How To Get The Benefit Of A Pull Buoy Without Using One

We know that many swimmers and triathletes (particularly triathletes!) love their pull buoy as it helps improve their body position in the water, bringing their legs up high towards the surface.

Of course any swimmer will benefit from a high body position in the water as it reduces your drag significantly, even if you don't particularly like swimming with a pull buoy. So how do we recreate the pull buoy effect in your stroke without having one in place? Believe it or not, it's actually very simple.

When you swim your body pivots around your centre, a bit like a see-saw:

The extra buoyancy of a pull-buoy pulls your legs up but as you pivot around your centre it also drops your chest slightly lower, bringing you more horizontal in the water.

This pivoting effect means you can actually achieve the exact same thing by reducing the buoyancy in your chest. If you can do that then your chest will sink slightly lower and your legs will come upwards in the exact same way as if you were using a pull-buoy.

How to reduce the buoyancy in your chest? Learn to exhale smoothly into the water to get rid of the CO2 from your lungs as you swim. You could do this continuously between taking breaths. It's no co-incidence that the worst sufferers of sinky-leg-syndrome are also those who hold onto their breath the most vigorously!

Putting Some Numbers On It

The average lung capacity of an adult male is 6 litres and for an adult woman around 4 litres. You're not going to reduce the air in your lungs to zero with a good exhalation technique but you do have the scope to easily exhale 1-2 litres of air which will reduce your chest's buoyancy by 1-2kg (or 10-20 newtons to be technical!).

A normal sized pull buoy has a buoyancy of around 1.5 kg (or 15 newtons), so you can see that the power of a good exhalation technique is similar to that of a pull buoy when it comes to your body position.

How To Exhale

Exhaling into the water between breaths is harder than you might think if you haven't tried it before as we all have a strong instinct to hold onto our breath underwater. The key to a good exhalation technique is to relax and feel like you are sighing into the water either through your nose or mouth, whichever you prefer. Imagine you've had a hectic day at work and you come home and collapse on the couch letting out a big sigh of relief - that's exactly how your exhalation should feel. Don't try and force it out, just let it go smoothly.

Traditional advice given to swimmers has been hold onto your breathe as is increases your buoyancy. Yes it does but as we have seen it does so in the wrong place. This might work for a sprinter kicking very hard over 50 or 100m as the strong kick creates lift in itself but for distance swimmers, a long smooth exhalation into the water is absolutely key to improving your balance and body position in the water.

HUUB Wetsuits

We applied this same principle when designing the new HUUB wetsuit range. For those with low sinking legs we maximised the buoyancy in the legs but actively reduced the buoyancy in the chest in the '3:5' suits. This lifts your legs up with twice the push of a normal wetsuit because of the see-saw effect. If you suffer from low lying legs in the water take a close look at the 3:5 Archimedes and Aerious models, you won't believe the difference in speed they will give you!

If you already have a good body position in the water you will find the '4:4' (men's) and '3:3' (women's) profiles maintain your balance and give you a much more natural feel than any other wetsuit. It's all about choosing the right suit to match your individual stroke.

Don't comprise any longer:

Swim Smooth!


Ken said...

Does you head position not also play a part in your body position?

Adam Young said...

Hi Ken,

Yes it does, lowering your head will help bring your legs up but there are some quite significant disadvantages with doing so. It makes developing a good catch technique harder and it makes swimming straight in open water a lot tougher.

So, we recommend working on the other areas first to improve your body position and use lowering your head as a last resort.

Hope that answers your question!


David Wendkos said...

Another way to describe an ideal exhalation is to hum. Literally. Humming causes the mouth to close, but over time, as the swimmer becomes more comfortable with the action, they will find they can comfortably open their mouths again. The immediate effect this causes is a steady exhalation at a reasonable pace, and can really help develop the proper pattern.

An alternative for those who are willing to forego the ego sometimes involved is performing the same drill kids are often taught: bobs. By simply standing in chest deep water and working on slow exhalations under water and coming up for a relatively quick single inhalation, then immediately submerging to begin the next relaxed exhalation, and continuing this for several cycles, the swimmer can help program their breathing patterns, making it much easier to perform the process while swimming.

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