It might appear bulky and uncomfortable to wear at first, but using a training snorkel in the pool can help you make dramatic improvements to your swimming performance.
The swimming snorkel is an extremely versatile training aid that can be used to develop a variety of skills in the pool, benefiting everyone from beginners to advanced swimmers.
By providing a constant supply of oxygen while in the water, the snorkel allows swimmers to concentrate fully on what their body needs to do next, and not about how or when they're going to take their next breath.
When asked about essential training aids they would advise any swimmer to have in their swim bag, many top swim coaches from Bob Bowman to Dave Scott have spoken about the benefits of the swim snorkel.
They can be easily and effectively used to develop your body positioning and alignment, stroke technique and kicking, which will in turn increase your strength, stamina and speed.
So don't be put off by the fear of a swimming snorkel being uncomfortable or intrusive during your swim.
Sure, if you've never worn one before it will take a little while to get used to the feeling of swimming with it. But they are not as uncomfortable as you think, and you'll be surprised how quickly you get used to it.
The newest training snorkels on the market have been developed to consider comfort as much as performance, both in terms of how they fit on the head and how the mouthpiece feels on the gums.
Also, you'll soon feel the sensation of how your improved technique or position can help you glide through the water at an even greater and more efficient pace. That alone makes the snorkel a must-have training aid!
Here, we look at the five main areas you can improve on when using a training snorkel in the swimming pool.
5 Ways a Training Snorkel Will Help You Swim Faster
Fine tuning for your stroke technique
If you need to make improvements to your stroke technique, a training snorkel will give you the time and freedom to do so thoroughly.
The constant supply of air elimates the need to incorporate your breathing technique into your training, which allows full focus to be placed on your arm movements.
If your coach has given you some pointers to work on, you can get in the water with a snorkel knowing you'll have the time to address those issues properly.
You can also slow your swim down during this work, which also helps when fine tuning technique, and bring up your stroke rate gradually.
Improved head position and body alignment
Wearing a training snorkel is a really useful way of helping to keep your head in the correct 'neutral' position when swimming.
It can help you get comfortable in that neutral face-down position and iron out those bad habits of looking ahead or sideways.
"A lot of the swimmers I work with, their heads are up too high," said Dave Scott of FINIS. "They look like a periscope, and it drops their hips down and puts a lot of stress on their lower back. If they have a weak kick, they end up swimming like a mermaid."
It's particularly true of freestyle, and specialist products such as the FINIS Freestyle Snorkel have been designed specifically for this purpose.
They have a curved shape to assist with freestyle technique, and they empasise proper head alignment (if you're out of alignment, they will dip below the water level).
Training snorkels can be easily and effectively used for drills for any of the four main swimming strokes, even backstroke!
By encouraging a neutral head position and a horizontal body position, you'll soon get the feeling for this correct position and can teach your body and mind that this is the normal shape for swimming.
Stronger kicking technique
A training snorkel can be a very useful alternative to a kickboard when working on your kicks during a training session.
By using a snorkel instead of a kickboard, you'll be able to combine your kicking practice with the arm and shoulder movements of your usual swim stroke.
You can kick in a streamlined position for maximum focus on speed, or swim with your arms by your sides while simulating your shoulders and hips' rolling motions.
Bob Bowman, the long-time coach of Michael Phelps, said he's started using training snorkels for kick work. He explained: "I've recently got into using snorkels quite a bit when they're kicking, because that allows their head, neck and spine to be in a more natural swimming position.
"We'll use it with arms by their sides they can do rotational kicking. We also use it during pulling, because it keeps their head in line and they can really focus on technique."
Additional stability for your swim
One of the common bad habits swimmers can pick up is the tendency to move their head at the same time as their core, which usually should only be done when breathing.
Wearing a snorkel will force you to keep a straight head. If you continue to move your head from side to side, the tip of your snorkel will submerge in the water.
Both Bob Bowman and Dave Scott highlighted this issue as one of the instant benefits they spot when seeing a swimmer use a training snorkel.
"The thing that I think is best about it is the stability," said Bowman. "There's no side to side movement from when the athlete is swimming."
Scott added: "The advantage is that it keeps your head down and keeps it calm. If your head is nice and still, it also negates some of the wiggle that you get on the back end."
Improved lung capacity and cardiovascular strength
Many coaches will introduce what's known as a 'cardio cap' to snorkel training. This fixes onto the top of the snorkel's tube and limits the amount of air that is let in.
The purpose of this is to give the lungs an increased workout. It's known as hypoxic training, forcing stronger inhaling and exhaling to develop a deeper and more efficient breathing technique.
For the same reason, some swimmers have even been known to wear a training snorkel during their dry-land workouts!
5 of the Best Training Snorkels for Swimmers
FINIS Swimmer's Snorkel
The original centre snorkel from FINIS is still going strong as one of the best and most popular on the market.
FINIS were the first company to create and patent a centre-mount snorkel, and have continually developed the product to combine performance and comfort.
The FINIS Swimmer's Snorkel has a comfortable and quick-adjust head bracket, which delivers stability and stays firmly in place during all drills and flip turns. It is available in two sizes, for adults or juniors.
FINIS Freestyle Snorkel
The FINIS Freestyle Snorkel has been developed for swimmers who want to focus on improving their freestyle or front crawl.
It features a new curved design to promote a lower head position and correct body alignment. Not only does this allow the swimmer to focus entirely on technique, it also eliminates any strain on the neck, back and shoulders.
Much like the FINIS Swimmer's Snorkel, this freestyle snorkel has a soft and comfortable silicone mouthpiece along with quick-adjust head straps.
MP Michael Phelps Focus Snorkel
The MP Michael Phelps Focus Snorkel is the latest snorkel to come from the collaboration between Phelps and coach Bob Bowman.
It has been designed to reduce drag and offer easy breathing, while increasing cardiovascular strength and lung capacity.
The lightweight Focus features tough but easy-to-adjust straps, and a new 'comfo-bite' mouthpiece design which helps to prevent jaw fatigue by reducing the need to bite down heavily on it.
Arena Swim Snorkel Pro
The most advanced product in the Arena training snorkel range is the Arena Swim Snorkel Pro, which continues the success of their original snorkel.
Designed with the intermediate or advanced swimmer's needs in mind, this professional version delivers exceptional stability even at high speeds.
To assist with comfort and performance, the Swim Snorkel Pro comes with two sizes of silicone mouthpieces along with two different resistance tops so you can vary your cardiovascular workout.
Jaked Frontal Snorkel
The Jaked Frontal Snorkel is another really popular choice due to its performance and comfort.
It is easy to wear and helps to lower the position of the swimmer's head naturally while providing a full range of motion and perfect stability.
If you're not at an official swimming club training session, we'd always recommend checking with your local pool before taking your snorkel in with you. Many swimming pools forbid the use of snorkels during public swim sessions.