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FREESTYLE – Reach, Ride & Grab

Every once in a while people send us new products to review. Most of the time, I’m not a fan of these new products — at least not right away — because I’m a creature of habit, and I’ve pretty much already found the things I like.

Take paddles, for instance. I’m very particular about my paddles. I’ve been using the large (not the XL) TYR Catalyst paddles for as long as I can remember. They give me a great feeling of power, and they help me lengthen my strokes.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE A friend recently sent me the Star paddles. The first thing I noticed was that they have a lot of holes. Also, the plastic seems a bit thinner and a bit more flexible than the plastic in other paddles, especially the ones I’m used to. I was skeptical, but I’ve learned not to jump to conclusions. I decided that I would use these paddles for an extended period of time…you know…give them a chance. I’d also give my swimming partners a chance to use them. The result is this Drill of the Week.

These paddles certainly have grown on me, and have become a staple in my swim bag. They’re a great intermediate paddle for swimmers who do a lot of drills, who are a bit younger in their swimming development, and who aren’t quite so strong.

What I’ve found these paddles good for is the Reach, Ride & Grab focus of freestyle. This is a pulling drill, and to fully experience the "ride" portion, you should use a pull-buoy. This allows you to glide a bit more, and to feel the extension of the hands — through the side and down the rest of the body. Using a pull buoy allows you to focus totally on the front part of the stroke, without worrying about your legs sinking. You should also NOT use a rubber strap to hold your ankles together on this drill. Use just the pull buoy (and paddles, of course).

Why Do It:
These paddles will help your hands to "plane" and to find a surface out in front of your body. They will give you a good feeling of extension. Second, these paddles are pliable enough so that you can feel the hand hooking or grabbing the water when you start the pull.

How To Do It:
1. Put on your paddles and pull buoy.

2. Start pulling freestyle just as you normally would…ONLY…

3. When most people put on paddles, all they think about is how much extra power they have for the PULL. A better focus point is to feel how the paddles help your hands go straight forward. If you tip the paddles down in front, they’ll go directly into the catch, or fall off. If you’re tipping the front down, your hand will rise and may even come out of the water. You must extend your hand directly forward with paddles on.

4. After your hand has reached full extension, pause there for just a second to feel the water rushing down your arm and down your side. Keep your head in a stable, neutral position to allow for full rotation, but just ride the stroke at this point.

5. As your recovering hand nears entry, begin the catch, or pull, by simply grabbing the paddle with the tips of your fingers. These paddles are so pliable that you can feel them almost curl when you initiate a great catch on the water.

6. Repeat many times.

How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Take your time with this, and you may even want to introduce stroke counting to your pulling. Remember: The goal of counting strokes is NOT to see how low of a count you can get. The goal is to get more out of each stroke while going the same pace or speed.

Working on making your body sleeker and longer, and extending your hand as far out front as possible for the longest, greatest range of motion, can ultimately make you a better, faster, and/or more efficient swimmer.

These Star paddles are great because they’re NOT huge, and because all those little holes reduce the resistance the paddles create. I also like them because they’re not rigid, and they allow your hands to stay involved in the swimming process.