Most Purple Patch swimmers are suited to size small or medium at most.
- Upon entry make an active effort to get the knuckles on your fist driving down toward the bottom of the pool. It is easy to ‘break the wrist and let the knuckles rotate back to you (and up), but by rotating the wrist down you will get that high elbow connection - just like rolling over a barrel.
Please note that most Purple Patch swimmers should utilize size extra-small or small. Your stroke rate must not drop when using paddles -- so bigger isn’t better.
Power Paddles have a completely different purpose, and little in common, with the tech-paddles. Instead of a technical development tool, these paddles increase the surface area of the pulling hand to develop the force/power of the pull. With good form -- they help you develop increased force per pull. The best option of these are the smaller size stroke maker paddles (we often remove the strap around the wrist).
Success with these is to retain all elements of your good stroke, including your stroke rate, but with a greater surface area. If this is true -- then you must travel through the water faster. You have retained length of stroke, the number of strokes per minute, but adding propulsion of water as you have a greater size ‘paddle’. Many amateur swimmers chose huge surface area paddles, but the result is a slow stroke rate and a crutch-like effect. They ‘ride’ the paddles and move through the water, but with less of an accelerating action. The largest size anyone should use is medium, with most straying toward extra-small to small.
- Use a tempo trainer to ensure your stroke rate is retained when swimming with power paddles.
- Join the dots and remain focused on swimming with good form and connection.
You can see the tool is vastly different in purpose. I see the flow of usage, repeating many times through a session or across sessions as:
Tech-Paddles: set the tone or regain proper technique
Swim: Transfer the tech-paddles to normal swimming -- apply the lessons!
Power-Paddles: Apply the paddles to now maximize power and force of the pull
Swim: Back to swim to aim to transfer to tool-free swimming.
Rinse and repeat the cycle with connections from both sides of technical focus and increased force -- when attacking from both sides the swimmer in the middle improves (that’s you!)
I hope that helps.