Everyone has seen the large swim fins that kids wear in the pool. Also known as “flippers” they are big and awkward. They look ridiculous outside of the water. Kids swim twice as fast with them and they sometimes seem more like toys in a mermaid game or splashing war than a professional tool.
The truth is swim fins can be an extremely beneficial tool that aids in form and technique at almost any swim level. From kindergarteners learning the basics to seasoned competitive athletes, fins can be a useful aid in swim training.
Kicking and Body Position A strong kick is a key foundation of swim training. One instinct that has developed in many kids is a stomping motion in order to propel forward. This motion is extremely inefficient and causes the lower half of the body to sink. In order to move forward using the least amount of energy, the swimmer’s head needs to be in the water, with their body in a straight line following the head. A stomping motion disrupts this streamlined, efficient method of swimming.
This is one of many kicking habits that can be broken or minimized by use of fins. Stomping, locking the knees, kicking only at the knee, etc can all be address and easily understood using fins.
How to fins help?
In the case of stomping, fins make it extremely difficult to continue with this stomping motion because it increases the drag that occurs when the swimmer pulls his knee to his chest. Secondly, it increases the result of the up and down motion using the entire leg. This helps the swimmer propel forward in the ideal streamlined position and continue to practice the motion correctly. The same idea can be applied to other kicking problems. Fins physically correct the kick and move the swimmer towards the habit of kicking from the hip, using the entire leg, and making small, energy efficient motions.
Once the problem is addressed swimmers can focus on their strokes, rhythm, and body position in the water.
Flipper usage in competitive swimmers.
During a competition, split seconds can cost you a win. Competitive swimmers are constantly adjusting their form in order to use every ounce of energy efficiently. Minute shifts in the hips, knees, or ankles during kicking can lead to increased drag and injury. Fins are often used to identify these problems and allow the swimmer to self-correct. Fins also help with flexibility of the ankles and continue to refine the ideal streamlined body position in the water.
While fins may be seem silly, they can be extremely beneficial during training. A strong, functional, energy efficient kick is important to practice at any level of swim. With this problems acknowledged and proper technique practiced, several other elements of swimming efficiently can also fall into place.