This may be seen as more rant than drill, and some will like it, and some will not. Either way, the pull buoy is what it is… a useful piece of swim equipment.
Why Do It:
Why use a pull buoy? This wonderful piece of equipment, used by every elite swimmer since the inception, was invented by Fred Carbonaro in Birmingham, Michigan. Its purpose is simple… to help swimmers achieve a better body position in the water, and isolate the arms for work on the pull.
How to Use It:
1. We’ll stick with the basics here… snug it up between your thighs. Keep it high so the thickest part of your legs will get a good grip.
2. Uh… that’s it. Ingenious huh? A piece of equipment so simple in its design that almost no instructions are needed.
How to Use It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Here’s where we get into its new name, "The Crutch." The longer I’m in the sport, the more people I hear hating on the pull buoy. I’d first like to know what Olympic swimmer hasn’t used one. That being said, obviously, Olympic swimmers aren’t the ones people complain about. It’s masters swimmers and triathletes. It’s the "purists" who argue that if you use a pull buoy, you’re doing the sport a disservice… you’re cheating, and you’re not learning to swim like THEY want you to learn to swim. Does it make you feel better in the water? Tough… don’t use it. Does it teach you what your body position will be if you’re a wetsuit user in open water? Tough… you need to learn how to swim without it, no matter how uncomfortable or how pointless training with horrible body position is.
As a swimmer, a swimming professional, and a pretty laid back person who just wants people to enjoy the sport, I say… lighten up on the pull buoy. I use one just about every time I climb in the water. I swim for enjoyment… I want to feel good.
Before we all start slamming the pull buoy, let’s understand first what the goal of the swimmer is, what their ultimate race situation will be like, and if it’s really our place to determine how someone else should spend their time in the water. I, for one, am generally happy when people come to the pool. If they choose to use a tool… cool.
PS – If you don’t think I understand the importance of teaching proper swimming technique… look at the 1000+ videos we’ve created here at GoSwim. This is more about our attitude as swim professionals to dictate to those who may be in the sport for something other than Olympic medals, and fastest swims. Crazy, I know.