Coach Ray

Training for Excellence, with Excellent Training

Tri Swim Coach
Swim Sessions Triathlon Training

Saturday Swim Session: Utilising the Pull Buoy To Improve Your Swimming

The Pull Buoy is a great tool (that is often over relied upon) to enhance your swimming. The biggest benefit comes from your ability to the focus on your arms whilst using it, rather than relying on it to float your legs higher. This session is perfect for Ironman and Olympic distance triathletes or people doing longer ocean swims.

This is continuing the series of Saturday Swim Sessions that you can do to enhance your swimming using a 33⅓ yard or metre pool. Each week I will load three options up for you to do. Option A is for swimmers who are after a workout between 1,000 & 2,000 metres. Option B is for swimmers who are after a workout between 2,000 & 3,000m and Option C will be greater than 3,000m.

I’ve written these sessions for a 33⅓ metre pool, but a lot of the older style pools are 33⅓ yards long (100 feet), so simply interchange the metres for yards and do the session.

Option A

  • 400m WU;
  • 6x 66m (33m Drill/33m Swim);
  • 4x 100m on T+20sec;
  • 4x 100m Pull Buoy 20sec RI;
  • 200m CD (1,800m)

Option B

  • 400m WU;
  • 6x 66m (33m Drill/33m Swim);
  • 4x 100m on T+20sec;
  • 4x 100m Pull Buoy 20sec RI;
  • 4x 100m on T+15sec;
  • 4x 100m Pull Buoy 15sec RI;
  • 200m CD (2,600m)

Option C

  • 600m WU;
  • 6x 67m (33m Drill/33m Swim);
  • 4x 100m on T+20sec;
  • 4x 100m Pull Buoy 20sec RI;
  • 4x 100m on T+15sec;
  • 4x 100m Pull Buoy 15sec RI;
  • 4x 100m on T+10sec;
  • 4x 100m Pull Buoy 10sec RI;
  • 200m CD (3,600m)

Start the workout with a Warm Up (WU) covering 400m (Options A and B) or 600m (Option C). During the warm up feel free to stop and stretch as needed.  It doesn’t need to be a continuous swim.

Next up is a drill set. There are six repetitions of 67m Drill/Swim, where you do a drill for the first 33m of the repetition and then normal swimming for the next 33m swimming. Feel free to use fins whilst doing the drill/swim set.  Do the drills below once through:

  1. Kick On Side (KOS) left side 
  2. Kick On Side (KOS) right side 
  3. 6/1/6 
  4. 6/3/6
  5. Broken Arrow
  6. Popov

I wrote an article about swimming drills previously. Click here to read and watch it.

Take the fins off prior to the next set.

The main set is made up of two (Option A), four (Option B) or six (Option C) sets. Each set is made up of four 100m reps.

Start off with a set of four by 100m on your T-Time plus 20 seconds. For example if your T-Time is 1:45, adding 20 seconds to this will mean you start each rep every two minutes and five seconds. If you swim the rep in 1:55 you’ll only get ten seconds rest, but if you swim it in 1:40 you’ll get 25 seconds rest. For more details on T-Times including how to work yours out read this article:

The second set utilises a Pull Buoy to prevent you from kicking and put the focus on the arms for this set. Once again it is a set of four 100m reps. This time there is a full 20 second rest between each rep. If you are doing Option A you finish the workout here move onto the Cool Down.

The third set is similar to the first main set, in that it is four by 100m but this time it is on your T-Time plus 15 seconds. So if your T-Time was 1:45, you’ll be starting each rep every two minutes.

The fourth set is back using the Pull Buoy to put the focus on the arms again, but this time you only get 15 seconds Rest Interval (RI) between each of the four 100m reps. If you are doing Option B you are finishing the workout at this point and moving onto the Cool Down.

If you are doing Option C, your last two sets are four by 100m on your T-Time plus ten seconds (yep things are getting tight but you only have the four reps to complete so work hard and you’ll achieve it).

Then the last set is four by 100m with the Pull Buoy again but with only ten seconds Rest Interval (RI).

For the Cool Down (CD) swim 200m. Unlike the previous sets which have to be freestyle, the cool down (like the warm up) can be any stroke you wish to swim.  You can also stop and rest after any length.  I encourage you to stop and stretch during the cool down.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact me.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi Coaching.

I specialise in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at coachray@coachray.nz and 021 348 729.

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If you enjoyed this workout, here is a similar session I published 12 months ago.


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Ray has competed in triathlons from sprint to ironman distance (both IM Taupo and Challenge Wanaka). Consequently he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complimenting other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments etc…). • Entering your first triathlon? • Stepping up to a longer distance? • Looking to go faster? • Wanting to turn previous negatives into positives? Ray has coached athletes to achieve these and more. Training programmes are accessible online, so athletes can be located anywhere and still reap the benefits of Ray’s coaching. Contact him to discuss how he can assist you to achieve your goals.
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