Swim Training: Pull Buoy Basics

Learn how a pull buoy can help you become a better swimmer.

Learn how a pull buoy can help you become a better swimmer.

The pull buoy is a basic piece of swimming equipment used to improve a swimmer’s power. A buoy is typically held between the thighs to float the hips and legs at the surface of the water. The action of swimming with a buoy is called “pulling” because only the arms are used for forward momentum.

Triathletes can benefit from pulling during a workout (with or without hand paddles) to increase arm strength and upper body power. Any regular swimming set can be transformed into a pulling workout: long or short repetitions, fast or slow intervals, ladders or descending pace. Leg muscles consume significantly less oxygen while pulling, so hypoxic breathing sets can be easily incorporated. Athletes who still flutter kick with a buoy in place should use a band to strap their ankles together.

Using a pull buoy for more than one-third of total yardage, however, can be disadvantageous. Triathletes should train with naturally good body position in the water. Holding a buoy between the thighs or ankles causes swimmers to slightly arch their backs. This body position should be mimicked in regular swimming to keep the whole body horizontal at the surface, so use pull buoys only in moderation.

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