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Using a snorkel will help improve your swim technique

You may have seen a snorkel on the pool deck or a beach, but what purpose does it serve for training?

Athlete rigged for electromyography swimming in flow channel, Berlin, Germany

If you’ve never used a snorkel for your swim training, you may be missing out on one of the most useful tools that can help improve and refine your technique. By taking away the need to rotate to breathe, a snorkel is a useful tool for isolating technical elements of your stroke and positioning your body in the water. Just make sure you get one designed for swim training, rather than snorkelling at the beach.

Speedo Bullet Head Snorkel – Lime. Photo: Speedo

The Speedo Bullet Head Snorkel

All of the major swim brands will have a training snorkel that will work, but for my training, I used the Speedo Bullet Head Snorkel. The Bullet Head is equipped with an adjustable silicone double head strap at the sides and headband on the tube. The two together allowed me to get a consistent fit from workout to workout. I found the padded headband to be very comfortable, which makes a difference when doing long endurance sets. The padding helped prevent pinching or headaches, which I have experienced with others. In addition to comfort, the Speedo Bullet Head was also very secure. I tested it at a variety of paces and speed changes, despite its minimalist design, the snorkel did not shift around at high speeds, which helped me focus on my stroke, where my attention should be.

The Speedo Bullet Head Snorkel is $44.99.

Why use a snorkel?

A snorkel allows you to breathe without having to raise or turn your head for air. When used properly, it can teach you to relax your head and help maintain a streamline position in the water. With enough practice, you will learn how that feels, and be able to sustain an efficient, horizontal position in the water – even without a snorkel.


You will likely experience water going up your nose when using the snorkel. To avoid this, I experimented with using a nose clip – which did provide relief.

Stroke Technique 

Besides teaching your head to relax when swimming, the snorkel also allows you to focus primarily on the catch of your stroke. This is extremely important in triathlons when most of your propulsion is going to come from your arm and not your kick.

Antoine Desroches swimming. The picture highlights the catch phase. Photo: Gophrette Power

How do you incorporate a snorkel into your training?

The snorkel could be incorporated into your swim sets in a variety of ways, whether as part of your warm-up or main set.

If you are adding the snorkel to your warm up, your goal will be to translate that same feeling into your main sets, without the aid of the snorkel. But if you are using the snorkel in your main sets, your objective should be to practice repeatedly perform technical cues when swimming.

The primary aim of using a snorkel is to ingrain in your muscle memory a relaxed neck and head, and a full catch phase. By consistently and judiciously practicing with a snorkel, you will hopefully translate these skills over to swimming without one.