Swim Club Blog: Pull Buoys, Bands & Floating Shorts!

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

Perhaps the most common issue with swimmers who come to the sport 'later in life' is balance in the water. In simple terms, their legs sink causing them to swim slowly, due to the extra drag. Some will say that those with sinking legs need to kick harder, but the reality is, they just need better 'balance'. Great swimmers will have legs which float on the surface, even without kicking. Great body position is about 'balance' in the water, not kicking. That's not to say that kick work is pointless, as kick work will help your core stability and lead to better balance, but in a long distance race, kicking hard is not recommended, especially if you have to bike and run afterwards!

The Easy Solution

There is an easy solution and that's the pull buoy. There are LOTS of age group swimmers and triathletes who swim almost all the time with a pull buoy for buoyancy. They will argue that they are working their arms more, or some will argue it mimics wetsuit swimming. The reality is simple, they're using a pull buoy because it's easier. It lifts their legs and they can swim faster.

Using The Pull Buoy Effectively

Open water swimming in a wetsuit does mimic pull buoy swimming to some extent. When wearing a wetsuit your legs will float and lot more and if your balance is ok, you can drag them behind you doing no leg work at all. This makes open water swimming very much an upper body sport.

We prescribe pull buoy swimming for many of the sessions in swim club, but you should always use it in conjunction with a BAND. This is simply a rubber loop which goes round your ankles, meaning that you can't kick your legs and only have the option to pull your legs behind you. Most people who use a pull buoy only, kick at the same time without realising it. So, in simple terms, if we ask you to use a pull buoy, then you should always be using a band at the same time.

What's The Downside Of A Pull Buoy?

A pull buoy should be used constructively, as above. It's a tool, used in conjunction with a band. It's not a crutch, to use all the time due to you having poor balance. If you use a pull buoy all the time, you never actually use your legs or pelvic region so they 'switch off'. This will make your balance even worse as you never actually train your legs or core, making the reliance upon the pull buoy even greater.

If you do struggle without a pull buoy, you may be better to use buoyancy shorts. This is a very simple idea, it's neoprene shorts which provide buoyancy, but they also allow you to use your legs normally, rather than clamping a piece of foam between your thighs. it doesn't give the same buoyancy as a wetsuit, but it's enough to give you benefit.

Go forth and pull correctly.

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Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store