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4 Common Swimming Tools and How They Work

2016/7/21 10:44:53

New to swimming? You may enjoy the low-impact fitness that swimming affords you—it's a great workout, easy on the body and can fill you with addictive endorphins that make you want to go back.

Show up at the pool, though, and you'll see the more experienced swimmers using a variety of tools while they swim laps. What good is that toy doing? What is that on their hands? Why aren't they just swimming?

While "just swimming" should make up a majority of your workout, all of those tools have a purpose, and all will help you swim more efficiently—and as a result, faster—if incorporated correctly.

Here's a look at those common swim aids:

More: Busy Pool? Lap Swim Etiquette for Sharing Lanes

Pull Buoy

This foam piece is shaped like the number 8. If you haven't seen this in use, you probably have no clue how one is supposed to use it.

The pull buoy is placed between your legs (usually your thighs, but sometimes your ankles). It serves as a flotation device for your legs, which allows you to concentrate solely on your arms while you swim.

The pull buoy allows you to work on your upper body strength as well as perfecting your swimming technique, since the legs are suspended in the correct place.

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Hand paddles go over your hands (seriously!) and are designed as a swimming tool to build your upper-body muscles.

How do they do that? Well, you'll go faster in the water with paddles, but the reason you go faster is that your arms are taking on more resistance with the paddles' surface area than your hands would on their own.

Paddles can also force corrections to your technique by the way they pull through the water.

More: 10 Ways to Fight Boredom While Lap Swimming


While paddles add resistance to your arms, fins add resistance to your legs. While you go noticeably faster with a pair of fins on, your legs are still doing the work to get you moving down the pool.

Fins also promote ankle flexibility, which will help your kicking in the long run.


Kickboards are used mostly to isolate the legs and work on your kicking. Even advanced swimmers are frequently seen using a kickboard during their warmup to get the legs loose and ready for the workout.

More advanced kickboards sometimes have slots for gripping, which multiplies the amount of training you can do to include single-arm workouts and other kicking workouts.

More: 6 Strength Training Moves for Swimmers

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