How To Get The Benefit Of A Pull Buoy Without Using One

By Swim Smooth

We know that many swimmers and triathletes (particularly triathletes!) love their pull buoy as it helps improve their body position in the water, bringing their legs up high towards the surface.

Of course any swimmer will benefit from a high body position in the water as it reduces your drag significantly, even if you don’t particularly like swimming with a pull buoy. So how do we recreate the pull buoy effect in your stroke without having one in place? Believe it or not, it’s actually very simple.

When you swim your body pivots around your centre, a bit like a see-saw:

The extra buoyancy of a pull-buoy pulls your legs up but as you pivot around your centre it also drops your chest slightly lower, bringing you more horizontal in the water.

This pivoting effect means you can actually achieve the exact same thing by reducing the buoyancy in your chest. If you can do that then your chest will sink slightly lower and your legs will come upwards in the exact same way as if you were using a pull-buoy.

How to reduce the buoyancy in your chest? Learn to exhale smoothly into the water to get rid of the CO2 from your lungs as you swim. You could do this continuously between taking breaths. It’s no co-incidence that the worst sufferers of sinky-leg-syndrome are also those who hold onto their breath the most vigorously!

Putting Some Numbers On It

The average lung capacity of an adult male is 6 litres and for an adult woman around 4 litres. You’re not going to reduce the air in your lungs to zero with a good exhalation technique but you do have the scope to easily exhale 1-2 litres of air which will reduce your chest’s buoyancy by 1-2kg (or 10-20 newtons to be technical!).

A normal sized pull buoy has a buoyancy of around 1.5 kg (or 15 newtons), so you can see that the power of a good exhalation technique is similar to that of a pull buoy when it comes to your body position.

How To Exhale

Exhaling into the water between breaths is harder than you might think if you haven’t tried it before as we all have a strong instinct to hold onto our breath underwater. The key to a good exhalation technique is to relax and feel like you are sighing into the water either through your nose or mouth, whichever you prefer. Imagine you’ve had a hectic day at work and you come home and collapse on the couch letting out a big sigh of relief – that’s exactly how your exhalation should feel. Don’t try and force it out, just let it go smoothly.

Traditional advice given to swimmers has been hold onto your breathe as is increases your buoyancy. Yes it does but as we have seen it does so in the wrong place. This might work for a sprinter kicking very hard over 50 or 100m as the strong kick creates lift in itself but for distance swimmers, a long smooth exhalation into the water is absolutely key to improving your balance and body position in the water.


About swimbikerun1
Devoted Father, Husband and Employee.Endurance sports fanatic (running,cycling,swimming).Triathlon athlete and coach.If only days had more than 24 hours.

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