One of the easiest ways to fix a variety of stroke dysfunctions is with the use of a swimmer’s snorkel.
Here’s just some of the cool stuff that happens when you strap on one of these pieces of swim gear at your next session in the pool.
1. It fixes poor hip position. If there is one thing that every swimmer can use more of, whether they are a beginner or a defending Olympic champion, it’s better hip positioning. Saggy hips create a ton of drag, displace the head, sink the feet (creating even more resistance), and give you the sensation of swimming “uphill.” One of the root causes of dropped hips is picking the head up to breathe, instead of rolling purely to the side. Wearing a FINIS snorkel removes the need to pick up the head—meaning that you can maintain a straighter line in your swimming. Gone is the up and down bobbing that comes from breathing, replaced with a strong, flat, central line that teaches you what it is to move through the water with a slim profile.
2. You learn proper stroke rhythm. As mentioned in the previous point, the way that we breathe in the water can often screw up our body position in the water. The same can be said for our rhythm. Ever notice that your stroke has good rhythm when you breathe bilaterally in the pool? Proper rhythm is important—not just because that once you get into a groove it’s easier to get to the other side of the pool when fatigued, but because it helps you create a more balanced, efficient stroke. When you don’t have to turn your head and “hiccup” your stroke you can develop that rhythm in your arm pull.
3. Reinforces better posture. Do you think about keeping your core braced when you are swimming? Probably not—for most of us we are too focused on getting that next sweet, sweet breath of fresh oxygen. By removing the panic of breathing from the equation swimmers can focus exclusively on their posture and core. These things are massively important—with nothing to push off of we are left to our core to help power the pulling and kicking motions in the water. Using a snorkel helps you to isolate core and posture emphasis.
4. Keeps your head down. The default head position for freestylers is up and looking forward. This goes in line with our instincts—we want to see where we are going in order to properly judge distance to our next flip turn, better avoid other swimmers, and just generally be aware of our surroundings. Swimming with our faces down is wildly unnatural—you would never see a runner sprinting while not looking ahead of him or her. The problem with picking our head up is that it acts as a veritable snow-plow, creating a huge amount of frontal drag. Picking our head up also breaks the spine-line, which leads to our hips dropping like a rock (or at the very least, leaving us with a really stiff neck and set of traps).
5. You can actually focus on technique. Swimming is a technique-based endeavor. This is why smaller athletes can compete with much larger swimmers—with more efficiency and better technique physical limitations can be conquered. We know this, and yet we find ourselves caught up in the rush to pile up the largest amount of meters as possible, as quickly as we can. Using a swimmer’s snorkel during your swimming workouts gives you an opportunity to focus almost exclusively on your technique and stroke. By removing the need to turn your head to breathe you can literally watch and focus on your hand entry, an early vertical forearm, on a more powerful catch. Wielding a snorkel on drill work is especially helpful—watching a swimmer perform one-arm freestyle is usually painful in the best of times, as they struggle to breathe and end up overcompensating with a massive body roll, crossed ankles, and limited attention on the essence of the drill. The same goes for sculling—by allowing a swimmer to keep their head down and not scrambling to breathe they can truly focus on feeling out the water and performing the drill properly.
Swimming faster isn’t a mystery at the end of the day. It’s about swimming a little more efficiently, a little more quickly, consistently over time.
In the mesh bag of swimmers, which features more than enough gear between all the paddles, fins, drag suits and all the rest, the snorkel stands out as something that can truly effect change for swimmers.