Pulling with Paddles, Swim Training Controversy

These last few months I’ve been building up my use of paddles while swimming. It was hard in the beginning, as they put a lot of stress on my shoulders. Slowly, over several weeks, I built my endurance to use them to about 400m now. Over the same period, I’ve noticed the pull in my stroke has gotten considerably stronger, and consequently I have been able to hold high speeds for a longer period of time now.
At the end of every workout, whenever possible, I try to pull with paddles and really get a nice strength workout at the end of a normal Masters workout, and do about 300-400m of swimming. As I enter into my off season, I intend to get more into the strength building part of swimming in preparation for applying strength and endurance next year when the training season begins.
I have used stretch cords and also have done weight training for my catch and stroke. But I have not found that to be as effective as pulling with paddles in the water.
As I find this to be effective for me, I come also to think on all the books I’ve read and the coaches I’ve talked to about their methods of swim training.
It seems that so many opinions abound regarding swim training and the use of tools like pull buoys and fins, and what should one focus on and not.
Total Immersion coaches focus on body balance in the water and maintaining a good body position to keep the hips up as well as front quadrant swimming, where you should keep at least one arm in front of your head at all times while swimming. They say that pull buoys don’t really work but fins are ok.
Steve Tarpinian, writer of swimming books and producer of swim DVDs, says that each person has an indvidual swim form and they need to find that. He also has a strong opinion on which tools work and which do not.
Marc Evans, a triathlete coach in the Bay Area, is into constant propulsion swimming and actually shortening the stroke from pushing all the way down your leg. In this way, propulsion is constant and maximal.
So how do we, as athletes know what’s best for us? The only thing I can say is that I had to try about everything, and also get to know myself as a swimmer very well in terms of what my needs are, and how I swim and where my issues are. I basically had to try everything to figure out what would work best for my body, techniques, and methods.
Bruce Lee, in developing Jeet Kune Do, emphasized studying many styles and taking what works for you and discarding the rest. I believe that learning swimming is the same way, and that to broaden your knowledge base while getting to know one’s own issues and strengths is the way to go.