Swimming: How to swim with a snorkel and why you should
Discover all the benefits of using a swim snorkel as well as our top 6 exercises.
Discover all the benefits of using a swim snorkel as well as our top 6 exercises.
Feeling out of breath with every length, poor alignment interfering with your glide, concentrating on your breathing rather than your technique… These issues can be resolved with the use of a single accessory: the swim snorkel. How? I hear you ask. Keep reading, I'll explain everything in this article!
First of all, let's take a look at the 4 key benefits of using a swim snorkel when training.
1. Improve your swimming technique and your propulsion
Using a front snorkel while swimming firstly helps improve your swimming technique. This is because when you swim, you may find yourself focusing on your breathing and not on what the rest of your body is doing. This will have an effect on your movements, your alignment, and you may find yourself slipping into bad swimming habits. By using a swim snorkel, you will no longer have this problem because you will be able to forget about your breathing technique and fully focus on your swimming technique. You no longer need to worry about your breathing pattern or head movements! You will in turn be able to more easily perceive any imbalances in your body and become aware of the points to improve in your swimming technique. Body position, alignment, catch, kick, pull, synchronisation… All of these small technical details can be identified and improved. As such, focusing on your movements allows you to perfect your swimming technique and, consequently, to improve your propulsion and efficiency.
2. Correct your alignment and optimise your glide
A front snorkel will allow you to work on your alignment. Not needing to move your head in order to breathe allows you to reduce drag in the water as you move forward, and therefore glide better. You are facing and looking at the bottom of the pool and your head remains in line with your body. This hydrodynamic position is more horizontal and more streamlined, therefore making you glide better!
In addition to your alignment, you will also be working on your balance, aiming to stay horizontal without any part of you sinking. By focusing on your movements, you will be able to detect, for example, excessive roll in the shoulders when swimming front crawl, causing an imbalance. The latter can be corrected, and your glide optimised. ;)
3. Breathe at your own pace
Another benefit of swimming with a snorkel is that it lets you breathe at your own pace. This can allow you to release any pressure caused by focusing on your breathing. You don't need to think about which side to breathe on or how often, or worry about breathing without swallowing water or think about your head movement. Added to this is the tension that can be caused by breathing or the risks caused by poor technique, especially for beginners. With a snorkel, you can breathe when you want, how you want!
4. Increase lung capacity
Working a snorkel into your swim training will also help you improve your lung capacity! Breathing through a snorkel does not come naturally; it is not a normal way of breathing and it takes time to get used to it. You will therefore first have to focus on calming your breathing. Once you get used to it, you won't even notice that you are breathing through a snorkel! This breathing technique will improve your lung capacity as well as calming your breathing. You will feel the benefits when you go back to a full stroke without any accessories, but also when exercising out of the water.
There are two main types of snorkels: swim snorkels (also called front snorkels or centre snorkels) and diving snorkels. These two pieces of equipment are not used under the same sporting conditions and do not have the same characteristics. A swim snorkel is worn on your forehead, whereas a diving snorkel sits on your temples, on the right or on the left.
For practical reasons, a front snorkel is recommended for swimmers as it is specifically designed for swimming. This is because a regular diving snorkel is worn on the side of your head, causing a counterproductive imbalance in terms of glide, whereas a swim snorkel provides very good stability. It will also be much easier for you to perform your movements, especially the crawl, with a swim snorkel that does not get in your way.
Using a front snorkel when swimming is recommended for all swimmers wanting to improve their swimming technique.
As such, it is mainly used by intermediate swimmers. However, beginner swimmers with a good grasp of the basics of swimming and wanting to improve their skills can integrate a snorkel into their swimming sessions. A snorkel is not recommended at the learning-to-swim stage, but it can come into play as soon as you reach stage of perfecting your skills.
It is also popular with triathletes during their swim training because it not only helps improve their technique but also helps them learn to calm their breathing (which can be very useful with the stress of the starting block).
How to put on a swim snorkel
First, let me give you a practical tip: put on your swimming goggles (or mask) before your snorkel. Then simply start by putting your mouth on the mouthpiece of the snorkel and biting lightly to hold the mouthpiece in place. Next, grab the head straps and put them over your head. Once the snorkel is properly positioned, you just have to adjust the head straps to fit your head. There you go, it's quite simple really!
How to breathe through a swim snorkel
Let me digress and get technical for a moment: swimming with a snorkel makes you swim in hypoxia. Due to the diameter of the snorkel, you are bound to breathe in less air than when breathing normally. Therefore, the faster the pace of your swim, the more you will get out of breath. So it is important to go at your own pace. It takes time to learn to use this piece of swimming equipment. Take it easy during your first few sessions, they should not be too long or too intense; this is the best way to gradually get used to the discipline.
With a swim snorkel, you inhale through your mouth and exhale through your nose. This way of breathing may not feel natural, I'll give you that (especially with your head in the water), but let me reassure you right away, with a little perseverance, anything is possible ;)
One piece of advice: if you are finding it hard to breathe out through your nose at first and water tends to get into your nose when you try to breathe out, you can use a nose clip and breathe out through your mouth while you get used to it!
Check out our selection of exercises you can perform with a swim snorkel!
1. Full stroke
Firstly, you can, of course, use a swim snorkel during full stroke drills. Whether you are looking for an endurance or speed workout, a snorkel will allow you to "forget" about your breathing, giving you time to focus on perfecting your stroke.
A snorkel is a very effective accessory for working on your kick. As you do not need to lift your head to breathe, you will be more efficient during your kick sets. Since your body remains horizontal, you can say goodbye to breathing movements that slow you down while your legs sink! You can alternate between sets with and without fins. If you want to work on your alignment (and your core strength at the same time), I advise performing these sets without a kickboard. ;) Working on your kick with a snorkel will allow you to optimise your workout by improving your movement. Save energy and time!
3. Catch-up drill
Now I have two catch-up drills for you, to keep things interesting. ;) This crawl drill will allow you to work mainly on your catch, when your hand enters the water, and the pull of your arm when it is submerged.
The first version is simply a classic catch-up crawl. Your arms will work in relay: one is motionless in front while the other moves to join it, then they switch. Right, left, right, left… At the end of each movement, your hands touch to signal to the other arm to start. With a snorkel, you will no longer have to think about the timing of your breathing and can focus solely on your movements. Pretty simple, isn't it?
And precisely for those who find this exercise “too simple”, I have a second version of the catch-up drill. To really focus your workout on the positioning of your body and on your propulsion, I suggest that you pause for a few seconds each time your hands touch. During that brief pause, you will lose momentum and will have to put in more effort during the following movements in order to move your body forward. The aim? Work on your catch and improve your propulsion.
4. One-arm crawl
A new crawl drill to perfect your arm motion: the one-arm crawl. As the name suggests, this drill involves front crawl sets where you propel yourself with a single arm. The other will be stretched out in front of you. This comprehensive drill allows you to simultaneously work on your distance per stroke, propulsion and recovery phase. All while remaining streamlined to keep your body balanced and horizontal. Just to clarify: this drill consumes a lot of energy—don't forget to swap arms every 25m or 50m!
5. The "buttock - shoulder - head" drill
This crawl drill is split into three levels of increasing intensity and technical difficulty.
Level one: Every time your arm comes out of the water, touch your shoulder before bringing your arm in front of you, then start the motion on the other side. The aim is to create an imbalance that you will have to compensate for.
Level two: Let's add a step! During your arm's recovery phase, start by touching your buttock, then your shoulder, before returning your arm. This extra step adds a few seconds of imbalance and additional effort must be made with each motion.
Level three: Lastly, let's move on to the final stage of this drill: before your hand touches the water again, touch your buttock, your shoulder and your head. Three steps, three times the effort!
6. Combine your snorkel with other accessories
Lastly, why not combine your snorkel with other accessories: paddles to improve your catch and pull; a pull-buoy or ankle band to work on your balance and rotation; fins for a more intensive lower-body workout.
Remember, to get maximum results from your drills, you don't want to do an entire session with a snorkel (and the same goes for all types of swim accessories) so that you don't get out of the habit of doing a full stroke.
Now you know all there is to know about snorkels! From their benefits to how to use them, you now have everything you need for an effective session with your new favourite accessory.
For fans of open water swimming, it is entirely possible to swim with a snorkel in moving water, however this is not common practice because the probability of water entering your snorkel is much higher than in a swimming pool. Feel free to give it a go if you wish! :)
Keen dancer, gym bunny, swimming fanatic and yogi in training; when I'm not doing sport, I enjoy writing about its history and its benefits!