Confused about what kind of pull buoy to get? Here’s what you need to know about picking out the best pull buoy for crushing it at the pool.
The pull buoy is one of the classic pieces of swimming equipment on your local pool deck.
The benefits of training with a pull buoy are simple: by stuffing one between our legs it allows us to focus exclusively on training our shoulders and arms, developing endurance and power in the upper body.
Additionally, without our oxygen-thirsty legs in play, and our raised hips in the water we are able to scurry across the surface of the pool with speed and ease. Often swimmers can swim further and with less effort with a pull buoy than without one.
That being said, all too often we lean on our pull buoy as a training crutch, using it as a way to avoid doing “harder” swim work, removing our core from the equation, or artificially raising our hips, giving us the illusion that we are swimming faster than we are.
While the technological advancements are limited when it comes to this type of swim gear, particularly compared to swim paddles and swim snorkels, there are some things to keep in mind when picking out the best pull buoy for you and those long, shoulder-busting pull sets.
In this guide, we will look at the best pull buoys for swimmers, including the different types of pull buoys, how to use them properly, and more.
Let’s dive right in!
The Best Pull Buoys for Swimmers
Let’s get right to it, with #1:
Speedo Team Pull Buoy
? Best overall pick for best pull buoy
This is the exact PB that I have stuffed into my swim bag. I’ve been rocking out with it regularly over the past four years and it has never failed me.
There’s been no fading or “chunking” (small chunks of the pull buoy peeling away from degradation and use), despite the fact I have spent literally no effort in rinsing it after use or performing any kind of care whatsoever.
As you can tell, it’s got one end that is slightly larger than the other for added buoyancy and is available in a few different solid colors, including Darth Vader-black.
Speedo is the best name in the game when it comes to making training equipment for competitive and recreational swimmers, and the Speedo Team Pull Buoy nails the basics at an affordable price point.
Sporti Pull Buoy
? Best budget-friendly pull buoy
Sporti is SwimOutlet’s inhouse swim gear brand, and they make quality stuff at a price that is often significantly less than the big name swim brands.
Made with 100% EVA foam, Sporti offers it in six different color combinations, giving you a broader range of flexibility in terms of color compared to other pull buoy companies.
The pull buoy is comfortable, won’t slide around when cruising along in the pool, and the price point of about $10 is impossible to beat.
Bettertimes Pull Buoy
? Best old-school adjustable pull buoy
Although most swimmers lean toward using the one-piece pull buoys nowadays, there was a time not long ago when every swimmer was using the dual foam cylinder pull buoys shown below.
There are some advantages with this type of pull buoy, as you can adjust the distance between the two cylinders, giving you greater flexibility with buoy placement. This is particularly handy for swimmers with larger thighs.
Additionally, you get more buoyancy out of this kind of pull buoy as there is more foam compared to one-piece pull buoys.
The Bettertimes Pull Buoy comes in three different sizes, retails for around $12, and its foam-sealed design won’t get waterlogged and weigh you down as you conquer your swim practices.
The Speedo Mix-a-Lot
The Mix-a-Lot is the same Speedo pull buoy, but with some snazzier designs and colors. Great for taking to pools with “busy” bulkheads so that your plain old pull buoy doesn’t get lost in the mix or scoobied by another swimmer.
The Speedo Mix-a-Lot comes in black/white or red/white/blue.
FINIS Pull Buoy
With the characteristic yellow that colors basically all of their products, FINIS’ pull buoy offering does all the things you would hope from a pull buoy, including being constructed from a nice chafe-free material.
The FINIS pull buoy is available in both adult and junior sizes.
TYR Pull Buoy
Similarly, the TYR pull buoy (which is the PB of choice for two of the local pools I swim at), is made of a smoother foam that is comfortable for long term use, and won’t slip around
They have an adult size:
And a junior-sized pull buoy as well:
Other Pull Buoys:
While these didn’t make our top five, they are worth a mention. They may not be for me, but they might just be the best pull buoy for your chlorinated situation:
Arena Pull Kick Board.
This bad boy is one of the aforementioned hybrids: it is a pull buoy and a kickboard, all wrapped up into one. I’m not a huge fan of these, as I find it’s too big to be a pull buoy and too small to be a kickboard.
The space-saving benefits are obvious, so if you have a limited amount of space for your gear this tool makes sense.
Speedo Pull Kick Board
Another one of the hybrid models, is the Speedo Pull-Kick Buoy. Great for saving space, but as a dedicated kickboard or as a pull buoy not that great.
How to Choose the Right Pull Buoy for You
Here are some key things to think about when buying the best pull buoy for you:
How narrow the pull buoy is. The narrower the pull buoy, the tighter you will have to squeeze your legs to keep that bad boy in place. If you have wide hips (like I do), a narrow pull buoy means that it often comes a little loose when I get tired or when doing a flip turn.
The shape of the pull buoy. They generally come in two different shapes. There is the more contemporary one-piece pull buoy, shaped in an hourglass with one end sometimes slightly larger than the other. This is the most common pull buoy you see at the local pool. There is also the “classic” pull buoy that is constructed of two buoys connected with straps which need to be tightened to your preference. Less frequently you will see other types of pull buoys, including the pull buoy/kickboard hybrids.
The size of the pull buoy. While most pulling aids are roughly the same size, there are some variations in the overall girth of the buoys. For you swimmers who have exceptionally muscley legs you will likely want a bigger pull buoy. The bigger the pull buoy, the more it will help raise your body position in the water. Too small of a buoy and the benefit of having higher hips is negated.
The material. Almost all pull buoys are made of EVA foam. This wasn’t always the case, with many of the old-school dual-cylinder pull buoys made of cheap foam that would disintegrate and scratch up your thighs at swim practice. Make sure whichever pull buoy you choose has EVA foam, as it lasts forever and won’t crumble like an overbaked pie.
How to Use a Pull Buoy Properly in the Water
Like any other form of training the pool, swimming around with a pull buoy presents itself with tons of variety and options. Here are some things to look out for and how to keep things interesting.
Place the wider end below you. With the pull buoys that have a wider end, make sure you position it so that the wider end is below you to benefit from the added buoyancy.
Don’t use your pull buoy on your ankles. This places additional stress on your lower back and drops your hips in the water, making it 2/2 on developing bad habits in the water.
Vary your pull work. Mix in your favorite pair of paddles and/or an ankle band when doing pull sets and pull workouts. Variety is the spice of life and training, so keep your pull work interesting and engaging by mixing it up.
Does pull buoy size matter?
Pull buoy size matters as the larger the pull buoy, the more buoyancy you will get from using it.
Larger, more dense swimmers will want a full-size pull buoy to help raise their hips when swimming.
Does a pull buoy make swimming easier?
Because your legs–which have the largest muscle in your body–are not exerting energy and sucking up oxygen for fuel, swimming with a pull buoy can feel easier.
Additionally, the added buoyancy in the hips will help keep your body in a more streamlined position in the water, which can reduce drag, further increasing the feeling of “being easier.”
The Final Lap
The pull buoy is one of the key tools that every swimmer should have in their arsenal for improving performance in the water.
Whether you are looking to specifically upgrade upper body strength, you are training around a leg injury, or you simply want to build those boulder shoulders, a pull buoy belongs in your swim bag.
⭐ Our top choice is the Speedo Team Pull Buoy. Backed by 100-years of experience making gear for competitive swimmers, Speedo is the big name in the swim game, and their best-selling pull buoy nails the basics at a solid price point. The color options are nice, too!
⭐ The Bettertimes Pull Buoy is the best option for swimmers who want an “old school” pull buoy with dual foam cylinders and more options for adjusting the distance between the buoys.
⭐ Swimmers looking for a hybrid kickboard and pull buoy will like the Arena Pull Kick Buoy, as it has more surface area and buoyancy compared to other hybrid models.
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