There aren’t many topics as divisive as the use of swim toys and the pullbuoy (PB) in particular. Let’s have a look at a balanced argument for and against the use of a PB in the swim training of triathletes:
- Allows specific focus on technical aspects of swimming such as head position, entry, catch etc…. without the need to maintain buoyancy.
- Reduces the effort of swimming by providing improved buoyancy and reducing leg kick (lower RPE for same pace or allows slower swimming without legs sinking). This may allow for the development of greater upper body muscular endurance through longer reps or for greater mindfulness on their stroke at the lower level of exertion. When you’re working hard just to stay afloat and or move forward then its very hard to think about your technique.
- Simply adding some PB repetitions will allow for daily/weekly swim volume to go up and we know that one of the cornerstones of improvement is simply swimming more metres.
- Allows for a true recovery swim inclusive of reduced leg fatigue, lower heart rate and RPE.
- Can become a psychological crutch; overly relied upon to maintain a good position and faster swim paces.
- Reduces the need to activate the core and utilise the fascial system to maintain good posture and buoyancy.
- Reduces rotation and leg kick (timing) which are hugely important in developing a better swim stroke (faster and more efficient).
- Can cause low back pain through its buoyancy effect resulting in prolonged arching of the lower back.
Should you use a PB in your swim sets? It depends BUT almost definitely yes in my opinion. Make use of it to enhance your swimming and not detract from it. For the ultimate pulling reps combine PB, paddles, ankle band and centre snorkel! Make use of all the kit occasionally. Consider however, if you’re overly relying on the PB, with an honest appraisal of your recent sessions.
Finally, consider swapping the PB for buoyancy shorts (kick pants). These provide most of the buoyancy needed but without the restriction to leg and torso movement. My favourite option.
Phil Ellison www.totaltritraining.com/phil-ellison