The Top Benefits of Training with a Swim Snorkel

9 Benefits of Training with a Swim Snorkel

The swim snorkel has become part-and-parcel of every competitive swimmer’s gear bag. Here are a bunch of reasons why you should use it in practice today to swim faster.

The swimmer’s snorkel is one of the best additions you can make to your swim training.

Choosing the right swimmer’s snorkel encourages better technique in the water, reduces overuse injuries, and can be applied in a broad number of ways to help promote faster swimming.

(Also, the swimmer’s snorkel isn’t to be confused with the snorkel and swim mask.)

After all, using a swim snorkel will dramatically help you…

The Benefits of Using a Swim Snorkel

1. Balance out your stroke.

Easily the biggest benefit to using a swim snorkel is that not breathing to your dominant side means that your stroke is more balanced.

This is especially important for sprinters who need a smooth, kayak-like stroke turnover. Being able to turn your arms over quickly and evenly gives you a smoother stroke that maintains velocity across the pool.

For mid-distance and distance swimmers the benefits of using a snorkel leans more towards balancing out the workload across both sides of your body and to avoid over-loading one of your shoulders.

Fun Fact: One of the leading causes of swimmer’s shoulder includes muscle imbalances in the rotator cuff in the shoulders. A study found that just 16-weeks of swim training caused significant muscular imbalances in the rotator cuffs in competitive swimmers1.

Using a snorkel is a great way to help balance out the shoulder load.

2. Encourages you to keep your face down in freestyle.

Swimmers naturally pick their head up when swimming freestyle.

To swim with our faces pointing at the bottom of the pool goes against our natural instinct to look where we are going. It’s not so much a bad training habit as it is an over-riding safety mechanism.

While using a snorkel won’t completely remove a swimmer’s need to pick their head and eyes up to find the wall (or avoid a fellow swimmer), it does encourage you to look down.

3. Forces you to keep a straight head.

For you swimmers out there who rock their heads from side to side while swimming freestyle you are in for a soggy surprise when you turn your head and dunk the tip of the snorkel into the water like a straw.

A snorkel can help correct the wandering head and reinforce a straight-line from the top of your head to your ankles.

One of the most important aspects of fast swimming is keeping a straight body-line in the water. This includes keeping a straight head—something that the snorkel forces on you. It instills that propulsion comes from rotation of your hips and shoulders, and not wiggling your head around.

4. Swim snorkels can be used (mostly) without interfering with proper technique.

Swimming is all about technique, and if we are going to introduce tools and equipment to poolside they should solidify good technical habits.

Whether we are talking about paddles, stretch cords, or fins, if we can’t perform the swimming motion with proper technique, we are creating and/or reinforcing bad technique.

A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics titled “Wave characteristics in breaststroke technique with and without snorkel use” found that swim snorkel use by competitive swimmers caused breaststrokers performing a series of 25m sprints to slip into a flatter and slower stroke.

The Benefits of Training with a Swim Snorkel

5. You can actually swim faster with the snorkel.

Good technique usually means that you are being more efficient in the water…and you know what that means…faster swimming!

Another study found that national-level freestylers and breaststrokers rocking out with a snorkel over a 100m sprint swam significantly faster compared to regular swimming. Improvements of over 6% for the breaststrokers and nearly 5% for the freestyles.

(Alrighty then!)

So yeah. I think the lesson here is that if you are going to use the snorkel, don’t be trying fancy new stuff with your technique that isn’t going to benefit it.

6. Helps correct excess hip roll

Swim snorkels can help to reduce excess hip rotation. For swimmers who swing their hips too hard when turning to breathe, using a swim snorkel can help teach more efficient body position in the water.

A study2 with elite competitive swimmers found that using a snorkel at submaximal speeds helped to correct over-rolling while swimming freestyle.

7. A fuller kick.

Something that I almost immediately noticed the first few times I strapped on a snorkel—and the panic of not turning my head to the side to breathe passed—was that my flutter kick was engaged more often.

Why is this?

Because a common dysfunction with swimmers is to cross their ankles momentarily when they turn their head, halting the flutter kick motion behind them.

With no fish-tailing movement that encourages that dreaded ankle-cross that stops your kick cold you end up kicking more consistently.

8. Great for kick sets.

I will be the first to admit that I love using my kickboard.

Whether it is to warm-up, do some blast kick sets, or even do some super slow kicking to develop foot sensitivity to the water (yup, that’s a thing!), you’ll rarely find me at the pool without my big, ugly green kickboard at the end of the lane.

But that being said, it doesn’t always encourage the best body position, and it also removes the ability to kick while also engaging shoulder and hip rotation (like you would be doing when normally swimming).

Here’s where a snorkel can come in supremely handy—you can kick in a streamline for max speed. Or you can place your arms by your side and simulate the rolling motion of your shoulders and hips to mirror your natural body position while swimming full-stroke.

9. Increases feel for the water.

This is purely a personal anecdote, and so I imagine the case is different from swimmer to swimmer…but whenever I do some easy freestyle with a snorkel, my stroke feels pretty darn good the moment I take it off and return to regular swimming.

I can’t really explain why. It could be the awareness of better stroke mechanics, or the smoother arm rotation, but the focus on better body positioning and consistent kicking transfers well over to regular swimming.

What does this mean for you?

If your feel for the water is slipping, or you simply aren’t hitting the speeds you want in practice, take your stroke back to basics and do some super slow swimming with the snorkel.

While I can’t promise it will magically fix a bad workout, it will help you feel a little more efficient and smooth in the water.

The Takeaway

Like anything else in your swim bag, your snorkel should serve your goals and ambitions in the pool. Perhaps the best part of this relatively cheap tool is that it is highly versatile and you can adapt it to what you want to improve on.

Better body-line in the water? Kick with a snorkel.

Want to experience race-pace, no-head turn sprinting? Strap on a snorkel.

Balance out your weak shoulder with the dominant one? Well, you know the answer.

Which swim snorkels are the best for swimmers? 

Swim snorkels are an awesome tool for better and faster swimming.

But which one is perfect for you and your swimming?

Swim Snorkel Reviews

Below is a quick look at my favorite swim snorkels. I’ve used them all in varying amounts over the years and can heartily recommend them.

1. FINIS Freestyle snorkel.

Remember how I mentioned if you had bad head position in the water you would end up drinking some pool water?

FINIS Freestyle Swim Snorkel

The FINIS freestyle snorkel, obviously designed for you freestylers, ensures that you keep your head down and locked in. Pick your head up, and you are sipping on a chlorine-colada.

FINIS has been doing it since day one with swimming snorkels, so gotta rep them at first place.

2. FINIS Swimming Snorkel

This is the “regular” FINIS snorkel. The one that got the whole craze started.

FINIS was the first company to have head-mounted snorkels, and exclusively held the patent on it until 2004.

FINIS Original Swim Snorkel

This is the most popular swim snorkel I’ve seen on deck.

FINIS also offers this O.G. model in Junior size for younger swimmers looking for their first swim snorkel.

Speedo Bullethead Swim Snorkel

Speedo was a little late to the swim snorkel game, but when they finally released a swim training snorkel they dropped an absolute beauty.

Speedo Bullethead Swim Snorkel

Speedo offers the Bullethead in a variety of colors and prints, and the thick head strap helps keep the snorkel firmly in place, even when swimming at higher speeds.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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