If you’re like most swimmers, you LOVE your pull buoy. It’s the first piece of equipment to get stuffed into your mesh bag, and you love it when Coach assigns a long, hypoxic pull set. But there are other ways to use your favorite piece of equipment. KICKING is just one of them.
Why Do It:
Dolphin kick with a pull buoy has benefits for every level of swimmer. If you’re just learning butterfly, dolphin kick with a pull buoy is great because it allows you to work on some important parts of the stroke without having to worry about SINKING or how TIRED your arms are. You also don’t have to worry about synchronizing the movements of your arms and legs. The pull buoy holds you up a little bit, and allows you to focus on how you’re moving your torso. Using the pull buoy almost forces you to swim with your body rather than with your legs. If you kick from the knees when you do this drill – rather than using your whole body – you’ll know it immediately. (And your coach will know it, too, because you’ll be making a huge splash.)
For more advanced swimmers, dolphin kicking with a pull buoy helps you zero in on how you’re holding your feet and toes, and makes you aware of how foot position affects your forward motion.
How To Do It:
1. Hold your pull buoy between the thighs, just as you would for a pull set. You’ll find that, for kicking, a one-piece pull buoy (such as the Zura Team Pull Buoy) is a little easier to hold in place than a two-piece pull buoy.
2. Push off on your stomach with your arms extended, and start dolphin kicking. You’ll find it easier to dolphin if you separate the hands slightly, rather than holding them together in streamline. Kick from your sternum (your breastbone) rather than from the knees.
If your feet come WAY out of the water, and if you make a huge kerPLUNK and splash on each kick, you are probably kicking from your knees. Try to kick without bending your knees. Try to kick with your entire body. Try to keep your feet from coming too far above the surface.
3. Once you’re kicking from the sternum rather than the knees, turn your attention to your feet. Try to keep them pointed at all times during the kick cycle. With the toes pointed, let your body motion simply DRAW the feet up to the surface. Then keep the toes pointed and kick downward without a lot of splash.
4. Be patient. Kicking with a pull buoy can feel awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, you may find that it lets you experience some breakthroughs in this very demanding stroke. It may take one or two practice sessions for this to happen.
5. Finally, swim whole-stroke butterfly, but with the pull buoy still in place. Again, focus on swimming with your entire body, rather than from the knees. And pay attention to how you’re holding your feet. The pull buoy will give you just enough buoyancy to work on these things without getting too tired.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
1. Keep your body rhythm steady. Think about using your body to etch a sine wave or radio wave through the water.
2. When you need air, make it quick. Don’t let the breath interrupt your body rhythm. Take a quick scull, keep your eyes directed down at the water during the breath, and get your eyes and head right back into a streamlined position after the breath.
3. Try not to use your hands too much.
4. Try to drive forward from the chest, rather than from the knees. Think SMOOTH and SHALLOW. Think FORWARD.