Have you shown up at the pool and noticed a swimmer in the lane next to you has a whole pile of equipment at the end of his lane? Are you wondering what they are and how they can benefit your swim?

Let's take a look at three of the most popular tools at the pool.

Pull Buoy

A pull buoy will raise your hips in the water, getting your body into a more horizontal alignment and allowing you to work your arm and back strength. Removing your legs from the equation requires you to continuously pull in order to move your body forward.

Because your legs consume significantly less oxygen during a pull set, it’s also a good time to work on your breathing. See if you can breathe every 3, 5 or even 7 strokes instead of every stroke.

One of the hidden benefits of a pull buoy is that it is a good test of your core engagement. A swimmer without good core strength or core engagement will feel their hips sway from side to side behind them as they swim. Not sure if that’s you? Set up your phone and get a video of you swimming with the pool buoy. Ideally, your hips will move with control as you move into your stroke.

Caution: Triathletes love their pull buoys but don’t overdo it. You want to learn to maintain a high body position without the assistance of a pull buoy.  Things that help you maintain that proper body position are core strength, head positioning and a proper kick. Use the pull buoy to develop strength and learn the proper body positioning.

Use the pull buoy to correct a wonky kick.

If you are trying to correct a wide kick or a scissor kick, put a pull buoy between your legs and kick. This will force your legs to remain close together and your kick to stay tight. Swim 100 with the buoy and then 100 without it and see if you can maintain that kick. Alternate 100s for a set of 10.

Swim Paddles

Not all strength sessions have to happen in the gym. If you absolutely hate the gym but want to work on your strength, add paddles and fins to your bag.

Swim paddles are a useful tool for any swimmer who wants to improve arm position and work strength.

Paddles are going to help a swimmer increase their distance per stroke while building strength in the back and shoulders. The paddle almost forces you into a high catch and helps you to maintain a strong pull. They are a great tool for a swimmer with good form to build strength in their training sessions.

Although paddles are a fantastic tool, they should only be used for about 25% of any given workout. They put increased pressure on the shoulders and slow down your stroke turnover rate so make sure you use them as an appropriate tool.

It’s also important to note, that you should have good technique before using paddles

How to choose your size:

  • Small - best for new swimmer or swimmers still working on technique
  • Medium - ideal for most swimmers
  • Large - great for the swimmer with solid technique who is really looking to improve their swim straight.


Fins offer a similar benefit to the legs as paddles offer to the arms. They will help build leg strength in the quads and hamstrings while helping to increase ankle flexibility. If you are working to develop a high, tight kick, fins also give that advantage because they will help you feel the up portion of your kick instead of just the down portion.

The disadvantage of fins is that people often begin to use them as a crutch. You will swim faster but you need to be able to swim faster in a race on your own power, not with a tool. Some people will also get foot cramps while swimming with fins, especially if they don’t have good ankle flexibility.

Choosing your fin size  - the longer the fin, the faster you go

  • Short FIns - primarily used for sprinters.
  • Medium Fins - great for triathletes or middle distance swimmers
  • Long Fins - used primarily for scuba divers (they will feel much heavier if you use them in training)


Our favorite pull workout. Atlanta Tri Club Head Swim Coach Allison Leppke wrote this swim workout to help her swimmers work strength and speed in the same workout. Give it a try and let us know what you think:

5-minute easy warm-up

4 x 75 as kick on back/drill/swim 10’ rest

4 x 50 build to fast 15’ rest

Main Set

Pull 400 - rest 5 seconds - SWIM 100 FAST

Rest 30 seconds

Pull 300 - rest 5 seconds SWIM 100 FAST

Rest 30 seconds

Pull 200 -rest 5 seconds - SWIM 100 FAST

Rest 30 seconds

Pull 100 - rest 5 seconds - SWIM 100 FAST

Rest 1 minute

100 all out

5-minute easy cooldown.


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