One of the cool attachments you can get with the Vasa Swim Erg is the “forearm cuffs.” Instead of using the power paddles, you attach these forearm sleeves to the cables, forcing you to pull not with your hands but with your whole forearms, like you are supposed to in the water.
When pulling in the water, you want your forearms from your elbow to your fingertips to act like a paddle and in doing so increase the surface area of your pull from just your hands, which are quite small, to the larger area of your forearms. These are your “paddles.”
What I noticed on the Swim Erg, though is that my power and speed dropped significantly when I switched to the cuffs. To fix this, I had focus on keeping a high elbow during the catch phase and engage my lat muscles more with a nice “snap” during my catch. When I did this, my power and speed dropped back to normal, and the force coming not from my wrist or hands but in the center of my forearm; my forearms were pulling me.
To translate this feeling into swimming, I like to use the fist/tennis ball drill which, in addition to making you rotate properly, takes away the use of your hands to pull and forces you to keep a high elbow catch to maintain your speed. If there is a significant difference between your fist time and your regular swim, then you might be dropping your elbow and/or using your hands too much.
I also like to focus on bending my forearm every so slightly so that it forms a slight bow. If you look at any fast swimmer their forearm is not perfectly straight but has a curve to it. Note that their wrists are not breaking or completely bent.
By swimming with your natural paddles, you will boost your power and your speed.
Coach Chris and Kev