Swimming Workout Essentials

swimming essentials

There is water in every lane, so it is okay. Ian Thorpe, of Australia and five-time Olympic Gold Medalist, on being placed into lane 5 (instead of the faster lane 4) as the second place qualifier for a final.

Swimming requires only the water and themselves, despite the numerous training aids and technologies accessible. Every swimmer will identify with the T-shirt that reads, “Instant swimmer: Just add water.” So, why do swimmers surround themselves with many toys and gadgets at the pool? 

Swimming coaches are constantly treading on kickboards, hand paddles, and other aquatic accessories. Many of these swimming extras are fantastic tools for meeting various needs in both learning and training. Swimmers should, however, understand why, when, and how to utilize each piece of equipment. This blog explores various pieces of training equipment and how they may or may not be appropriate for your program. Each swimmer has a distinct set of needs, so each swimmer’s toolkit is unique. As you choose your gear, keep your strengths, difficulties, and goals in mind. 

The Bare Essentials 

The swimsuit and its associated gear are considered the minimum necessities, referring to your personal-care requirements when swimming. Several of these items are required, while others are entirely optional. 


Following the water, the next obvious swimming necessity is a swimsuit. Choosing a suit is often the first significant step in beginning a swimming program for many people. When choosing a suit, the two most important factors are comfort and design that will minimize resistance as you move through the water. Competitive swimwear manufacturers provide a choice of sleek and comfortable swimsuit styles and shapes with varied degrees of support and coverage. However, whatever suit you are comfortable wearing to the pool is fine. 


Surprisingly, swim goggles were not designed for competition until the early 1970s. Previously, swimmers had to pick between wearing a bulky snorkel mask or having red chlorine eyes. Swim goggles have become an essential accessory that few would swim without several decades later. With so many size, fit, and style options available, you should have no trouble finding goggles that fit you. 

When shopping for goggles, search for a pair with a leakproof seal and a comfortable fit. Try on the goggles before purchasing them to ensure a proper fit. Remove the goggles from the container and, without using the strap, place them on your face with light pressure. They should be able to hold the suction for about a half-second before slipping off. Small-diameter goggles are best for swimmers with a narrow nose bridge or eyes that are deeply set, while large-diameter versions are best for those with a broader nose bridge. A twin-strap goggle distributes pressure more evenly, providing a better fit when moving in the water. 

Visibility is another important consideration when choosing goggles. Look for a pair that allows you to see out the sides and through the top goggles. 

If you can see in all directions, you won’t have to move your head out of alignment to notice other swimmers or the walls. Swimmers who utilize an outdoor pool during the day may prefer dark-tinted or mirrored lenses. 

Swimmers who swim indoors in the early morning or late evening hours will benefit from goggles that are lightly colored or transparent. Swimmers with poor vision can wear prescription or contact lenses under well-fitted goggles. 


A swim cap aims to keep long hair contained in a neat package on the head. Without a cap, hair drags through the water and might interfere with appropriate head position and breathing. Swimmers who experience cold water might consider using a swim cap. A swim cap worn in the water, like a hat in the winter, helps keep the entire body significantly warmer.

Swim caps do not keep hair dry or completely protect it from chlorine damage. Wetting your hair in nonchlorinated shower water before putting on your cap is the easiest way to keep it on while swimming. The water provides a tight fit and reduces your hair’s exposure to chlorine in the pool.

Swim caps, like goggles, come in various materials and styles. Most swimmers prefer latex or silicone caps for a secure and comfortable fit. The latex cap is the most affordable option but has the shortest life expectancy. Taking appropriate care of a latex hat will help it last longer. After swimming, properly dry the cap and stuff it with baby powder before storing it. Silicone caps are more expensive but last longer and require less maintenance. However, silicone caps stretch out and lose their secure fit with time.

Although a spandex cap appears to be a comfortable option for swimmers, it is far less effective since the fabric is porous, allowing water to pass through. In the water, this generates drag and resistance. These caps also have a shorter lifespan due to the pool chemicals stretching the spandex.

The many designs of neoprene caps provide additional insulation to swimmers in cooler environments, such as open water. To keep you warm, this style of cap must fit snugly.

Sun Protection

While swimming in the middle of the day, it is critical to protect your skin from sun damage. Choose a waterproof sunscreen and give your skin enough time to absorb it before becoming wet. Many swimmers prefer to wear an ultraviolet-protective rash guard. Remember that even the most form-fitting rash guard will increase drag in the water.


The kickboard, possibly the simplest and oldest training device, allows you to train your legs while keeping your head out of the water and resting your upper body on the board. Many instructors prefer that swimmers kick without the board since it does not mimic an optimal body position for swimming.

Many instructors prefer that swimmers kick without the board since it does not simulate an optimum swimming position. However, kickboards are quite useful for some applications.

A kickboard is an excellent teaching tool for beginning swimmers. It can assist you in relaxing and breathing easily while concentrating on kicking mechanics and listening to the coach. It’s also useful for practicing side breathing and one-arm stroking. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, leave the kickboard on the pool deck and concentrate on body position while incorporating the kick into stroke workouts.

The kickboard is used by freestyle swimmers for intense leg fitness sets. To integrate underwater practice and breath control, butterfly and breaststroke swimmers perform kicking sets without boards. Swimmers use the board creatively while kicking backstroke. The kickboard may appear to be a comfortable pillow, but it has a negative impact on your body position. If you have back or neck problems, utilize a kickboard with caution because it causes hyperextension of the body.

The kickboard is popular among master swimmers for socializing. There’s no better way to catch up with your teammates than to kick up the pool side by side while talking about your weekend plans.


A set of fins is possibly the most entertaining training apparatus in the kit. Fins can be used by all levels of swimmers, from beginners to experts, for everything from technique instruction to speed training.
Fins can be short, long, wide, or streamlined. They also come in a variety of sizes.

The blades of the shortest fins, which have a length of only 2 inches (5 cm), resemble long fins that have been severed. When the blade length is reduced, the fin’s entire function is altered. Longer fins provide more resistance, which allows swimmers to move more efficiently, consume less oxygen, and maintain speed.

While short fins still provide some water resistance, they necessitate a shallower kick, which increases the capacity to exert force with the legs. A greater sustained heart rate, better body posture, and faster swimming are all advantages of training.

Beginning swimmers frequently wear longer fins to get a feel for the right kicking technique. When wearing fins, they can concentrate on the energy flowing from the hips through the upper legs, knees, ankles, and feet. Swimmers also employ fins for kicking sets intended to improve stroke.

Swimmers with fins might focus more on technique than survival. It’s crucial to not rely on the fins to remedy poor body position but rather to accelerate a swimmer’s learning in a good position in the water.

Except for breaststroke, all full-stroke swimming techniques can use fins. Swimming with fins for extended periods is a fantastic rehabilitation exercise for swimmers who are exhausted from training or trying to work through shoulder pain. They maintain their technique while using fins, maintaining a long body line, and reducing resistance as they move through the water.

Additionally, swimmers frequently employ shorter fins to strengthen their legs and swim higher in the water during sprint sets.

When you are dry, look for snug-fitting, lightweight, and comfortable fins. The longest scuba fins prevent proper kick stimulation. Choose somewhat more extended and more flexible fins rather than the shortest ones if your ankles aren’t very flexible.

Occasionally, additional care must be taken when breaking in a new pair of fins. Using duct tape, petroleum jelly, and low-cut athletic socks can all help to keep the skin on your toes and foot safe. Some swimmers get around this issue by selecting fins composed of softer materials.


Hand paddles were first intended to enhance stroke efficiency. To prevent the paddle from falling off, swimmers had to maneuver their hands through the water with precise stroke mechanics. For stroke enhancement, most masters and fitness swimmers use hand paddles.

The size of a hand paddle can range from a fingertip to a dinner plate. Select a pair that is no larger than twice the size of your hand for the most stroke development. If in doubt, err on the side of caution; training with paddles that are substantial increases the risk of shoulder injury in swimmers.

Even though paddles will help you improve your stroke, regular use can lead to several issues. In addition to shoulder pain, swimmers who abuse paddles start to lose their sense of the water or their capacity to make even the slightest adjustments to their hand angle to enhance stroke efficiency. Look for a set of paddles with holes so you may use them to control the water’s flow across your hand’s palm.

When you swim with paddles, put safety first. Keeping the paddles in your bag might be advisable if other swimmers are in the lane or the channel is tight. If your freestyle recovery is slightly broad while wearing paddles, you risk hitting another swimmer.

Pull Buoys

Pull buoys are foam floats positioned between the legs to keep swimmers afloat while they concentrate on their arms. Usually, paddles are included with these pull sets for simultaneous use.

The pull buoy has its utility, but like all training tools, it is frequently abused. It becomes a simple solution for swimmers who are not well aligned in the water because it causes the lower body to float higher. The hips and legs would submerge if there were no pull buoy.

Some master swimmers are tempted only to use a pull buoy when swimming.

You can concentrate on setting stroke tempo by using your core during pull buoy training. Keep your legs straight behind your hips while rotating over your hand in the catch position with your core muscles. In your pulling sets, give stroke improvement a higher emphasis than speed.

Tempo Trainer

The tempo trainer is a little device that is a metronome and attaches to the goggle strap. You can adjust the beeper’s audible stroke cadence to your liking. It is an excellent tool for evaluating work across all strokes. Swim a brief series of 50-yard (50m) distances with the tempo set just over your comfortable training pace. Keep the exact stroke count for the entire set of 50-yard repetitions.

Pace Clock

Although it won’t fit in your swim bag, the pace clock is crucial for swimming workouts. It is a sizable digital or analog poolside clock placed so everyone swimming and the coaches on the deck can see it. The pace clock helps individual swimmers with timing and pacing and maintains everyone in sync during the session. We will go into more depth about the pace clock in one of our blogs about the pool exercises.


You no longer need to worry about skipping a swim session when traveling. Tethers that may be used anywhere, including in a tiny hotel pool, are currently produced by several companies. The waist-belting tubing of the tether keeps you stationary while swimming, even when making turns.


In practically every competitive swimmer’s toolkit lies this gem of a pool toy. Using a snorkel while swimming, you may concentrate on body balance, head, neck, spine alignment, and stroke mechanics without worrying about your breathing.

When purchasing a snorkel, seek a front-mount model for practicing swimming. These are more streamlined and better suited to maintain good head and neck alignment than typical snorkels.

More Gadgets …

Beyond the fundamental swim training equipment, you’ll discover that practically any device you can think of is available in stores. Heart rate monitors track your training levels; simple sport watches now take splits and feature a tempo trainer, and waterproof MP3 players keep you rocking as you swim. What technology do you need?

Swimmers are urged to train without a watch for a variety of reasons. Swim repetitions and rest periods should be timed in a group situation using a pace clock. The group is kept in sync during the training sets using one universal timekeeper instead of numerous individual watches.

Additionally, adding resistance to the water with a watch on your forearm will reduce the power of your strokes. A watch is a great tool for training in the open water when a pace clock is impractical.

The heart rate monitor is yet another widespread technological device. You can control your heart rate while exercising with this fantastic training invention, which will help you stay in the range your trainer or physician advised. The monitor uses a chest strap to measure heart rate and then displays the data on a wristband that resembles a watch. Options for computer download are among the features, which range from the simple to the complex. This is a fantastic tool if your doctor has instructed you to control your heart rate during exercise. It also shows you how to pace yourself more effectively during longer swim sets.

The waterproof MP3 players are best utilized when swimming alone, even though music is a fantastic motivator. They can be disruptive and difficult to communicate within a group situation. If you choose to swim to music during a lap swim program, pay close attention to who enters and exits your lane and those surrounding you.

For advanced swimmers, a vast array of software is available, from recording workouts to managing swim teams and events. Swimmers are encouraged to keep a training log to record their workouts in and out of the water, using whatever method suits them best: a traditional paper notebook, a straightforward spreadsheet, or a sophisticated software tracking program that runs on their home computer or palm-based device.

Finally, there are several top-notch swimming technique films with narration from several of the top coaches in the world. Bring the popcorn and your swimming buddies over to watch these movies. Nothing compares to creating mental images that you can relive while swimming. These videos are available for lending to USMS members through the group’s video loaner program.

The great thing about this extensive collection of training aids and games is that you may incorporate a highly specific and energizing training regimen into your workouts.

The best way to maximize the benefits of training is to develop a customized swim program using a combination of tools.

In the next blog post about pool workouts, you’ll learn how to use all these devices.







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