Using swim toys is a great way to improve your swim technique, strength and fitness. In coached sessions, we usually use them to assist with drills to help athletes to focus on a particular part of their stroke, to isolate parts of their technique so that they can make adjustments and to reinforce good practice. I get asked "What toys do I need" all the time so I've put together a list of my favourites.
If you click the amazon link it'll take you to my favourite of each of the toys. I also get a tiny fee from Amazon, so that's nice.
A pull buoy is one of my favourite swim toys. Great for taking the legs out of the equation so that you can focus on your arms and core. If we're working on anything to do with hand entry, catch or pull there's a good chance you'll be using a pull buoy.
They can also be great for less experienced swimmers who may find that kicking a lot pushes their heart rate up. Using a pull buoy means you can keep that heart rate lower and swim more, which is key if you're trying to perfect your technique.
Keep it simple. You don't need anything fancy here.
Swim fins are great for improving your kick technique and helping you to get your body in the right position. They also help you to move through the water quicker, which gives you time to slow down and think about drills that improve your technique. Fins can also really help you to drive your rotation.
These fins are shorter and have less flex than some others, which means you have to get the technique right. You can still cheat a bit with some of the longer, more flexible ones!
A kick board is an essential bit of kit for improving your kick and, more importantly, your body position. It can help you to support your core while you get used to your body position and build strength, and it can also be used to build kick strength. Tombstones, anyone? I like the shape of this one as you can use the hand holds to replicate a torpedo hand position, and then gradually move your hands down the board as you get stronger.
Paddles are great for improving your feel for the water. They amplify the sensation of your catch and pull. They will also make your arms work harder as you'll be grabbing more water, so they can also help to build a bit of strength, but I love them more for technique work. There are many types of paddles but these are my favourite as you can't strap them on, which means if you're getting it wrong these will move around - they'll flap away from your hand and wriggle about, giving you a clear indication of what is going wrong.