Weird Equipment and How it Works

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Niki Urquidi, Swimming World College Intern

As the swimming world evolves, so does the training and racing equipment. While most – if not all – swimmers are familiar with the common fins, pull buoy and paddle routine, here is a list of a few pieces of equipment that may not be as commonly known but just as useful!

1. Band and Tube


Photo Courtesy: Niki Urquidi

These two odd pieces of equipment serve a similar purpose. Both are placed around the ankles of a swimmer to isolate the upper body. The difference is that the tire-like tube is inflated, thus holding up the swimmer’s legs and hips and making it a little easier to pull with than the band.

The tube varies from the use of a pull buoy in that it does not prevent the hips from over-rotating. As such, the tube helps to activate the swimmer’s glutes and core, thus strengthening and improving overall body-line and form. Swimming with a tube allows the swimmer to feel the correct hip position compared to how it feels to over rotate.

On the other hand, the band is a thick rubber band that holds the legs together in such a way that swimmers must use their core and hamstring strength to prevent their legs and hips from sinking in addition to keeping the hips from over rotating. Pulling with the band can simulate the added difficulty when they allow their legs to sink during a race, as their body position becomes less hydrodynamic.

Both of these ankle-restricters are extremely helpful to improve pulling and core strength. They are used by many college teams around the country, such as the University of Florida.

2. Dragsox and Parachute


Photo Courtesy: FINIS via Amazon

Resistance is key in building overall swim strength. Usually, this resistance is provided in the form of power towers or cords; however, the University of Miami subscribes to different resistance methods. They utilize parachutes and DragSox.

These socks are made of a mesh fabric with an adjustable elastic band at the top. Swimmers place the elastic around their ankle and let the mesh drape over their feet. With both socks on, kicking becomes more challenging, allowing the swimmer to work on building leg strength, ankle flexibility and kicking tempo. If kicking is not one’s strong suit, these socks will become your worst enemy.

The parachute is another great option to add resistance. A strap is belted around the swimmer’s waist with a small, cloth parachute extending from the end. Immediately after pushing off the wall, the swimmer can feel the parachute catching the water and resisting the body’s forward movement. It is a great tool to use for short sprints, as fatigue sets in quickly.

Resistance training is a great way to improve strength and stamina without compromising yardage or quantity. Simply adding one of these resistance tools – or even just adding a drag suit – to one’s swim wardrobe can drastically improve strength, power and speed.

For more information on DragSox and drills to use while wearing them, visit their website!

3. Snorkel Cap


Photo Courtesy: Niki Urquidi

Anyone who has used this small, plastic “cap of death” knows the added challenge it provides to any snorkel set. The cap is placed over the top of the snorkel to limit the amount of air a swimmer can breathe through the snorkel. It is useful for building lung strength and capacity; however, it should always be used under proper supervision and instruction.

Hypoxic training is important in swimming for many reasons and can have many benefits. It can help extend the fastest part of a swimmer’s race – the underwater kickout. Without adequate oxygen supply and lung functioning, a swimmer’s kickouts can be cut short, drastically reducing overall speed. Building lung strength helps to swim farther and faster underwater.

As for swimming speed and fatigue, not having enough oxygen or having weak lungs leads to increased heart rate, tighter muscles, and shallower breaths. Training one’s lungs and body to adjust to hypoxic conditions can result in  increased stamina and endurance; however, it should be monitored closely and individually to avoid danger. Click here for water safety tips regarding hypoxic training.

Note: Coaches and swimmers should take precautions to avoid shallow water blackouts when performing underwater drills. All training should be conducted by a certified and experienced coach. Coaches and swimmers who use these drills should do so at their own discretion.

There are many more interesting pieces of equipment that were not addressed in this article that are always worth checking out. Experimenting with equipment adds variety, and a little fun to every practice, as well as allows one to focus on specific elements of their stroke, and build strength in those areas individually!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.