Skip to Content

How to Use Hand Paddles for Swimming (Step-by-Step Guide)

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details..

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced swimmer, you cannot deny the benefits of swimming with hand paddles.

At the simplest, hand paddles are training aids. But beyond that, they are an effective way to master new swimming techniques.

Of course, like any item you are using for the first time, you should research hand paddles before swimming with them. So, if you need a guide on using hand paddles for swimming, we’ve got you. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to swim with hand paddles.

How to Use Hand Paddles for Swimming (Step-by-Step Guide)

Step 1

Take the wrist straps off the hand paddles, leaving only the finger bands. It is easier to tell if you are swimming correctly without the wrist straps.

Step 2

Swimming trainer showing how to use hand paddle

Insert your fingers into the finger holds and keep them in a natural position. Ensure the fingers are not spread far from each other; keep them close as if you were not swimming with paddles.

Step 3

While swimming, do more pulling with your back and chest muscles. This will keep you from overworking your shoulders.

Tips for Using Hand Paddles

Don’t Rush It

Don’t try to do too much at once in your early days of using hand paddles. Take it slow – work your way up gradually. By doing this, you will reduce the risk of injury.

Use Paddles Slightly Larger Than Your Hands at the Start

hand swimming paddle on wooden background

Shoulder strength and hand size vary from person to person. Interestingly, your hands may be large while your shoulder strength is weak and vice versa.

So, to ensure you do not get hand paddles that overwork your shoulders and elbows, start with paddles just larger than your hands. Then with time, you can use even larger paddles.

Do Not Use Hand Paddles With a Shoulder Injury

Ordinarily, swimming with a shoulder injury is not advisable. So, swimming with hand paddles is out of the question when your shoulder is in pain.

Keep Your Hands in the Most Natural Position

When swimming with hand paddles, your hands should be as they would be when swimming without paddles. Your palms should be open and flat as they would ordinarily be.

With your hands in the natural position, you could keep swimming in the same way without the paddles.

Your hands are in an unnatural position if you have to stretch your fingers to apply pressure all over the paddle evenly. And if you have to do that, the hand paddles are too large for you.

Your hands are also in an unnatural position if your fingers extend beyond and curl over the edges of the hand paddles. In such an instance, the paddles are too small for you.

Listen to Your Body

Hand paddles should push your body to swim better but not hurt you. So, if you start feeling pain while using them, listen to your body and stop.

swimming accessories hand paddle and goggles

Be Careful When Using the Hand Paddles With Harder Swimming Strokes

When doing backstroke or butterfly with hand paddles, be careful. These two swimming styles are more demanding than front crawl (freestyle) and breaststroke, and they may put more strain on your body.

Of course, the exertion will be even higher with the hand paddles. Consequently, you are at more risk of an injury.

Use the Paddles Without the Wrist Straps

If you really want to improve your swimming using hand paddles, use them without the wrist straps.

Swimming without the wrist straps keeps you honest; it quickly reveals if your technique is good or not. If your technique is poor at the beginning of the pulling motion, the paddle will slip off.

If You Are an Experienced Swimmer, Use Larger Paddles

As an experienced swimmer, you are most likely using hand paddles to train yourself. So, for the best results, opt for large and wide paddles as they offer more resistance.

You can also use a pull buoy. The pull buoy will keep your legs afloat and allow you to focus on your upper body.

Upsides of Swimming with Hand Paddles

Hand Paddles Help Build Strength

Female in pink swimwear swimming in blue water pool with hand paddle

One of the foremost advantages of swimming with hand paddles is strength building.

The extra resistance hand paddles bring your way works the muscles in your chest, shoulder, back, and arms. Consequently, your overall upper body strength rises.

Hand Paddles Can Be Great for Your Technique

In many cases, swimmers try to improve their stroke by raising their speed. But without the correct technique, speed won’t do much.

While swimming with hand paddles, you can focus on other aspects of your stroke besides speed.

For one, hand paddles can help your wrist and elbow placement when you pull. Also, as we mentioned before, when you use hand paddles without the wrist straps, you get to know when you are not doing something right.

They Improve Efficiency and Speed

You can learn to pull more water per stroke with hand paddles. Of course, when you draw more water per stroke, you can cover more distance with each stroke and go faster.

When you cover more distance with your strokes, you take fewer strokes per meter. As a result, your swimming becomes more efficient.

Hand Paddles Can Make Your Routines Less Monotonous

handsome man looking at camera wearing swimming hand paddle

Things can get boring if you repeat the same routine every time. But when you bring hand paddles into your usual routines, things will be different. Of course, if things are not the same, bye-bye monotonous routines!

Hand paddles push your body, and this push can be exciting if you are up for the task. This excitement, in turn, will motivate you and keep you going.

Downsides of Swimming with Hand Paddles

Hand Paddles Might Push You Towards Bad Training Habits

Using hand paddles while swimming might encourage you to spread out your fingers. Of course, this is not ideal.

Also, with hand paddles, you can experience an uneven stroke when you pull slowly but recover fast.

Oversized Hand Paddles May Overexert Your Muscles, Tendons, and Ligaments

As we mentioned earlier, do not use oversized paddles until you can handle them. If you do, the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your arms will suffer.

Without Paddles, You May Feel Like You Are Slipping Through the Water

underwater picture of male swimmer swimming in swimming pool

Without the exertion required with hand paddles, your movement should be less strenuous. But on the flip side, you will feel like you are not pulling enough water. You will feel like you are catching sand.