When people talk about wearing a snorkel, they usually think about tropical beaches, clear blue ocean waters, and schools of exotic fish swimming among vibrant coral reefs. Although this particular device is predominantly used for exciting snorkeling expeditions the US Virgin Islands (or whichever tropical paradise that comes to your mind), it can also be utilized as a training gear to help swimmers improved their speed and performance. In fact, because of the many benefits swim snorkels, more and more swimmers are seen wearing these during their training sessions.
Swim snorkels aren’t really that different from recreational snorkels. There may be some differences in design, but both actually serve the same purpose which is to allow the wearer to breathe underwater. But how does allowing a swimmer breathe underwater help him or her become faster in the water?
1. Improved Strokes
Using a snorkel while swimming allows you to stop worrying about turning your head to breathe. As such, you will be able to pay more attention on the technical aspects of your stroke. This is essential if you want to swim freestyle faster since being able to turn your arms quickly and evenly gives you a smoother stroke that will help you to maintain your speed and velocity while swimming across the pool.
For many swimmers, it can be easy to neglect the different aspects of an efficient stroke because they are more concerned about staying afloat and breathing. As such, their balance, rotation and ability to execute a smooth catch and recovery suffers, which consequently reduces their speed.
Introducing a swim snorkel during swimming sessions will help to eliminate the need to turn your head while swimming. Without having to worry about your next breath, you can better focus on improving those seemingly minor technical points of your stroke.
2. Strengthen Your Non-dominant Side
Most (if not all) swimmers have a strong or dominant side that they tend to breathe to. This is especially true when they’re doing freestyle. Although this may appear normal, there are actually several issues that may arise as a result of this practice. For instance, this can lead to an uneven development of the muscles as well as endurance being built on one side only.
Using a swim snorkel during your swimming sessions will train you to avoid breathing to only one side. By keeping your head down and not having to worry about your next breath, you can concentrate on building power and endurance on both sides of your stroke.
For distance swimmers, using a swim snorkel allows you to balance the workload across both sides of your body. As such, aside from making you a faster swimmer, this device also helps you to avoid (or at least minimize) the occurrence of injuries like an aggravated shoulder and muscle imbalances as a result of performing a lot of overhead movements.
3. Keeps Proper Face and Head Position
Coaches and experts always recommend that swimmers keep a straight body line when swimming as this has an impact on the swimmer’s speed. To execute and maintain a straight body line in the water, the swimmer must keep their heads straight. That means that the swimmer should be looking down (instead of forward). Imagine the way your head is positioned when you’re standing on the ground with your face facing forward – that is the proper head position when you’re lying on the water and swimming.
Swimming with our faces looking at the bottom of the pool can be a challenge since we’re naturally inclined to look forward and see where we’re going. This is one reason why many swimmers tend to pick their heads up when swimming freestyle, with their eyes focused on the pool wall instead of the pool’s floor.
The problem with this is that such practice can cause the swimmer’s hips and legs to drop below the water’s surface. This in turn increases drag while swimming. The same thing happens when swimmers look too far down with their chins almost touch their chests. This also increases drag because the swimmer’s body is now completely submerged beneath the surface of the water.
Using a swim snorkel won’t necessarily eliminate the need for you to pick your head up and look forward (after all, you need to see where you’re going to avoid banging against the pool’s wall or crashing with another swimmer). However, it does encourage you to look down for the most part of your swimming session. Since you don’t have to lift your head in order to breathe, you can focus on maintaining the proper head position while swimming.
Using a swim snorkel will also help train you to avoid rocking your head from side to side when swimming. This is because if you turn your head sideways, the tip of the snorkel will get submerged in the water, therefore allowing water to enter the breathing tube (which can be quite unpleasant).
That said, a swimming snorkel can help to correct improper head and face position and trains you to maintain a straight body line when swimming, which in turn should improve your speed.
4. Improved Kicks
A common problem among many swimmers is that they tend to cross their ankles as they rotate their core and turn their heads. Although this takes only a few seconds, it can momentarily stop the flutter kick motion behind them, which in turn negatively impacts their speed.
This is why it is essential that swimmers maintain a consistent flutter kick while swimming. The ankles should be kept relaxed, with the heels just breaking the water’s surface. This helps to improve the core rotation and at the same time propels your body forward more efficiently.
By swimming with a snorkel and not worrying about turning your head to breathe, you will be able to focus more on maintaining a more consistent kick. After some time of practicing, you should be able to incorporate such a kick even without the snorkel on.
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All swimmers want to be able to swim faster and more efficiently. Using a swim snorkel along during training sessions is one way of achieving that end. There are studies and anecdotal evidence which supports the benefits of swim snorkels, helping swimmers to improve on the more technical aspects of their training like promoting better head position, increasing overall velocity, or evening out stroke balance and others. All in all, using a swimmer’s snorkel over the course of your swim practices will help you become a quicker, more efficient swimmer.