The snorkel is the best tool on the market today to help swimmers of any ability swim better. The foremost reason for this is that breathing is the most critical function to our constant survival. Someone who is not comfortable breathing in the water is not thinking about technique, they are thinking about living. Supply that same person a constant supply of uninterrupted air, they relax, and thus are able to think about the technical aspects that help them swim better. That said, perhaps the first thing a novice master's swimmer should do is get comfortable breathing normally through the snorkel.
Get comfortable drills:
1. Standing Drill - In shallow water, keep your feet on the bottom of the pool and bend over like you are bobbing for apples. Place your face in the water so that your mouth and nose are submerged and your eyes are looking at the bottom of the pool. Slowly breathe normally through the snorkel tube and count to 10 and stop. Then repeat and count to 20. Then count to 30 and so on. By the time a person can count to a couple hundred they should be very comfortable and relaxed breathing through the snorkel.
2. Fall Asleep Drill - In shallow water, go into a prone floating position, with your face in the water. The idea is to totally zone out, breathe easily through the mouth and relax. Try the same counting progression as in the first drill. Arms are best fully extended above the head, and hands can move slightly as desired to help keep your body in the same place. Your feet can move slightly to keep your legs near the surface. You can do this drill with a noodle float and it's ridiculously easy.
3. Prone Kick - Transition from the Fall Asleep Drill by pulling your hands and arms downward and backward while initiating a steady kick. Move slowly down the pool and you are now snorkeling! (fins also make this extremely easy)
4. Prone Kick with Streamlined Arms - Push off the wall with your arms extended one hand on top of the other. Your hands should be about six inches beneath the surface with your fingers on the same plane as your nose. For purpose of the drill, your chin should be slightly up and your eyes forward to see what you are doing. Kick with a steady kick all the way down the pool while building speed.
With those four steps, a novice swimmer is now ready for the most fundamental of all freestyle drills...Catch-Up Freestyle. Start with a prone kick and streamlined arms, then pull with the right arm while keeping the left arm fully extended. When the right arm has "caught up" with the left arm, the left arm then performs the same movement. Again for the sake of the drill I recommend keeping the chin slightly up and the eyes forward to ensure good symmetry. A handy saying would be "right hand right eyeball, left hand left eyeball." This means your right hand will be entering the water right out in front of your right eye, and left hand left eye.
Sample repeats and variations:
4 x 25's prone kick arms at side, rest :30 after each
4 x 25's streamline kick, rest :30 after each
4 x 25's catch up freestyle, rest :30 after each
4 x 25's four right arms in a row, four left arms in a row, rest :30 after each
4 x 50's four right arms, four left arms, eight normal strokes, rest :60 after each
Intermediate and Advanced
One of the key distinctions in the value of using the center mount snorkel is that it allows a swimmer to learn to perfect technique the way humans are conditioned to learn athletic movements on land. This includes mimicking the motions as specifically as possible with balance, a full range of motion, and in slow and super slow motion.
With that in mind, the snorkel is really the perfect way to do any and every swim drill. It is not unusual to do half of your daily yardage with the snorkel. Certainly do your warm up swim with it, and almost all your prep before the main set. By doing this you will have been preparing yourself to swim as perfectly as you are capable of doing. Then do your main set without the snorkel (or with it if you want an added challenge). However, warming up, drilling, and then cooling down with your snorkel is ideal and can be around half your total workout. Working on technique during those aspects of the practice is crucial to muscle memory. So I recommend to begin and end your practice swimming perfectly!
Snorkel drills (any drill is great, but here are a couple favorites)
8 x 75's on :30 rest
- 1st 25, exaggerate with the chin forward water level above eyebrows
- 2nd 25, exaggerate with the chin and head way down in the water, where your chin is almost touching the top of your chest
- 3rd 25, find the sweet spot in the middle for the perfect head position. When I do this drill it feels like my neck is growing longer on the 3rd 25
- Remember the value of the snorkel and swimming perfectly at slow speeds. This should be performed at 70% effort at the most!
8 x 75's Fishy Drill on :30 rest
- Same as the drill above except your hands are at your sides and you are kicking through the water.
- I call it the fishy drill because you're pretending you are in Hawaii looking at fish, just trying to find the perfect body alignment.
- For kicking drills with snorkel it's OK to kick hard.
4 x 75's Body Surf Drill on :30 rest
- Use the snorkel, alignment board, Zoomers fins
- Push off and go into a streamline with the alignment board, kicking hard with the Zoomers on
- Put your chin up so that your arms are still out in front with the alignment board, and lean to the left for five yards, then lean to the right for five yards.
- Continue to kick hard with the Zoomers to maintain a good pace
Again any drill is fantastic with a snorkel, but mixing and matching with different pieces of FINIS equipment is a great way to elicit new responses and create good new habits.