The Benefits of Swimming with a Swim Belt

Paddles, flippers and kickboards are all common training items for swimmers. But one type of swim gear for triathletes that is not commonly used or thought about when practicing open water swimming is a swim belt. Training with a swim belt can increase speed and endurance for an overall stronger open water swim. Whether it is practicing bilateral breathing, kicking or sighting for a buoy, a swim belt should be part of your swim training.

So what is a swim belt? A swim belt is a two-inch-wide strap that fits around your waist and has an elastic cord attached to a plastic ring at the back. The belt can easily be attached around your waist by an adjustable clip component at each end.

The elastic cord comes in three or 10 meters to accommodate any size swimming pool. Three-meter length elastic cords are perfect for small to medium swimming pools. The loose end of the elastic cord can be attached to any pool ladder or other type of stationary item near the pool's edge. A swim belt can be purchased online or at most swim or triathlon retailers.

More: How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?

A swim belt is perfect if you don't live near open water or if you are limited to small or crowded pool. Below are even more advantages of swimming with a swim belt.

Swim belt training can:

  • improve your ability to swim in a straight line instead of weaving from one side to the other.
  • aid in practicing bilateral breathing ,helping you concentrate on the least amount of head rotation you need to take a breath on each side.
  • improve your kicking by allowing you to concentrate on the motion from your hips and thighs rather than from your knees.
  • allow you to work on sighting, which is something all triathletes need to practice. Set up a water bottle or cone on the other side of the pool as a benchmark. A good idea is to lift your head up and forward at the same time you are taking a breath. During this phase, you should have one eye completely out of the water while the other eye is barely above the water line. The idea is to have minimal over-rotation and hip drop when sighting.
  • be a good tool for practice drills, especially one-arm drills. Swim with one arm for a set amount of time, then switch to the other. This drill will help produce a more even stroke.
  • help to minimize over-rotation from one side to the other by letting you concentrate on equal rotation for each side.
  • allow you to apply the same pull force with each arm and aid in a full stroke for each arm.

Below is an example of an endurance workout using a swim belt:

  1. Start out at a 15-minute continuous swim at a consistent speed.
  2. Increase the total swim time each week until you are swimming for 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. When 30 to 35 minutes total time is obtained, adjust your speed by starting out slow and increasing speed gradually over the whole workout, with the last five minutes being a very high effort. Don't forget to concentrate on your form through the workout.

Swim belts can be used once per week for endurance swims, or twice per week for one speed workout and one endurance workout.

Is a swim belt the right tool for you? You may be surprised at the results.

More: Drills to Improve Your Swimming

For a demonstration of how a swim belt works, see the video below. (Please note that the product in the video has been discontinued.)

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About the Author

Marcus Eichhorn

Marcus Eichhorn has participated in the sport of triathlon since 1986. He is a Level I USATF-certified running coach, and coached high school track and cross-country for five and a half years. Contact him at trieich@yahoo.com.

Marcus Eichhorn has participated in the sport of triathlon since 1986. He is a Level I USATF-certified running coach, and coached high school track and cross-country for five and a half years. Contact him at trieich@yahoo.com.

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