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Energetics of Swimming With Hand Paddles of Different Surface Areas

Crocker, George H.1; Moon, Joseph F.2; Nessler, Jeff A.2; Newcomer, Sean C.2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: June 15, 2018 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002637
Original Research: PDF Only

Crocker, GH, Moon, JF, Nessler, JA, and Newcomer, SC. Energetics of swimming with hand paddles of different surface areas. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000–000, 2018—Hand paddles are one of the most common training aids used by the competitive swimmer, yet little is known regarding how hand paddle surface area affects the metabolic cost of transport (COT) while swimming. The purpose of this study was to determine how altering hand paddle size affects energy use during submaximal, front-crawl (i.e., freestyle) swimming. Twenty-six proficient, adult swimmers (13 men and 13 women) completed six 3-minute trials in a flume at a constant pace (102 cm·s−1; 1:38 per 100 m). Trials were performed in random order, using 1 of 5 pairs of hand paddles of different sizes or no paddles at all. Paddle surface areas were 201, 256, 310, 358, and 391 cm2 per hand. Without paddles, COT, arm cadence, and distance per stroke were 7.87 ± 1.32 J·kg−1·m−1, 29.4 ± 4.9 min−1, and 2.13 ± 0.34 m, which corresponded to a rate of oxygen consumption (V[Combining Dot Above]O2) of 23.3 ± 3.7 ml·kg−1·min−1 and a heart rate (HR) of 118 ± 17 b·min–1. The use of larger hand paddles decreased COT, cadence, V[Combining Dot Above]O2, and HR and increased distance traveled per stroke (all p < 0.001). However, the magnitude of the change of COT decreased as paddle size increased, indicating diminishing marginal return with increasing paddle surface area. The largest sized paddles increased COT per stroke compared with swimming without paddles (p = 0.001). Therefore, results from this study suggest that an optimal hand paddle size exists (210–358 cm2) for proficient, adult swimmers, which reduces COT without increasing COT per stroke.

1School of Kinesiology & Nutritional Science, California State University, Los Angeles, California; and

2Department of Kinesiology, California State University, San Marcos, California

Address correspondence to George H. Crocker,

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