Athlete Approved Guide to Using Paddles for Lap Swimming

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Swimming hand paddles are a swimmers best friend.

When used properly, paddles can help you build upper body strength, perfect your technique, and provide variety when training. They are a crucial tool for swimmers of all levels.

Are you looking to pick up a new pair of paddles? Overwhelmed by all of the different options? Don’t know how to incorporate them into your training?

Look no further: our Athlete Approved Team created a guide to using paddles for lap swimming that includes:


The Speedo Power Paddle Plus is our top Athlete Approved pick for swimming paddles. These paddles are a great overall everyday training paddle used by beginner and elite swimmers. They are made by Speedo, who is a leader in the swim industry.

The Power Paddle Plus has uniquely crafted edges to help push you through the water with the perfect amount of catch. The holes allow water to pass through which gives you full control over your pull.

There are multiple placement options for straps:

  • Use both the wrist and finger straps: This is recommended for beginner swimmers to keep the paddle on.
  • Use the finger straps over all four fingers (minus the thumb): This is best for intermediate swimmers.
  • Use one strap for the middle finger only: This option is preferred for advanced swimmers because the paddle will only stay on if they use proper pulling technique.

Experience with strap placement to determine which method is best for you.

Durability is an important factor in purchasing the best paddle. These are made with the latest technology and materials that are proven to last.

Speedo makes these paddles in four size options: small (blue), medium (red), large (yellow), and extra large (white).


  • Design – Perfectly crafted edges with holes that allow water to pass through
  • Durable – Made of high quality material that is made to last
  • Trusted – Manufactured by industry leader Speedo


  • Straps – Take your time to get the strap placement right


The Finis Agility Paddles are unique because they are strapless! The ergonomically advanced design makes these paddles second to none when using paddles for technical feedback.

The Finis Team won the prestigious Red Dot Award for these paddles which recognizes top product designs.

Agility Paddles promote the correct pull pattern, which makes them our top choice for learning technique. The strapless design gives you instant feedback on all four strokes. If the paddle slips off, then there is a flaw in your stroke’s pulling line.

Place your thumb through the streamlined hole. To get them to stay on, apply pressure between your thumb and hand vs grabbing around the paddle with your fingers (no cheating!).

Any swimmer knows that the first part of a paddle that breaks over time is the strap. Since these do not have a strap, they are built to last.

Here is a fun set to try: take a few strokes of your best technique with your paddles, then let them go mid-pool. Next hold that technique for a few strokes without them. This is made possible since they are strapless. And an extra bonus feature is that they float!

Finis is known as the leading innovator in the swimming community. They knock it out of the park with these paddles!


  • Strapless – The first and best paddles designed without straps
  • Technical Feedback – If they slip or fall off, you know you need to correct your pull line
  • Innovative – Winner of the Red Dot Award for top product design


  • Power – Do not provide as much power compared to other paddles on our list


The Speedshop Strokemaker Paddles get the job done! They have been made by a family owned business in the USA since 1987. These are the most popular pair of paddles you will find on any pool deck.

Strokemaker Paddles do not have some of the fancier features of other paddles. However, they work and they work well. These are our top pick for swimmers looking for a solid pair of paddles for training.

The creators of these paddles ask swimmers to always wear the wrist strap. Keeping the wrist strap on allows your hand to remain open and relaxed. Without the strap, your hand will “cup” the paddle in an attempt to hang on.

Our Athlete Approved Team has had success with these paddles either way and reccomends you to do the strap placement that works best for you.

Strokemaker Paddles come in multiple sizes in corresponding colors. That makes it easy to locate the size you need.


  • Popular Option – These are the most popular paddle for lap swimmers
  • Colors Correspond to Size – Color coded sizes makes these easy to locate in shared equipment bins
  • Family Owned – Manufactured by a US based family owned business.


  • Standard Paddle – The design is basic, but they get the job done (like the old saying: “work works”)


The Finis Freestyler Paddles have been perfected specifically for freestyle. They have a pointed edge and surf-board-like fin on the bottom that helps provide instant feedback on your stroke.

These paddles are truly one of a kind. They do two important things for freestyle:

  • They prevent crossover
  • They teach you to guide out on each stroke

When you swim freestyle, it is best to extend straight over your shoulder. Eliminating crossover from your mid-line will reduce shoulder stress and increase your distance per stroke. These paddles will automatically correct should you crossover. Since there is no wrist strap, the paddles will easily redirect your hand forward.

The second feature you will love about these paddles is that they will improve your glide. When swimming long freestyle (what we refer to as Hip Driven Freestyle), you will immediately feel how these paddles promote a longer distance per stroke. The less strokes you take in a lap, the less energy you need to use.

These paddles are made in yellow for adults and white for children.


  • Prevent Crossing Over  – The fin on the bottom promotes an ideal straight hand entry
  • Increase Distance Per Stroke – Design will encourage an extra long glide
  • Technique Focused – Use these to work on freestyle technique


  • Should Only Be Used For Freestyle – Paddle is designed for freestyle only


The Finis Iso Paddles are yet another amazing design by Finis. Like the Agility Paddles, they are strapless. They are the 3rd Finis paddle on our Athlete Approved list and our top pick for speciality paddles.

The Iso Paddles isolate specific muscle groups during the pull. They can be worn two ways:

  • Black Paddle on Left + Yellow Paddle on Right: Isolates the lat, triceps, and trap muscles
  • Yellow Paddle on Left + Black Paddle on Right: Isolates the chest, bicep, and deltoid muscles

Freestylers and backstrokers should go with the first method (Black Paddle on Left + Yellow Paddle on Right). This will put more pressure on the outside of your hands. As you pull, you will engage your lat, triceps, and trap muscles.

Breaststrokers and butterfliers should go with the second method (Yellow Paddle on Left + Black Paddle on Right). This will put more pressure on the inside of your hands. As you pull, you will engage your chest, bicep and deltoid muscles.

We also love these paddles for sculling. Sculling is when you move your hands in a figure 8 motion. Doing this will strengthen the little muscles in your shoulders. It is great to do this during warm up and when getting back into swimming shape.

Being strapless, they are super durable and one of the coolest training tools out there.


  • Isolation  – Choose to isolate lat, triceps, and trap muscles or chest, bicep, and deltoid muscles
  • Sculling – The best paddles you can use for sculling
  • Strapless – No strap design allows these paddles to last forever


  • Propulsion – Do not provide a ton of pulling power


The Speedo Nemesis Contour Paddles are great for sprinting. They have a curved front edge and smaller surface area. This gives them two distinct benefits.

The Nemesis Contour Paddles will help you get right into your freestyle catch due to the curved front edge. This means less gliding. That is a great thing for sprint freestyle (what we refer to as Shoulder Driven Freestyle).

When sprinting, it is best to reduce the glide and increase tempo. The curved front edge of these paddles will help you accomplish this.

The smaller surface area of these paddles will allow you to swim with an increased tempo compared to other paddles. Since these paddles are smaller, you can swim with a quicker stroke rate.

These paddles will make you work hard. We love them for freestyle, but can be used for all four strokes.

Speedo makes them with a blue strap for small, a red strap for medium, and a yellow strap for large.


  • Sprint Paddles  – Designed to help you get right into your catch, which is great for sprinting
  • Fitness Building – They give you solid assistance when pulling, but not too much
  • Versatile – Can be used for all four stokes


  • Distance Swimming While you can use these for longer distances, we recommend them for fast swimming only


The Sporti Power Swim Paddles are a solid pick for swimmers looking for a pair of paddles for a good deal. While these paddles may not have any special features, they do get the job done.

The Power Swim Paddles are contoured to fit any hand. There is a small groove in the middle where you place your palm. This is made to simulate the cupping shape for your hand while pulling.

The multiple holes allow water to pass and different variations for straps. We recommend using the variation pictured below, however, use the strap placement that feels most comfortable for you.


  • Budget Pick  – A great paddle at a less expense price option
  • Contoured Middle – The groove in the middle simulates the correct cupping hand position for pulling
  • Holes – Allows for water to pass through and multiple strap variations


  • Durability Not as durable as other paddles on our list, but the lower price makes then worth the purchase

Why You Should Use Paddles for Lap Swimming

Build Upper Body Strength

Similarly to how fins are used to focus on your lower body, paddles are used to focus on your upper body.

There are few cardio exercises that can work the upper body like swimming. Adding a pair of paddles will only help focus more on building arm, back, and chest strength.

Swimmers should be careful not to overdo it with paddles. The most common injury in swimming are shoulder injuries. If you have a flaw in your technique or previous injury, wearing paddles too much could further that injury. Our advice is to listen to your body if something is not feeling right.

Perfect Technique

Adding a pair of paddles will help exaggerate what you are doing correctly. It will also exploit what you are doing incorrectly.

When you are pulling, it is important to anchor your hand on the water and pull your body past your hand. Swimmers with the best pull actually keep their hand in the same place when they enter. It is the body that is moving forward past their hand.

Many paddles will twist or even fall off when pulling incorrectly. Notice which phase of the pull this happens to you, so you know where you need to focus on correcting your pull technique.

The most efficient freestyle pull is a straight-line. The underwater “s-curve” pull may feel like you are pulling more water. With that method you are just pushing more water back and forth, instead of pushing your body forward.

Athlete Approved Tip: Try removing the bottom wrist strap, using only the finger strap. If you pull straight through, the paddle will stay on. If you pull using the outdated “s-curve” technique or lose a hold on the water at any point in your pull pattern, the paddle will fall off.

Add Variation to Training

Going fast helps make lap swimming more fun. There is nothing wrong with adding a pair of paddles to go faster. Doing so will make training more exciting and add another variation to your workouts.

Paddles are a must have for any pull set. A well rounded workout includes working all fours strokes, kicking, and pulling.

Who Should Use Paddles

The answer to this is all swimmers.

Beginner and advanced level swimmers use paddles to work on technique and build upper body strength. Paddles are a staple to swim workouts. With all the different types of paddles used for varying goals, it is hard to go to a pool and not find these on deck.

Beginners learning how to swim should use technique paddles like the Agility Paddles, Freestyler Paddles, and Iso Paddles. Advanced swimmers powering through training sets should use Power Paddle Plus or Strokemaker Paddles.

It is becoming more and more common for swimmers to have multiple pairs of paddles, so there is nothing wrong with carry more than one set in your swim bag.

How to Use Paddles

It is best to warm up with a few laps prior to wearing paddles.

If the paddles have straps, be sure to place them in a position most comfortable for you. You should do this before getting to the pool. Use scissors to cut off the excess strap.

If they do not have straps, take a moment to ensure you are putting them on your hands properly.

Most warmups consist of swimming, kicking and pulling. To maximize the pull portion, use your paddles. You can also work paddles in and out of the main set of your workout.

Breath control sets are popular to do during pulling sets. Try breathing on every 3, 5, 7, or 9 strokes with paddles. Many swimmers use an odd stroke number to breathe on, so they breathe to both the left and right side. This bilateral breathing technique will balance out your stroke.

You can also use paddles if you are a weaker swimmer looking to keep up with a group (fins work even better for this). Just be careful not to overdo it on your shoulders if you are not conditioned.

Broken Strap Replacement

Straps on hand paddles can break. They typically last up to two years, but that varies based on your usage and how well you take care of them. When they do break, you can purchase replacement straps.

These straps are made by TYR. They will work with all of our Athlete Approved paddle picks.

Cut the straps at an angle with a scissor. Then pull the strap through the pole holes of your choice.


Paddles are an amazing tool for swimmers. There are multiple benefits to incorporating them into your swimming.

Be sure you are using the right pair(s) to accomplish your goals.

Let us know your feedback on our Athlete Approved paddle picks in the comments and social media.

*Get the most out of your next swim with our Athlete Approved Guide to Lap Swimming Equipment! Equip yourself for success with our ultimate swim gear guide.*

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