Pull buoys, when used correctly, can greatly benefit a swimmer during training. Used to isolate a swimmer’s arms to focus on pull and arm training, pull buoys are placed between the legs, either at the thighs, knees, calves, or ankles.
Many arguments have been made over the years to prove the benefits of training with pull buoys, with these five reasons showing up consistently amongst the commonly-accepted:
1. Learn and Sustain Proper Body Position
Swimmers who stay high in the water, gliding across the surface are the fastest. When legs and feet drop, drag is dramatically increased. The use of a pull buoy keeps a swimmer’s body elevated, with feet at or just below the surface. The buoy does not allow for any sinking or dragging in the lower body.
There’s psychology behind using pull buoys for a more efficient body position. While training with pull buoys, swimmers can feel what it’s like to swim in the proper position, and will hopefully be able to transition that into their regular stroke.
2. Improve Breath Control
Pull sets are often used to work on breath control and breathing technique. Kicking can elevate a swimmer’s heart and respiratory rates, not leaving much energy to focus on how and when to breathe. Generally, a swimmer will use pull buoys during longer sets--the absence of kicking will leave a swimmer less winded and with more endurance.
Without oxygen-depleting kicks and legwork, a swimmer can focus on establishing a breathing pattern and building breath control to hopefully employ when legs are added back into the equation.
3. Focus on Technique
Another added bonus of cutting out the kick and saving energy is the ability to focus that energy on stroke technique. Arms can get sloppy while a swimmer is struggling to keep a strong, consistent kick. All of a swimmer’s focus can be devoted to improving arm speed and placement, making pull buoy sets perfect for practicing different drills.
4. Enjoy an Easier Workout While Still Building Upper Body Strength
Don’t be fooled--even though workouts will feel easier without the kick, swimmers can still get a great workout when using pull buoys. The complete focus on the arms and back will build upper body strength. The longer workouts that are possible by eliminating the kick also contribute to the upper body strength-building.
To really amp up an arm workout, swimmers can add paddles to their pull sets. Hand paddles increase water resistance and keep a swimmer’s hands in place as they pull, which can help build muscle, increase speed, and improve technique.
5. Concentrate on Arm Mechanics
As mentioned before, when using a pull buoy, a swimmer’s body can mimic proper positioning in the water. Some may not be able to achieve this while also kicking, so a pull set may be the only time a swimmer can focus on proper arm mechanics.
Swimmers using pull buoys can experience what it would feel like if they had a better kick and proper leg and hip placement, allowing their arms to fall into the proper place as well. Isolating the arms for drill work and stroke fundamentals is perhaps one of the most common uses of pull buoys.