Is Swimming With a Snorkel Good Exercise?

Swimming is often heralded as one of the most beneficial full-body workouts available, but for many, the coordination required between strokes and breathing can be daunting. Maybe you’ve heard about swimmers training with a snorkel to correct their body positioning and stroke form and are curious about the benefits a snorkel could add to your regimen.

Indeed, swimming with a snorkel is an excellent exercise. Beyond just a tool for underwater sightseeing, a snorkel can offer a myriad of benefits that both novices and seasoned swimmers can enjoy such as improved breathing technique, increased lung capacity, stroke balance and symmetry, reduced neck strain, and much more. 

In this article, we will go over the top reasons why incorporating a snorkel into your swim workouts can be a game-changer.

Why Swimming with a Snorkel is a Good Exercise

Improved Breathing Technique

Swimming with a snorkel allows swimmers to breathe consistently without having to turn their head side to side. In traditional swimming, one has to master bilateral breathing, which means taking breaths alternately on each side.

This can be challenging, especially for beginners, as it requires coordination between stroke and breath. By using a snorkel, swimmers can eliminate this need for head turning. With the steady flow of air from above the water, it’s easier to maintain a rhythmic breathing pattern.

Over time, this consistent breathing can train the lungs and diaphragm to work more efficiently, enhancing overall respiratory performance.

Stroke Balance and Symmetry

When you don’t have to turn your head to breathe, you can focus more on the movement of your arms, legs, and torso in the water. This means you can work on ensuring that both sides of your body are moving equally and efficiently.

In traditional swimming, the act of turning one’s head to breathe can unintentionally lead to imbalances. One side might become stronger or more dominant than the other. With a snorkel, you can maintain a steady head position and ensure that each stroke is as symmetrical as the last.

For someone unfamiliar with swimming terms, think of it as ensuring that both your left and right sides are doing an equal amount of work, leading to a more harmonious and effective swim.

Enhanced Core Engagement

The “core” refers to the muscles in your abdomen, back, and sides. When swimming with a snorkel, the consistent, forward-facing position of the head naturally encourages swimmers to keep their body straight and aligned. This posture, in turn, prompts the activation of the core muscles.

By strengthening the core, swimmers can achieve better posture and reduce the risk of back pain. It’s akin to how standing or sitting upright engages your core muscles more than slouching does. In the context of swimming, a strong core ensures a streamlined position in the water, which means less resistance and more efficient movement.

Increased Lung Capacity

Breathing through a snorkel isn’t the same as breathing freely in the open air. The snorkel adds a slight resistance because you’re pulling air through a tube. Over time, this resistance can serve as a form of training for the lungs.

Just as lifting weights can increase muscle strength, the added effort required to breathe through a snorkel can enhance the strength and capacity of the lungs. In simpler terms, it’s like giving your lungs a workout – making them stronger and more capable of holding and using air efficiently.

Focused Skill Development

When you remove the complexity of breathing coordination from swimming, you’re free to concentrate on other aspects of the stroke. This means you can zero in on specific techniques like the position of your hands as they enter the water, the rotation of your shoulders, or the efficiency of your kick.

It’s a bit like trying to juggle. If you’re constantly worried about dropping a ball (or, in this case, missing a breath), it’s harder to focus on refining your technique. Using a snorkel provides the opportunity to hone specific skills without the distraction of breath coordination. This focused approach can lead to quicker skill acquisition and refinement.

Cross-Training Benefits

Swimming with a snorkel can introduce a new dynamic to water workouts. Cross-training, in general, refers to using different forms of exercise to enhance overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries. By adding a snorkel to your swim sessions, different muscle groups and aerobic systems are engaged, diversifying the workout.

For example, while running might target certain leg muscles and aerobic pathways, snorkel swimming can emphasize different muscle groups, balance, and breath control. Thus, snorkel swimming can be a fantastic addition for athletes of other disciplines, like runners or cyclists, to diversify their training regimen and achieve a full-body workout.

Reduced Neck Strain

Constant head turning in traditional swimming, especially in strokes like freestyle, can result in neck strain or discomfort over time. With a snorkel, the need for this repetitive motion is eliminated.

The swimmer can maintain a neutral, forward-facing head position, reducing the potential for neck discomfort or injury. This can be especially beneficial for those who swim long distances or for extended periods.

Versatility in Drills

Incorporating a snorkel into swim training opens the door to a variety of drills that can help improve technique and strength. Whether it’s working on leg kicks without the distraction of head turns or practicing arm pulls with a consistent breathing pattern, the snorkel allows swimmers to isolate specific parts of their stroke.

By focusing on individual components of their swim technique, they can strengthen the part of the stroke that they are weakest at, making the overall performance better when doing the real thing.

Increased Water Awareness

With the head constantly submerged and facing forward, swimmers using a snorkel have a continuous view of what’s ahead. This can be particularly beneficial in open water swims or crowded pool sessions, as it enhances the swimmer’s ability to navigate and orient themselves.

By being more attuned to their surroundings, swimmers can avoid obstacles, stay on course, or even draft off other swimmers more effectively.

Safe Introduction for Beginners

Starting out in swimming can be intimidating, especially when trying to coordinate breathing with arm and leg movements. Introducing a snorkel can alleviate the anxiety associated with getting that first breath or fearing a mouthful of water.

By ensuring a steady supply of air, beginners can focus on mastering foundational swimming techniques without the added stress of breath coordination. It’s akin to learning to ride a bike with training wheels: it provides that initial support and confidence boost until you’re ready to take them off and cycle on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is swimming with a snorkel suitable for beginners?

Yes, swimming with a snorkel is suitable for beginners. It can help you focus on your technique and body positioning without worrying about breathing. As a beginner, it might take some time to get used to the snorkel, but with practice, you’ll become more comfortable and confident. Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.

Can I use a snorkel in both freestyle and other swimming strokes?

Indeed, you can use a snorkel while practicing various swimming strokes, including freestyle, breaststroke, and even butterfly. Using a snorkel can benefit your overall technique and help you concentrate on the different aspects of each stroke. However, it is essential to adjust your head positioning and body alignment to ensure optimal breathing with the snorkel while performing various strokes.

Are there specific snorkels designed for swimming laps?

Yes, there are snorkels designed specifically for swimming laps, often referred to as swimmer’s snorkels. These snorkels usually have a center-mount design, allowing them to rest comfortably on your forehead and align with your body’s centerline.

This alignment results in minimal drag and less disruption to your swimming technique. They also have features like a purge valve to ensure water doesn’t enter the tube, making them an excellent choice for lap swimmers.

Can swimming snorkels be used in pools?

Certainly, swimming snorkels can be used in pools. In fact, using a snorkel for pool-based training is a great way to enhance your swimming skills, stamina, and technique. Incorporating snorkel training sessions into your pool workouts can give you many benefits and prepare you for open water swimming.

What are the downsides of swimming with a snorkel?

There are a few downsides to swimming with a snorkel. First, it may take some time to adjust to breathing through the snorkel, which can cause initial discomfort. Another issue is that you might become too reliant on the snorkel, which could impact your ability to coordinate breathing in non-snorkel swims.

Lastly, a poorly fitting snorkel may cause mild irritation or discomfort during your swim. To mitigate these downsides, take the time to find a well-fitted snorkel, ease into using it, and balance its use with other forms of swimming practice.