A good swim workout can be achieved with just a pair of goggles and a cap, but there are several tools that can take your training to the next level. Build strength, increase speed, and refine your technique by adding the following five tools to your swim bag.
Fins can help you focus on different parts of your kick and body propulsion in the water, while improving ankle flexibility. Ankle flexibility is key in generating propulsion, which is why fins are an essential training tool for all swimmers, especially beginners. Fins can also help to correct any cross-over that may be present in your kick. Using fins while training can help strengthen and increase speed in your kick, and in the case of flutter and butterfly kicks, can help you focus on hip propulsion as well.
Recommended fin workout:
- For both beginner and experienced swimmers, fins can be used on the same sets you would normally swim without fins, but be sure to increase your pace and speed up your intervals. For example, if you swim a regular set of 100s on a two-minute interval, try reducing that to 1:30 with fins.
Like fins, hand paddles are used to help you strengthen your stroke. Hand paddles increase water resistance and can keep your hands in place as they pull, which can help build muscle, increase speed, and improve technique. One specific use for paddles is to help to balance out your stroke. If you know one of your hands/arms is stronger and more consistent than the other, you can use a paddle on your weaker hand to help balance your stroke and strength to achieve equal propulsion from both arms.
Recommended paddle workout:
- For beginners, start with a set of 75s, making your last lap a sprint.
- For experienced swimmers, swim a set of 150s, targeting your best average time on a quick interval.
While swim equipment has made advancements over the years, kickboards are still a highly effective training tool. You can use a kickboard to isolate your legs to focus exclusively on your kick, helping to increase speed. Conditioning your leg muscles goes beyond just a fast kick, however--building strength in the legs can help you maintain control in your strokes as a whole, helping to finish strong during races. Kick sets are also ideal for drills and fine-tuning technique and kick mechanics, and the kickboard deters you from using your arms to assist or cheat through sets.
Kick sets also allow you to breathe freely as they train. Without a kickboard, kick sets cannot exclusively focus on the legs and kick--you must also focus on breathing patterns, underwater mechanics, flip turns, and streamlines. With a kickboard, you can work at a harder pace as you’re able to breathe as much and as often as you need.
Recommended kickboard workout:
- For beginners, try alternating 25s, kicking easy for the first, then hard for the second. Build on the 25s as you go, starting with one of each, then two of each, etc.
- For experienced swimmers, try increasing the kick sets to as much as 30 percent of your workout. One particular drill involves pushing off the wall and attempting to swim the entire length of the pool underwater with the kickboard. If you need to come up for air, sprint kick the rest of the way on the surface.
4. Swim Snorkels
Swim snorkels are relatively new tools, but have become prominent in swimmers’ training bags in recent years. Swim snorkels allow you to focus on stroke improvement and technique without the interruption of turning your head to breathe. The snorkel lets you maintain proper body alignment and proper hand pathway under the water. Swim snorkels enhance drill work especially, as you can focus on the individual aspects of the stroke meant to be improved by the drill without worrying about breathing techniques or keeping your body straight in the water.
Recommended swim snorkel workout:
- For beginners, try to swim five 100s on a 2:30 interval.
- For experienced swimmers, swim five 200s on a 2:30 interval.
5. Pull Buoys
Used to isolate your arms to focus on arm training and building upper body strength, pull buoys are placed between the legs, either at the thighs, knees, calves, or ankles. Pull buoys will keep your body elevated, imitating proper body position in the water where you can glide across the surface. Pull buoys also come in handy during longer sets--the absence of a kick will leave you less winded and with more endurance. By isolating your arms, sets using a pull buoy are great for improving your pull technique in any stroke.
Recommended pull buoy workout:
- For beginners, swim three 200s, going faster with each 200.
- For experienced swimmers, swim four 400s descending, with each 400 a negative-split.
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