Swim fin workouts: Dave Scott explains how they help your training, and key sessions

by Dave Scott (via 220triathlon.com)

Well, as any of you who swim in my groups know, I’m not a big fan of a bagful of swimming accessories! Too many athletes overuse pull buoys and floaty drag pants and other gizmos and they become crutches that prevent them from truly improving. However, the one piece of gear that I recommend for triathletes of all levels is fins!

Swimming with fins: what’s the difference between long and short fins?

A weak core often causes a weak kick.  When combined with very tight hips, weak gluteals, poor plantar flexion and a stiff back, a triathlete can definitely benefit from kicking drills. 

Also, when faced with the issues mentioned above, the freestyle kick provides neither propulsion nor stability. The legs end up with either too much knee flexion or a spaghetti-like wobble that create excess drag. Many triathletes exhibit a kick that resembles a pedalling action: they have a dramatic knee bend that creates huge drag by dropping the hips, quads, knees and feet too low.

Instead they should kick from the hips with a much straighter leg, with no more than 20° knee flexion. Maintaining this straighter-leg position requires increased mobility in hip extension and generally good plantar flexion. This is where training with fins can help.

When used properly, fins teach the conservation of energy and provide stability without lateral wiggling. The wide silhouette of fins can initially amplify the problems, which ultimately leads to effective corrections. Then, when the fins are removed, the neuromuscular pathways will feel enlightened and stimulated! 

When choosing a swimming fin, you want ones with adequate pliability, without being flimsy. Most triathletes don’t have very good plantar flexion, or good mobility in the hips and back, so a moderately flexible fin helps you establish good form and improves your flexibility over time. The ones I prefer are the Finis Edge fins.

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