You may have seen other swimmers using pull buoys in the pool, but what are they and how can they help your triathlon training?
What is a pull buoy?
Put simply, a pull buoy is a figure-of-eight shaped piece of buoyant foam that you place between your thighs to give you lift in the water. This is useful for triathletes as it helps simulate the body position you achieve from using a wetsuit in the open water, lifting your legs and helping you achieve a more streamlined body position, staying more horizontal in the water.
As well as replicating your ‘wetsuit position’, a pull buoy also allows you to forget about your legs and kick for a while in training, meaning you can focus more on elements such as the front of your stroke, or your rotation. Many swim drills will also recommend using a pull buoy, so it’s useful to have one in your kit bag before heading to a coached group session.
Types of pull buoy
Pull buoys are pretty simple in design, but there are a few variations in the market to look out for. Think about how much lift you want – those with denser, sinkier legs (usually the men!) may want a slightly larger pull buoy with more buoyancy, such as Huub’s ‘Big Buoy’, while those who have a more horizontal position and just want to focus on front-end stroke for a while may choose a smaller, less buoyant one.
Choosing more buoyancy than you need may pinch your lower back, so it’s worth reading on to see the range in the market before buying.
Pull buoys for swimrun
The other reason you may be considering a pull buoy is for a swimrun race, where a pull buoy is allowed to ‘save’ your legs for the run. Again, consider the amount of buoyancy you need, allowing for any extra you will also get from any buoyancy in your wetsuit or calf guards.
You will also need to attach straps/elastic to your pull buoy to keep it in place – most swimrunners attach it to one leg then pull it round to sit on the outer thigh while running.
Best pull buoys for triathletes
Maru Pull Buoy
This zingy pull buoy from established swim brand Maru will be easy to spot in your kit bag! Coming in lime green or bright pink, this option is made from anti-chafe foam and is lightweight, weighing in at a claimed 80g.
The rounded edges help to make the pull buoy more comfortable. Shown here is the adult size, but junior sizes are also available and could be an option for adult swimmers looking for just a little buoyancy, or as a portable option for swimrun racing.
It’s also available as a package with a mesh bag, which may be handy if it won’t quite fit into your swim bag.
Huub Big Buoy
If you’re looking for more buoyancy, then look no further than the Huub Big Buoy. For science geeks, this buoy provides 34 Newtons of buoyancy versus the average 17 offered by most pull buoys.
It also features different curve profiles on each side, allowing you to switch it up and achieve a slightly different position depending which way up it is used. As a result, Huub says you’ll be able to tailor the amount of buoyancy and drag you want, allowing you to find the ideal balance for your body type.
Zoggs Pull Buoy
You’ll likely know Zoggs as the brand that’s stocked in many swimming pools, but as well as superhero-themed swimsuits and goggles for the little ones, the brand have a wide range of serious training kit for adult swimmers, too!
This pull buoy is a classic, rated ‘best on test’ in the pages of 220 in 2015. Zoggs recommends using it with hand paddles to develop upper body strength.
Orca Swimrun Pull Buoy
One for swimrunners, this pull buoy from triathlon brand Orca has the straps already attached, which means you don’t have to faff around adding elastic. Not only does this make life a bit easier, it also means you have a better chance of a comfortable experience in your race and of avoiding chafing from poorly-fitting straps.
Speedo Pull Buoy
As well as being a funky-looking kit bag option, this Speedo pull buoy comes with superb eco-credentials, too. Developed in partnership with BLOOM, it is made from a mix of eco-conscious algae and EVA foam, using algae cleared from fresh water eco systems.
Top image credit: Getty Images