5 Swimming Tools to Spice Up Your Workouts

Swimmers use all kinds of swimming tools for their pool training sessions including snorkels, pull buoys, rubber bands, hand paddles, kickboards and fins. If you're a new triathlete or novice swimmer, you might wonder how all this equipment gets incorporated into workouts. Below you'll find instructions on how to use different pieces of pool equipment, along with sample training sets that incorporate each piece of gear. These sets are intended to be performed in a 25-yard pool, but are meant to help triathletes and open water swimmers prepare themselves for the rigors of competing in oceans and lakes.

Swimmer's Snorkel

The snorkel is a relatively new tool in the competitive swimmer's arsenal. It helps both beginner and veteran swimmers focus on stroke improvement while effectively eliminating the interruption of turning your head to breathe. You can relax, breathe easily and maintain proper body alignment as well as focus on the proper hand pathway under the water. Use of the snorkel will help you learn how to swim straighter--a key element from buoy to buoy in triathlons and open water swims. The front-mounted snorkel is suitable to do an entire warm-up, stroke work session or fast-paced set because it stays in place, even during flip turns.

Newbie set: 5 x 100 @ 2:30

Veteran set: 5 x 200 @ 2:30

Pull Buoys

The pull buoy is a standard piece of equipment that enables you to build upper body strength. Pull buoys can be used alone or together with hand paddles and a swimmer's snorkel. Pull buoys, typically placed between your upper thighs, help elevate your body position and mimic the effects of a wetsuit in competition. You can also place a pull buoy around your ankles secured by a thick band. In this non-traditional location, you will have to keep your core taut, hips up and stroke tempo high in order to move equally well through the water. It is a different but effective way to work on your upper body while enabling a better, more streamlined body position.

Newbie set: 3 x 200 with each 200 getting progressively faster.

Veteran set: 4 x 400 descending with each 400 being a negative-split.

Hand Paddles

Hand paddles come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some are shaped to help you achieve a high elbow position early in your stroke while other paddles are contoured for different reasons. For beginners, small hand paddles are generally easier to master than the larger contoured hand paddles favored by veterans. If you know that one arm is stronger than the other, use a small hand paddle on your weaker hand. Over time, this will help balance out your stroke and strength so you can achieve equal propulsion from your left and right arms. This balance is extremely useful for triathletes and open water swimmers as swimming straight becomes more natural.

Newbie set: 12 x 75 with the last lap fast. 

Veteran set: 12 x 150, targeting your best average time on a quick interval.

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