I visited my local swimming specialty shop, Mind Imprints Sports, to see what they had stocked on the shelves. Let's take a look at the items, how they differ, and how they might be used to improve your swimming.
Pull Buoy1 of 16
A pull buoy is a piece of equipment that's held between the legs, snug to the crotch. Buoys can be used without paddles to work on stroke technique or with paddles to work on building upper body strength.
Side Buoy2 of 16
Buoys from TYR, Nike and Speedo (shown left to right) are all similar in size, but have slight variations in dimensions. The TYR and Nike buoys are nearly equal in size. The Speedo buoy is smaller on one end than the other, allowing the swimmer to change the amount of flotation below the water surface. Which you chose depends on your preference.
Kickboard Buoy3 of 16
Combining the concept of a short kickboard and a pull buoy, Speedo created a two-for-one tool with the Pull Kick tool.
Kickboards4 of 16
Kickboards are used primarily during kick sets to support the upper body—how much support depends on the board length, thickness and width. Long, thick boards can provide generous support for the upper body, while short, thin boards are meant to provide very minimal upper body support.
Hand Paddles5 of 16
Hand paddles can be used with or without a pull buoy. They're manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes, some with holes through the buoy and some without. These design features dictate how much force is required to get the paddle through the water. Swimmers new to paddles should select smaller paddles with holes to reduce the force on shoulder and elbow joints. Very experienced swimmers tend to select slightly larger paddles to build upper body strength. Be sure to select the paddle size that's right for you.
Fingertip Paddles6 of 16
Finis and Speedo make short, "fingertip" paddles that are intended to help swimmers work on stroke "feel" and technique, rather than build strength like full paddles do. These paddles are popular for breaststroke and freestyle practice.
Arm Paddles7 of 16
Going long, Finis makes the Bolster Paddle that extends to the forearm. This paddle is supposed to encourage high elbow placement in the water.
Fist Glove8 of 16
Another hand training tool is The Fist Glove by Stroke Trainer. This rubber glove goes over your closed fist and allows the thumb to be separate. Using the glove for fist drills helps keep the hand from opening up. This emphasizes the use of the forearm as part of the stroke. PT Paddles by Finis are similar to fist gloves in that the deep profile of the "non-paddle" deflects water and encourages better use of your body position and forearm in the freestyle swim stroke.
Long-Blade Fins9 of 16
Fins are used for propulsion during drills so it's easier to remain high in the water while moving forward. Fins can also help you to improve stroke technique, body position and leg strength. They come in a wide range of lengths, material weights and flexibilities. Both Finis and TYR make long blade fins.
Long Split Fins10 of 16
TYR makes a long split fin that reduces the load on the legs during kick sets and prevents cramping. Sprint Aquatics has made a popular fin for over 28 years. It has a soft heal, the fin blades are hard rubber, and it comes in 10 different sizes.
Short Fins11 of 16
Short fins are a good choice if you want to lighten the load on your legs when kicking, and increase your cadence. Speedo makes a short fin that's similar in design and blade shape to many of the long fins. Arena also makes a short fin—it's made of very light EVA material and has an open heel design.
Breaststroke Fin12 of 16
If you want to use a fin for breaststroke training, Speedo has manufactured a very unique design shape for just that purpose. It has a cup-shaped blade that runs from one side underneath the footbed of the fin.
Swim Parachutes13 of 16
Swim parachutes are attached around the waist with an adjustable Velcro strap. Similar to a parachute used for skydiving that catches air, the parachute at the end of the tether opens up to catch water. This provides training resistance for a normal swim stroke.
Snorkels14 of 16
Triathletes and swimmers use a front-mounted snorkel instead of a side mount to keep the focus on head position, bodySlide2 position and stroke technique, without worrying about breath timing. A wide variety of colors, tube shapes, lengths and head strap mounts are available.
Swim Bag15 of 16
A mesh swim bag makes it easy to transport swimming tools to and from the pool. Mesh sections on training bags allow swim equipment to dry between uses. Bags also come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.