How To Use a Pull Buoy (For Triathletes)

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Previously, we talked about how to correct sinking legs

You may have noticed that we left off using a pull buoy because while using one definitely does raise your legs, it is a more of a crutch and does not solve the root causes of bad body position. 

However, that does not mean you should never use a pull buoy. In fact, it can be an effective tool to make you a stronger and faster swimmer.

Like all tools and more specifically, pool toys, pull buoys have their time and place but when used improperly can hurt more than they help. 

The main purpose of a pull buoy is to immobilize and support your legs so that your arms do all of the work to propel you forward. They also help with hip rotation because you are constantly aware of how your legs move and if they have an lateral movement when you swim (i.e. you can feel your legs move instead of remaining steady).

Before starting to use a pull buoy make sure that you have fixed your upper body position. If your lower body sinks, then you need to fix the root cause of that before moving on. 

You also want to make sure that your shoulder strength is fairly sound. Many people who have had swimming related shoulder problems complain that a buoy puts too much strain on their shoulders. If you have a chronic history of shoulder pain, skip the pull buoy, spend some extra time doing drills to strengthen the rotator cuffs, and consider using Zoomers-style fins in place of buoys for a while.

Once you have fine tuned the proper swim form, you can start to incorporate the pull buoy. But do not rush into 1000m repeats quite yet! 

When first starting out, only do a few sets because you do not want to go back to old bad swim form habits. Instead, start with 200-300m during your warm up to activate your arms and focus on a good strong catch and pull, then gradually progress into including a main set of 5-10x200m in addition to your other main set.

Even though people use a pull buoy to keep their legs up, their legs still flutter kick slightly which defeats the purpose of isolating your arms. Therefore, try binding your feet together with an inner tube or laundry loop to further immobilize the legs.

Many people like to put the buoy between their knees, but by putting it between your ankles you become super-aware of the position of your ankles and whether your feet sway from side to side. If you try this out and find that your feet do sway, examine where your hands enter the water; you may be crossing over.

With the proper form and in adequate doses, the pull buoy can be an effective tool in making you a faster and stronger swimmer. 

Stay ahead of the crowd and build up your swim before the New Year! Start with our basic swim mastery program here: www.triswimcoach.com

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