How to Train with a Pull Buoy

Pink and blue Pull buoy floating abandoned in swimming pool lonely against square tile floor and building silhouette.

Swimming endless laps aren’t the only way you or your children can work out when you go swimming. By using some basic tools, you can focus your workout on specific body parts and muscle groups. The most common tool is a kickboard you hold onto and kick. The kickboard’s next of kin is the pull buoy.

What Is a Swimming Pull Buoy?

A swimming pull buoy is a molded piece of foam you hold between your legs. Most buoys are shaped to fit with a thinner section you put between your legs and then two rounded pieces on the top and bottom. 

Where Do I Wear a Pull Buoy?

The best place to wear your pull buoy is above your knees around the top of your thighs, close to your groin. If you place it lower you won’t get the support you need and it can cause bad body positioning while you swim. 

How Can I Use a Pull Buoy in My Workout?

Pull buoys are useful tools as part of your workout, since they help you focus on your arms and shoulders while keeping your legs from sinking. Here are a few drills you can use with swimming pull buoys to give your time in the pool the extra punch you’re looking for. 

200m IM Pull

The individual medley (IM) involves all four race strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle). Doing a 200m IM pull drill means doing one lap (50m) of each stroke with nothing but your arms without stopping. If 200m is too long of a distance for you, consider switching to a 100m IM pull drill, and working your endurance up to 200m. 

100m Pyramid Pull

Pyramid drills start with the shortest length you can swim (25m) and build up from there, taking a break between each set. For a 100m pyramid, you will swim 25m, 50m, 75m, 100m and then work your way back down the pyramid length swimming a 75m, 50m, and 25m.

50mx4 Sprint Pull

For some, using a pull buoy will feel easier than swimming. It rests their legs and they are able to use only their arms. To avoid comfortably splashing along while using a pull buoy, sprint drills can keep you up to speed. Push yourself at about 80% of your effort with a pull buoy for 50m to set your time. Then, swim under that time four times taking only thirty seconds between each set. This will force you to push yourself and get the most of your pull sets.

What Strokes Work Best with a Pull Buoy?

Freestyle and backstroke are the easiest strokes to use with a pull buoy. While these strokes work your entire body, there is no set rhythm or movement between your legs and arms so it’s possible to work only your arms or legs separately from each other. 

The butterfly is a difficult stroke to use only your arms. A major part of the butterfly is utilizing your entire body to create the rhythm of the stroke. Your arm movement is the start of the butterfly dolphin kick and it can be hard to stop that movement in the rest of your body. 

Breaststroke is very hard to use with a pull buoy. The major force of your stroke comes from your legs, and your arms are primarily used to take a breath and to get the most from your kick. It’s not impossible to swim breaststroke with a pull buoy, but it will seem uncomfortable and awkward at first. 

Learning how to use a pull buoy can be tricky on your own. Children can also use a pull buoy but will need one in a size suited to them to help them balance correctly in the water. If you need help or have any questions about what drills you can use as part of your workout, contact Swim Jim today. Our experienced trainers will be able to help you learn more about your stroke and how to be stronger and faster in the water.