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Unless you’ve been brought up with swimming from an early age then you probably have a love, hate relationship with the pool. That chlorine smell, jostling for lane position, the artificial lighting and fluctuating water temperature all combine to make you want to hit the snooze button and give your swim session a skip.

Too many swimmers fall into the trap of logging lengths and distance as a way of improving their swimming, but ultimately the root of producing faster times is actual time spent working on your technique through various drills.  It also gives much more variety to your swimming and can be incorporated into any session, no matter how time restrained you are.

So what sort of training aids and kit should be in your pool bag and how exactly do you use each of them in the water? Here’s our introduction to what we consider the essentials that’ll have you swimming with better technique, confidence and hopefully make those sessions just a little more tolerable.


Probably the most recognizable piece of training kit but also the most feared, the kickboard is a necessary evil though for improving your kick technique and leg strength. A stronger kick can result in your technique staying in position for longer and keeping you as streamlined as possible. Some kickboards come with gaps to hold onto while traditional ones require you to grip the edge at the front or back.

As with all training aids, a kickboard should form part of a structured swim session as it can place excess strain on your neck and shoulders. 

Pull Buoy

If you’re new to swimming then you’ll have probably seen a pool buoy before you actually knew what it was called. Designed to sit between your legs, it acts as extra buoyancy for your hips, making you more streamlined, so you can focus on improving your arm strength and technique in the water. Pull buoys come in all shapes and sizes but all have a figure-of-eight design made from lightweight foam.

They’re an ideal piece of kit if your legs are in need of a rest but you still want to work on technique at the front end of your body. It’s important to choose the correct size pull buoy however, as too much buoyancy can put your hips too high in the water and compromise your streamlined position while lack of buoyancy will have your hips sinking which is not good positioning either. If you’ve got pool friends then ask to try their pull buoy and see what works best for you.


One of our favourite bits of swim kit as using them is fun and will help you swim faster than normal, but there’s loads of other great reasons to have them as an essential in your pool bag. Firstly they help improve your kick technique, which in turn will effect your body position to make you more streamlined through the water with less resistance against it. By assisting your kick you’re free to focus on your all-important stroke technique, while swimming with fins can also help improve your ankle flexibility so you will have less drag gliding through the water.

It’s worth checking with your pool before using any fins though as some will not allow them during public sessions due to safety concerns, so they may be restricted to coached or private swims. As with all training aids, build swim fins gradually into your sessions to reap the best benefits and reduce injury risk as they will place extra strain onto your legs and can cause cramp.

Hand Paddles

These can come in the form of webbed gloves or plastic paddles with adjustable loops for a custom fit. Either way, their main purpose is to help build power and strength through the water as well as creating good technique habits. Hand paddles are also a great bit of kit for working into any pool session and keeping a variety to your sets. The really great thing about them is that you’ll know instantly if your motion isn’t pulling correctly so this will really help you fine tune your stroke and technique.

It’s worth remembering that excess use of hand paddles, or using over-sized ones, can place excess strain on your arms and shoulders so they should be used as part of a structured session and in moderation. Start off with small use and build up, with good swimming form, to help reduce injury risk.


Gone are the days of looking up at the pool clock to check your times, these days it’s all about having the technology on your wrist to chart your progress. There’s no hiding from the times and many of today’s tech-savvy watches can give you real-time feedback such as splits, cadence, stroke rate and much more. In fact the only thing they don’t do is the swimming for you. Watches such as the Garmin 935 GPS Multisport have everything you need at the touch of a button and you can programme them to your specific pool length. For swimmers and triathletes who love their data then a Garmin watch will help chart your training progress and you’ll never have to worry again about forgetting your length count.


By incorporating swim training aids into your sessions, even just a little, we know from experience that you’ll notice the difference and they certainly add more variety to just endless lengths. They’ll take a while to get used to but there’s no short cuts to improving your swim speed and technique so think of them as a long-term investment.