When I first purchased a swim tether to swim and train in my small backyard pool, I was very sceptical. Could swimming, while being tethered in a stationary position, feel the same as normal swimming?
At the time, I had zero access to any large body of water because of the 2020 Pandemic. I figured it was worth a shot to try and use a swim tether in my small garden pool and at least give it a try.
In summary, I found that swimming with a tether feels the same as regular swimming after about 20 minutes of practice. Initially, it is a bit weird as you are being pulled back, but once you find your flow, it feels amazing and really does feel like regular swimming.
In this article, I want to help explain what it feels like to swim with a tether and the hidden benefits I discovered from my experience.
From dealing with injury to improving power, it is a great option and you might find that you can complete an excellent swim workout without ever leaving your home.
What Is Tethered Swimming?
Tethered swimming is a practice where you swim while attached to a stationary object. This can be anything from a pool wall to a tree in your garden.
The swim tether, also known as a swim harness or swim cord, swim bungee or swim belt, is an elasticated bungee cord that has enough stretch to allow you to swim comfortably, while holding you in place.
You could say that tethered swimming is similar to a treadmill in running. You can swim comfortably, without actually going anywhere.
Does Swimming With A Tether Feel The Same As Swimming?
For the first few minutes, swimming with at tether feels weird.
It is strange to be held from behind as you swim, but after about five minutes you should be feel accustomed to the new sensation and after 20 minutes of continuous tethered swimming, you should feel right at home.
At this point, tethered swimming feels the same as normal swimming.
Getting to this comfort point where tethered swimming feels the same as regular swimming will take some adjustments to your swim tether.
If your swim tether is too high, lifting you out of the water, or too short or too long, it will not feel natural.
For me, once I found a swim tether setup that was comfortable, I found that swimming with a tether feels the same as regular pool swimming.
Keep adjusting your swim tether until you are comfortable and you do not even notice that you are tethered.
Is Tethered Swimming Harder?
Overall tethered swimming is not harder, but it does allow for the opportunity to increase your speed and endurance.
When we swim without a tether in a regular pool, the only mass we have to move is our own body weight.
As a result, you will not easily build muscle or “bulk up” while swimming. Swimming will make you stronger by improving what you already have and toning your muscles. [source]
With tethered swimming, as you are moving more than just your body weight, and swimming against the resistance of the swim bungee holding you in place, this offers the opportunity to increase your endurance and muscle tone far more quickly.
Just like using resistance bands, and slowly increasing the resistance in the gym, using a swim tether can allow you to increase the resistance you endure as you swim.
This will help you get stronger and build swim endurance.
What Are The Benefits Of Tethered Swimming?
1. Increase Endurance
Swimming with a tether can help increase your endurance.
Being tethered, you can maintain a consistent pace and rhythm without needing to stop and rest.
Additionally, tethered swimming can be a great way to work on your stamina. By swimming for longer periods of time in one spot, you can gradually increase your endurance and improve your overall swim performance.
2. Improve Technique
Tethered swimming can be a great way to improve your swim technique.
By staying in one spot, you can focus on your technique and make sure that you are performing each stroke correctly.
While tethered, you can quickly feel how you are pulling against the tether or if your body is not balanced as you swim.
This can be a great way to improve your overall speed and efficiency in the water.
3. No Pool Traffic
What I love about tethered swimming in my home garden pool is that I do not have to worry about other pool users or not getting to swim due to busy swim lanes.
With tethered swimming, you do not need a pool lane. You can swim for long periods of time in one spot.
4. Great Workout
Although swimming with a tether does feel the same as regular swimming, I have found that it gives my muscles a greater workout.
Since I am swimming against the resistance of the tether holding me in place, I am working my arms and legs more so than if I was not tethered.
You do feel this extra resistance on your muscles and if you try to push yourself and swim hard, you will certainly feel the results in your arm, stomach, and leg muscles.
5. Can Be Done At Home
Swimming with a tether holds you in place as you swim, therefore you just need a body of water that is deep enough and long enough for you to swim in.
This means that a small backyard pool could be suitable for tethered swimming, and you may never have to leave your home if you have such a pool.
To work out if your home pool is big enough for tethered swimming, I have covered this in greater depth in this article, What Is The Smallest Above Ground Pool Size For Swimming?
6. Increase Swim Speed
Swimming with a tether can actually help you increase your swim speed.
Being pulled back forces you to use more power to swim forward. This can be a great way to improve your speed and power.
What Are The Downsides Of Tethered Swimming?
The main downside of tethered swimming is that it can be quite boring after a while.
Swimming in the same spot can get a little monotonous, and you might find yourself looking for other ways to pass the time.
Second, setting up the swim tether to get an elasticated bungee cord with the right strength, right length and right height can take some time.
If you find that your swimming is being biased by your swim tether, for example, you feel it is lifting you out of the water, you will need to take some time and some experimentation to get the right setup for you.
How To Pick The Right Swim Tether?
When looking to purchase a swim tether, it is important to find one that is the right fit for you. There are a few things to consider when choosing the right swim tether:
1. Length Of Tether
Make sure the tether is long enough to allow you to swim in a comfortable position, yet not so long that you aren’t tethered effectively.
2. Bungee Cord Strength
Different swim tethers will have different levels of resistance in the bungee cord.
For example, some swim tethers will feel soft and elasticated with plenty of stretch, while others will feel more firm.
I like a fairly strong swim tether with softer rubber tubing to give a little bit of bounce.
You want the bungee cord to be strong enough to tether you in place, but also allow some room for movement.
3. Ankle Or Waist Tether
Typically, you can be tethered as you swim at one of two points: your waist or your ankles.
Some swim tethers will be attached to a harness that fits around your waist and some swim tethers will attach to bands that attach to your ankles.
Each type of tether has its pros and cons, but which option you should choose will depend on your personal preference.
Personally, I prefer being tethered at my waist, as I like my ankles free to kick naturally.
How To Deal With Boredom While Swimming?
While tethered swimming can be a great way to stay fit and healthy, it can also be quite boring if you don’t have anything to focus on.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with boredom while swimming:
1. Listen To Music Or Audiobooks
It is possible to listen to music or audiobooks as you swim.
Either by using underwater speakers or headphones that are waterproof.
To learn more about the different audio options available to you as you swim and how they work, I have covered this in greater detail in this article, Can You Wear Headphones When Swimming?
2. Swimming Drills
When swimming lengths in a full-sized pool, it’s easy to keep your mind active and distracted by thinking of technique, speed or talking with our watching other swimmers.
While swimming when tethered, being stationary can allow boredom to set in quickly.
Try some different swimming drills to keep things interesting.
Perhaps work on your leg muscles, arms strokes or try to see how hard you can swim while tethered.
It takes a very strong mind to just swim in one place for 40 minutes, so if you are hoping to get longer swim sessions in while tethered, have a think about mixing up your strokes or trying drills to help your technique.
3. Set Goals
Focus on your goals for the swim session and try to achieve them. This can help keep you motivated.
By setting goals for each tethered swim session, you can keep focused and reduce boredom.
I usually try to include a swim sprint or difficult challenge to keep my swim speed and power progressing.
Does Tethered Swimming Mess Up Your Technique?
I spent one-year using tethered swimming when local pools were not accessible during the 2020 pandemic.
My biggest concern was that my tethered swimming would mess up my swim technique. Would my swim technique have become worse by using a swim tether only?
In summary, I found that my swim technique did not suffer at all as a result of long-term swim tether swimming. In fact, I had become more powerful with greater speed as a result of tethered swimming.
Now that swimming pools are open again and I can regularly swim in a large public pool, I use a combination of swim tethering at home and regular lane swimming in a pool.
This combination allows me to experience the fun of being free in the water, but the extra strength and endurance training that swim tethered swimming offers.
Swimming with a tether is a fantastic way to swim in a small pool or build your swim speed and stamina.
I am so happy that I discovered tethered swimming, as it has greatly helped with technique and, in particular, speed.
Although it might seem strange at first and can take some time to find a setup configuration that works well, it is totally worth the effort.
Using a combination of regular swimming and tethered swimming is the best combination, and it is something that is certainly worth trying to progress your swimming or build strength in the water.
Swimming with a tether feels the same as regular swimming after about 20 minutes of practice. Initially it is a bit weird as you are being pulled back, but once you find your flow it feels amazing and really does feel like regular swimming.