Last time, I touched on fins.
A controversial topic.
Now I'm going to address an even more controversial topic- Pulling Gear.
Paddles and a pull buoy can definitely be an easy out for if you struggle to swim well.
Paddles make it easier to create propulsion with your hands and a pull buoy can make it easier to float.
As these are two of the primary problems you’ll face in the water, removing these obstacles can make a world of difference.
So, if you’re strapping on your paddles and popping in your buoy to make life easier for yourself, then pulling gear probably isn’t going to help you on your quest for faster swimming.
It’s going to make your life worse.
However, that’s not to totally dismiss the value of these tools.
As I described in the previously, paddles can be used to strategically vary the surface area of the hand. This can be used to create both variety and contrast with what you’re feeling across different repetitions.
The key difference is that you’re not going to be using paddles to perform a 3,000-meter set.
You’re going to use paddles intermittently to create different sensations.
Whereas most people use paddles because it’s easier, we’re going to specifically use paddles to make it HARDER!
Now the buoy.
The buoy can definitely help some swimmers float better.
If you’re using the buoy for the purpose of improving flotation, you’re much better off working on the specific skill of flotation.
It’s THE fundamental skill, and if you lack it, your swimming is going to suffer accordingly. Instead of using a crutch, learn how to solve the true problem.
So why would one want to use a buoy?
It comes down to consistency when applying metrics.
Let’s say you’re really trying to work on getting more out of each stroke, feeling the water better and holding more water.
By using a pull buoy and being honest about using your legs, you can isolate the arms to ensure that any improvement is the result of what you’re doing with the arms, not the legs.
If you want to really ensure the legs aren’t contributing anything, put on band around your ankles.
You definitely won’t be kicking then.
Let’s make this practical.
Let’s say you’re doing 50s where you’re trying to hold the same stroke count and descend your speed.
The only way to accomplish this task is to swim better.
However, you can ‘cheat’ during this set if you focus on kicking harder as you descend.
While this might be an effective strategy, you’re definitely not improving as a result of more effective arm actions.
What’s the solution?
Throw on a buoy and pull the set.
That way, if you’re able to descend and hold the same stroke count, you know that this improvement is the result of better arm actions, not due to better kicking.
When you combine pulling with the use of metrics, hand manipulations, resistance, or any combination of these strategies, you’re ensuring that any improvements you have are the result of what you’re doing with the arms.
While this doesn’t need to be and probably should be done all the time, it is an option for selectively isolating what you’re doing with your arm actions.
You’re ensuring that all of the pressure for improvement is going to one specific area.
In this respect, you’re using pulling gear for a specific purpose.
When done in this manner, pulling gear is a powerful tool for improving your swimming.
Faster. Easier. Better.