The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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Fins for Swim Lessons

Dear Swim Profesor:

I hope you can help w/more advice. I”m still a beginner swimmer. My teacher told me I need to work on my kicking, and I’d like to get some fins. Saw some lightweight flippers at Todd & Moore, and then just regular swim fins (I guess). I think I need “short fins” or something like that. Suggestions? I haven’t looked at Dick’s Sporting Goods yet, but might tomorrow. thank you.

- Roxanne D.

Dear Roxanne,

Swim fins can be helpful for all swimming ability levels.  Personally, I would strongly recommend the Finis Zoomers.  For others reading this blog, for a limited time (while they last), we have children’s zoomers on sale right now for just $12.99 regular $37.95!  Here are the reasons why I prefer the short blade Zoomers over other versions.

1.  Short Blade - Long blade fins do have a purpose, for instance, scuba diving.  If I have to get away from a shark, I want the longest blade possible, LOL :)   But seriously, long blade fins are a nice training tool for elite competitive swimmers for “sprint assisted” swimming.   Research shows that one way to improve sprint speed is to train at speeds faster than you can normally go.  The long fins allow for that.  Of course there are other ways to do that too, i.e., sprint assisted work with tubing.  But long fins can serve that purpose for a coach who has lots of swimmers in the pool.

So why do I recommend the short blade fins for swimming instructors and their swim lesson students?  Very simple.  If you study closely the movement pattern of the kick with a short blade fin, it will resemble very closely the movement pattern with no fins at all.  ON THE OTHER HAND, if you observe a kick with the long blade fin, the kick is a little different.  For competitive swimming especially, when races are won and lost by fractions of a second, you would clearly want to gain a training edge.  So when you are training with fins, you would ideally replicate that movement as closely as possible (I will touch on swim fins for beginners again at the end of the blog).

2.  Negative Buoyancy – The zoomers (at least the Original Zoomers did) are constructed with a rubber that give the fins negative buoyancy.  In other words, they sink.   Why is this an advantage?  From a training standpoint, your legs will experience the strengthening benefits that are a result of the fins making your legs work harder.  Floating fins, on the other hand, won’t work your legs quite as hard.

Let’s get back to swim fins for swim lessons, beginners, and novice swimmers.   When I am teaching a non-swimmer or beginner to swim, you don’t want the teaching tool to give more assistance than necessary.  It goes back to my lesson plan philosophy with flotation devices, holds, supports, and progressions.  The best artificial support is the one that gives the student just enough support to be successful.  If you give the learner too much support, they become dependent on it.  Then when you ask the learner to perform the skill on their own, it’s like asking them to climb a mountain instead of a small hill.  If you take baby steps, the learner will not only experience physical success  faster, but he will experience a psychological success as well,  and more importantly–his confidence will grow.

I believe this directly applies with swim fins for beginners.  If you give your beginner swimmer this big flipper that provides extraordinary propulsion, that’s all well and good until you remove the fin and ask them to swim without it.  Suddenly, their feet feel like rocks instead of flippers,  often resulting in a discouraged student who was on the verge of success, only to learn it was the flipper, not him!   The Zoomers, on the other hand, make the transition much easier because while they do provide additional propulsion, the kick with the Zoomers feels very similar to  the kick without the Zoomers–because it is!

So there you have it!  I hope my recommendation helps you and many others!

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September 25, 2011 - 5:02 PM
14 comments »
  • Roxanne D.

    September 25, 2011 | 7:48 PM

    thank you very much! good points there!

  • Jennifer W.

    September 27, 2011 | 7:26 AM

    Thanks-great info! I have taught with fins for several year as a tool to straighten a bent or non-productive kick-although I have not used zoomers for my little guys. I was very cautious as to not build too much dependence but I will be switching for sure!

  • Jim Reiser

    September 27, 2011 | 8:27 AM

    Thanks Jennifer! Glad that helped. Finis also makes some real small short fins for the little, little ones too.

  • Liz

    October 31, 2011 | 8:45 PM

    Thanks for that article! I was trying to find just this exact information! I brought short fins and was disappointed when a friend at work said they are not great and the longer ones are easier and the ones to use…but this article explains everything just brilliantly! thx! :)

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    March 20, 2012 | 7:58 PM

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  • Jim Reiser

    March 20, 2012 | 10:54 PM

    feel free to email questions to jreiser@swimprofessor.com

    thanks!
    Jim

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