Addicted To Your Pull Buoy? OK Let's Strike You A Deal

Yeah we hear from guys like you all the time: I'm much faster with a pull buoy and I find myself reaching for it all the time. Is this a problem? I hate swimming without it and I'll be racing in my wetsuit which also brings my legs up.
Do you never go to the pool without it?

To which we reply: Yes you should ween yourself off it because it's just masking a poor body position. To get your legs up you need to develop your leg kick technique and you can't do that while using a pull-buoy. Also, swimming with it is so much easier you can de-condition aerobically.

But we know that many of you ignore that advice and continue to reach for your pull buoy whenever things get challenging. If that's you, let's strike a deal with you:

Here's the new rule:

Whenever you swim with your pull-buoy you have to breathe bilaterally (either every 3, 5 or 7 strokes).

Given the type of swimmers who are addicted to pull-buoys, it's unlikely you would breathe bilaterally out of choice. But the pull buoy makes bilateral easier for any swimmer, so that's the compromise we'll make with you.

Bilateral is good for your swimming because:

- It helps you develop even body rotation to both sides.
- It helps you develop your catch because you are only breathing 1 in 3 strokes on each arm.
- It reduces the likelihood of a crossover in front of your head, particularly when breathing.
- It reduces the likelihood of a scissor kick developing.
- It helps you develop a better exhalation technique underwater.
- You will swim straighter in open water.

More on why bilateral is so beneficial here:

So if you find yourself reaching for that pull-buoy when the going gets tough, tell yourself "OK foam friend, bilateral it is". That's the deal.

Some further thoughts:

- A pull buoy makes bilateral easier but so does a wetsuit (even more so in fact) so make sure you breathe bilaterally in open water too.

- Is you get used to it with the pull buoy, introduce bilateral in your normal (non-pull buoy) swimming too, the more you can do this the better.

- Keep trying to ween yourself off the pull-buoy for all the reasons we mentioned above. As your swimming improves, swimming without it will get progressively easier.

- Consider using buoyancy shorts as an alternative to swimming with a pull-buoy. They are a little harder to put on and take off but buoyancy shorts allow you to swim with your full stroke, develop your leg kick and keep aerobic condition in your kicking muscles. We discussed this previously here:

Swim Smooth!


pjp said...

I still find it easier to use a pull buoy, even though I have no problem with bilateral breathing without the pull buoy. But I do know my leg kick technique is not great.

Do you have some advice for developing leg kick technique?

I train in a pool that does not allow fins. Without fins, many of the Swim Smooth drills such as 6-1-6, 6-3-6, Broken Arrow, etc. don't develop kick strength to nearly the same extent as they would if I could use fins. Realizing this, I have recently included some kick board drills into my training sessions. Do you have any other suggestions? If kick board is the best way to go, how many meters of kicking should I include in a 3000m session?

Jonathan said...

Hi - your plans on the guru still make extensive use of Pull Buoys - is this something you will change? I use a PB when I want to concentrate on my catch, including when Skulling. What’s preferred?

Jonathan said...

Hi - your Guru plans make use of the Pull Buoy, especially for skulling. Are you planning to change this?

lenchaston said...

I am a pull-buoy lover. Not addicted, but I love pull-buoy sets, and if I am not keeping pace I will put on the pull-buoys during the rest and then be able to keep up. Good for when I have missed a few sessions.
But what I want to know is why do they make such a difference and what I can I do when I am swimming without them to help get my butt up? I am a hopeless kicker - toothpick legs and no endurance out of my quads or hamstrings.
Body position? Push my shoulders down - swim downhill? What else?

Jan said...

My coach is very big on 'fists' ie swimming with our hands closed. Using the pull buoy with fists will put the emphasis on balance and full body swimming as opposed to paddling along with your hands. I find a few laps like this set my swim up nicely - it's not easy but very helpful. Definitely removes the addiction factor too!

Adam Young said...

Hi pjp, actually we don't use fins with side kicking / 6-1-6 for strength but to give good propulsion so you can focus on the purpose of the drills. Is there a time slot at your pool that allows fins? Or another local pool that does? Even if it's a little further to drive, it's worth going to a pool that allows fins once a week so you can perform the drills correctly.

To tune up your leg kick you need to follow the following process, available with either a pro or standard Guru subscription:

Hi Jonathan, using a pull buoy for sculling and doggy-paddle is absolutely essential - using one there doesn't fall into the category of pull-buoy addiction! We're talking about swimmers who use them all the time for the training sets too (e.g. CSS/Red-Mist).

Hi Lenchaston, there's no one thing that will bring your legs up but a collection of them: Kicking technique (not strength!), exhalation technique, not lifting the head to breathe, flexibility - all can be worked on and improved. To do that you need this process in the Guru:

Hi Jan, fins with bilateral breathing hopefully??! Fists is a good drill - try not to tense up the forearms and shoulders too much and stay relaxed.

Adam Young
Swim Smooth

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