According to Active, you can use these tools to make your swimming workouts more interesting. They can even help you improve your skills! So don’t miss out!

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.


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


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 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.


Kickboards are another staple of the competitive swimming world. Newcomers should occasionally work butterfly and breaststroke kick in addition to the usual freestyle. When you use fins, kick hard so it becomes aerobically challenging instead of just a gentle cruise up and down the lanes. For veterans, different kinds of sets can include pushing off the wall and trying to go the entire length of the pool underwater with the kickboard. If you cannot go the entire distance, come up and sprint kick the rest of the way.

Newbie set: 1 x 25 easy + 1 x 25 hard, 2 x 25 easy + 2 x 25 hard, 3 x 25 easy + 3 x 25 hard, 4 x 25 easy + 4 x 25 hard.
Veteran set: Increase your kickboard work to as much as 30 percent of the workout if working on speed and surges for open water swims.

Alternatively, you can try vertical kicking. Hold your kickboard above your head as you kick vertically in the water. In this position, keep your back straight and your knees as straight as possible. Kick vertically for 30 to 60 seconds trying not to move forwards or backwards. You will have to kick hard in order to stay in place and keep your mouth above the surface of the water.

More: Use fins in your warm ups



Fins are a great way to work your legs while improving ankle flexibility. They also help correct any cross-over kick you may have. Ankle flexibility is a key element in being able to generate propulsion from your kick and is usually a very important area to work on for newcomers, especially for runners and cyclists. Fins come in a variety of sizes and shapes: Longer, stiffer fins are good for beginners while shorter, softer fins are generally better for the experienced crowd. If needed, use socks to help reduce chaffing. Later in the workout, you can also use the socks for finless sprints. The socks will force you to kick harder and focus on your up-kick.

Set for newbies and veterans alike: You can do the same sets with fins as you do without fins, but the pace and intervals should be significantly faster. If your pace is 1 minute per 50 without fins, try to kick at 45 seconds per 50 with fins. If your interval is 2 minutes per 100 without fins, try a 1:30 interval with fins.

Of course, there is a variety of other equipment at your disposal: Waterproof MP3 players are great for keeping you entertained, especially on those days you just want to swim smoothly and listen to your favorite turns. Mirrors at the bottom of the pool are helpful reminders of what your form looks like. Swim parachutes and stationary cords that are hooked to one side of the pool while you sprint to the other side are great for stroke work and developing speed. Underwater pace clocks to put at the bottom of your lane line are great so you can always keep track of your pace.

One thing’s for sure: Gone are the days of swimsuits and goggles being the only pool equipment you need. Now there are plenty of tools to help you improve.

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