A Guide on Swimming Equipment For Beginners

A Guide on Swimming Equipment For Beginners

If you’re new to swimming, either as an athlete looking to improve race times or a fitness swimmer that wants a more efficient stroke, the myriad devices claiming to help you improve can be daunting. And if you’re just getting started, many of these contraptions aren’t actually necessary! In this swimming equipment guide, we’ll introduce a few of the most important swim training accessories that will give you the biggest gains, with minimal investment.

Building Strength with Swim Fins

When you first start swimming, you might notice your energy tapering off quickly. This may simply be the result of an inefficient stroke. But another likely culprit is a lack of strength in key muscle groups that are crucial for new swimmers to develop. Though swimming requires the use of nearly every muscle group in the body, the upper legs and shoulders are pivotal in ensuring an effortless stroke. A pair of swim fins expands the surface area of the feet, requiring more strength and energy to kick, but delivering far more propulsion. Plus, working out the upper legs (which make up nearly 60% of the body’s musculature) generates a huge influx of naturally-occurring Human Growth Hormone (HGH) that subsequently leads to stronger muscles throughout the body.

Though swimming with fins might wear you out at first, they ultimately provide a solid strength foundation for beginning swimmers. Choose a short-blade design which allows for a fairly quick kicking tempo. Avoid long blade fins that are designed for snorkelers. Not only will short-bladed fins enhance your legs’ strength, they’ll also promote an elevated hip position – meaning your body position will be more streamline.

Isolating the Legs with a Kickboard

Difficulties faced by new swimmers almost always include a feeling of uncertainty or franticness when combining the arms, legs, and breathing into one smooth action. If you find yourself fumbling with merging the three, try removing one of the movements and practicing the other two in isolation. With the addition of a kickboard, you can focus on the lower body and head position without having to consider arm movement. Look for a board on the smaller side or one with low-buoyancy to reduce shoulder strain and promote a “downward” angle with the arms and head. Even with a kickboard in hand, you can still practice the timing of your body’s rotation and breathing without involving the arms.

Isolating the Arms with Pull Buoys

Conversely, a pull buoy redirects focus to the upper body and gives the legs much-needed respite. Not only will your concentration be fixed on your catch, pull, and rotation, but your hips will be positioned higher in the water as well, creating a more favorable streamline. Use a pull float cautiously the first time. As the name suggests, it will buoy the legs significantly and instantaneously which can be a little jarring for first-time users. While a buoy with straps might seem like a good idea in theory, you’ll want to seek a strapless version that will release easily when you’re ready to rest.

Focusing on rotation with a Swimmer’s Snorkel

The use of a simple swimmer’s snorkel means you can keep your head in the water and remove the breath component from the equation. Different from a side-mounted snorkel designed for snorkelers, a swim snorkel features a center-mount design that allows you to maintain an ideal head position without adding drag or impeding arm movement. If you’re learning the front crawl (or freestyle, as competitive swimmers call it), look for a snorkel design with a low tube that arcs close to the head. This allows for body roll without taking on water, and allows you to practice proper rotation without worrying about breathing. Other swim snorkels are constructed with a more standard straight-tube design, which is best suited for breaststroke and butterfly practice.

Achieving Body Position Perfection

A perfectly streamlined body position calls for your head, shoulders, hips, and feet to be aligned just under the surface of the water. If your hips and legs are too low, you’re creating extra work for yourself. Imagine a teeter-totter in action: as one side rises, the opposite side falls. The same applies to your body in the water. To avoid this “sinking leg syndrome”, try to imagine swimming downhill as you stroke. Just like the teeter-totter, angling your head down farther means your legs will come up higher, and vice versa. Most importantly, keep your head position solidly intact as you swim. Even when you emerge to breathe, your head’s angle should maintain its top-forward, straight-spine position. If you’re swimming the freestyle, you’re rolling your body, not lifting your head; if you’re swimming the butterfly or breaststroke, you’ll be using the force of your arm-stroke to lift the head and shoulders from the water without tilting the neck upward.

Aside from the obvious and essential swimming equipment; a swimsuit, goggles, and possibly a swim cap, the few items listed above should be all you need to start noticeably improving your stroke and lap times. Finally, stay safe! Please make sure that you never train alone, especially when trying out new equipment. If you have any questions about the gear in this post, please feel free to ask in the comments below!

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