How to Use a Pull Buoy To Improve Your Swim

  • Last Updated: July 1st, 2019

A Beginners Guide To Swimming With A Pull Buoy

Okay, so while it may look like a bit of a strange object to use, a pull buoy is actually a pretty simple piece of kit to use but an important one to master.

It’s long been a favourite piece of kit for swimmers as it encourages good form in the water and is fantastic for building arm strength.

How to Use a Pull Buoy

Normally you’ll find that the pull buoy has a “fat” end and a “skinny” end. As the fat end of the float delivers the greatest amount of buoyancy, you’re going to want to make sure that it rests against the front of your thighs.

Positioning can be a little tricky until you get it right but ideally, you should aim to grip the float with your upper thighs so that it sits just below your crotch.

A common mistake that we see many swimmers make is that they’ll hold it close to their knees, this causes your hips to drop and for the float to wobble when breathing resulting in poorer buoyancy.

Why Use A Pull Buoy for Swimming

For triathletes, a pull buoy does a good job at replicating how a triathlon specific wetsuit allows your legs to float in the water.

We’ve written previously about how many triathletes think they need to develop a powerful leg kick when in reality, even olympic swimmers only deliver around 10%-15% of their power from their kick!

Using a pull buoy allows you to properly develop a good technique, your arms drive you forward while your hips remain high in the water and your legs help to maintain stability.

It also helps you increase the efficiency of your upper body muscles which is important during a triathlon swim. Important as “over kicking” can see you leaving the water with jelly for legs!

The Dangers of Using A Pull Buoy

Okay, so the danger is a bit too strong of a word, however, using a pull buoy all the time could potentially worsen your stroke!

Shortens Your Stroke

While a pull buoy is great for a lot of things, one part of your stroke that will suffer from overuse of a pull buoy is the length.

A good stroke is driven partly from the hips and by immobilizing your hips, you lose some of the length.

Becomes A Crutch

When you use this float during your sets, it’s designed to give you a feel for where your hips sit in the water, not to become a crutch, an excuse to let your hips drop.

Limits Core

Swimming is phenomenal for your core, your muscles are in constant use to stabilize and balance you in the water.

When you add an aide, you reduce the amount of work that your core has to to do keep you balanced and swimming in the right position.


Personally, we’re huge fans of using a pull buoy in some of our swimming session. If your looking for a tool to help you get just the right position in the water then this is one for you! They are cheap and can have a huge impact on your technique.

If you’ve been looking for more information on how to use a pull buoy or even a little more about the benefits then hopefully this post has encouraged you to use one during your next workout.

Scott Holliday

Scott Holliday has been coaching athletes of all levels for over 10 years and is certified by the acclaimed International Triathlon Coaching Association (ITCA). He works with athletes of all abilities to help then unlock their potential.