Training with a Pull Buoy: Friend or Foe?

Michael Butler
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The Benefits of Training with a Pull Buoy

A pull buoy is one of the most underrated, most misunderstood tools out there.

The truth is that this simple little tool can drastically improve your swimming in many ways.

When used properly and regularly, it will:

  • improve your overall strength,
  • aid in the prevention of swimming-related back injuries by strengthening your core and proper alignment of your torso in the water,
  • help you improve your stroke efficiency and technique,
  • build your endurance,

And improve your overall speed.

Then, of course, there’s the obvious extra resistance that it gives you, which gives you a solid calorie burn and helps you increase your leg and arm endurance.

In short: a pull buoy is one of the best investments you could make for your swimming.

The Pull Buoy: Foe at Large

You don’t like training with a pull buoy because you don’t want to feel like a sissy or wimp. And you know why? Because you’re used to working out at the local gym, where everyone else is super fit and strong.

The gym is a toxic atmosphere. You are not motivated. You are not encouraged.

If you are someone like me who has to swim to stay fit, I am generously giving you permission to slam that massive, pull buoy smack dab in the middle of the room so everyone knows you are fully aware of its presence and also the fact that you will use it sparingly.

When you put the pull buoy away after using it, be proud of yourself for being brave. You just did something that very few people would have the courage to do.

Now that you see the pull buoy as an important part of your fitness routine, I want you to know that it can actually be an ally. It can make your workout better and more efficient.

Using the Pull Buoy: Best Practices

The pull buoy is not the most popular training tool among triathletes. Many swimmers see it as a training aid designed for the recreational swimmer, not the competitive swimmer. However, there are swimmers who find a lot of value in the pull buoy and really appreciate the benefits that it provides.

Traditionally, the pull buoy was used in training to assist the swimmer with the main focus being on improving the power in the pull. However, the pull buoy is now being used by swimmers for various reasons including leading with the chest in front and to provide buoyancy and assistance with balance.

There are two main philosophies behind using a pull buoy, leading with the head, or in front of the body, and swimming with the head behind, feeling the water with your upper body.

Here are some tips for how to train with a pull buoy:

Use it sparingly. Swimming isn’t a sport that you should rely on tools for but if you can use a tool that will give you results with a minimal investment and impact on your training program, it’s worth doing.

The Takeaway

Over the past few years, pull buoys have gained a reputation as the ultimate piece of equipment for reducing drag and aiding stroke mechanics in freestyle swimming. Some of the most influential swimming coaches, Olympians, and collegiate swimmers have recognized the benefits of including pull buoys in their training, and are now using them regularly in their training routines.

A good chunk of the swimming community has been quick to endorse the pull buoy’s popularity, and feature them in training plans, movies and articles. While the evidence supporting their use is compelling, the pull buoy is far from being the face of swimming. There is still a sizeable portion of the community who don’t feel they have a place in a swimmer’s training.

The benefits of incorporating a pull buoy into your swimming workouts are real, as are the detractions. Before rushing out to buy one of your own, it’s a good idea to consider the pros, cons, and a few tips provided below.