The swimmer’s gear bag has really filled up in recent years. Where at one point water-born athletes only had to worry about having a kickboard and pull buoy on deck now we have various sizes of paddles, fins, ankle bands, and one of the more recent additions—the snorkel.
Here’s why you should be making more use of the swimmer’s snorkel in your gear bag:
1.. Proper head positioning. One of the common mistakes swimmers make when swimming freestyle is improper head position. Whether the eyes are being picked up—creating a situation where the forehead acts as a snow-plow in the water, adding substantial drag—or swinging side-to-side (common with swimmers who cross-over their feet when flutter kicking), a snorkel can help to “center” your head when swimming.
2.. You don’t need to worry about breathing. When you don’t have to worry about timing your breaths you can concentrate more fully on your stroke. Seems like a simple thing, but you would be surprised how often your hips and shoulders are thrown out of position by the very necessary act of turning your head to breathe. This is particularly apparent with swimmers when they are doing 1-arm freestyle. With one arm at their side, the swimmer is out of balance, and are forced to turn half their body in order to gulp down some of that precious O2.
3.. Improved hip position. This piggy-backs the proper head position aspect of using a snorkel, but it is worth mentioning because of how much of an effect it carries. When your face is down and in line-with your spine your hips will naturally rise. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s tough to overstate how much of a difference having high hips in the water makes on overall swimming speed. When you are moving across the pool the goal is to have as narrow a profile as possible. Why? Because the more drag you are fighting, the harder you have to work to swim fast. The simplest way to become a faster swimmer isn’t more training, or more strength…it’s to be more efficient in the water. Using a snorkel, and the higher hip positioning that comes along with it, gives you the sensation of high hips.
4.. Stroke balance. Research into swimmer’s shoulder, that pesky injury that every chlorinated athlete has stumbled into with varying degrees of consistency, has shown that muscular imbalances are a leading cause of this chronic and acute injury. Breathing every two strokes, particularly when we are tired mid-set or towards the end of a long season of training, becomes second nature to the point that we don’t even notice it. When you put on a snorkel the fact that you are not breathing means you are simulating bilateral breathing, forcing you to pull and recover with equal timing and equal force. At the end of the day this has two very real effects: you become a more well-balanced swimmer (i.e. faster), and you help to lessen one of the leading causes of swimmer’s shoulder.
When it comes to better training there are fewer better investments you can make then picking up a snorkel. You can learn more about the benefits and research on swim snorkels, as well as reviews on some of the more popular snorkels on the market here.