Reason Not to Use a Pull Buoy

Originally from AquaVolo.com

I’ve been meaning to write a post about the use of the pull buoy in training for quite some time now but, unfortunately, never got around to it until today. What finally made me sit down and write this post was the swimmingscience.net article titled “7 Theoretical Reasons to Use a Pull Buoy.” It’s an interesting read and I highly recommend it. As the title implies, the article outlines reasons to use a pull buoy. I, on the other hand, would like to talk about one reason NOT to use a pull buoy. I believe my argument against the use of pull buoy outweighs most of the arguments for it.

For reasons that will become apparent later, I’ll first quickly explain the paramount importance of the core in swimming.

Core

We can think of a human body as a set of interlinked components that work in unity. It’s helpful to visualize this set as a chain where each link represents a different body part as in the diagram below. This chain is called the kinetic chain.

(Image source: Complete Conditioning for Swimming. Dave Salo and Scott A. Riewald (2008))

To swim fast and efficiently, all links in the kinetic chain must work in coordination. Because all links in the chain are connected, a change in one link impacts the entire chain. When one link breaks, so does the coordination between the links. We call the link that orchestrates the coordination of various parts of the body the core. The core achieves this coordination by performing several important tasks—transfer of power, base of support, stability, link between arms and legs, and balance—that are illustrated in the following image and explained in greater detail below.

Transfer of power

Chains are often used to transfer power. A bicycle chain, for example, enables the transfer of power from the pedals to the wheels. In swimming, the core transfers power between the legs and the torso and the arms.

When a link in the chain breaks, the transfer of power is impeded. When the core fails to transfer power between the lower and the upper parts of the body, the swimmer is left with power produced by smaller muscles (e.g. shoulders). This not only reduces total available power, efficiency and speed, it also increases the risk of injury.

Base of support

Swimmers, unlike land-based athletes, must create their own base of support to generate propulsive movement. Runners, for example, use ground as the base of support that they can push off from. Swimmers, however, train in a fluid environment and don’t have a solid surface to use as the base of support. What swimmers use instead is the core. The stronger the base of support, the more propulsive power the swimmer can generate.

When the core fails to provide stable base of support, swimmer’s efficiency and speed drop. Frequently you can see a swimmer who is working very hard with his legs and arms yet moving forward very slowly. It looks as if he’s spinning in one place. This happens because the core doesn’t provide the stable base of support and the swimmer has nothing to push off from.

Link between the arms and the legs, balance and stability

Fast and efficient swimming requires coordinated movement of the body. The core achieves this coordination by linking the upper and the lower parts of the body and by providing balance and stability. When the core fails to perform these tasks, coordinated movement of the body breaks down and efficiency and speed drop.

Let’s look at one example. An outward hand sweep during the initial phase of the pull is a common flaw in freestyle swimming. What causes this flaw, many people believe, is late breathing. Late breathing might indeed be the cause, but the root of the problem is a lack of balance and stability.

When the core fails to provide balance and stability, the body is forced to find an alternative way to accomplish these tasks. Late breathing and outward hand sweep are the two side affects of the body’s alternative way to provide balance and stability. The outward hand sweep is a clear indicator that the core is failing to perform these two essential tasks.

Putting it all together

The core is the foundation upon which everything else is built. When the core is properly trained to perform the tasks discussed above, the swimmer has a strong foundation and potential to become fast and efficient.

Back to the pull buoy

Now that we understand the importance of the core in fast and efficient swimming, let’s look at what happens when you introduce a pull buoy.

When a swimmer puts a pull buoy between his legs, he essentially removes the core link from the kinetic chain (see the kinetic chain image above). As we have already established, when a link in a kinetic chain breaks, the entire chain is compromised.

The pull buoy provides artificial support and in essence relieves the core of its duties. The core no longer needs to provide a base of support, stability, balance, transfer of power or the link between the arms and the legs. All these tasks are outsourced to an artificial device: a pull buoy. The core can just sit back and relax.

Hopefully, it is clear by now why I believe that the pull buoy should not be used in training or at least their use should be minimized. While there are situations in which a pull buoy might be beneficial (such as drills, for instance), traditional use of a pull buoy for pulling is detrimental to a swimmer’s improvement. The pull buoy compromises the kinetic chain and robs the swimmer of an opportunity to train the core to perform the essential tasks that are necessary for fast and efficient swimming.

“Similarities between DragSox® and the 2014 Olympics Speedskating Suit” (AquaVolo.com)

Originally from AquaVolo.com

AquaVolo DragSox® vs. Speedskating Suit-1

The two images above represent two tools for two very different sports. The image on the left, DragSox®, is a power training tool for swimmers. The image on the right is a suit for the 2014 Olympics speed skaters. The purpose of these tools is diametric—DragSox are designed to slow the swimmer down while the speedskating suit is supposed to make the skater go faster. What they have in common is that they both use mesh. DragSox are entirely made out of mesh; the speedskating suit has a strip of mesh on the back for a “cooling effect.”

In order for us to understand the similarities between DragSox and the speedskating suit depicted on the image above, we have to quickly refresh our memory of fluid dynamics. (Please bare with me, it’s only three sentences!)

Fluid dynamics is an area of physics that studies how fluids behave when they are in motion. Both liquids and gases are considered fluids. The laws that apply to fluids apply to both, liquids and gases.

Now, let’s look at what happens when DragSox are used in the water:
One reason DragSox are so effective at creating drag in the water is due to the properties of mesh. As the swimmer moves through the water, mesh greatly disturbs the laminar movement of water, causes turbulence, and creates an area of low pressure directly behind the swimmer. This area of low pressure essentially sucks the swimmer backward. To overcome this suction, the swimmer has to exert more energy, which is the intended purpose of DragSox.

Since we already know that the physical laws that apply to liquids also apply to gases, we can predict that what happens to the moving swimmer with DragSox in the water will happen to the moving skater with a mesh suit in the air—the mesh on the back of the suit will disturb the laminar movement of air, cause turbulence, and create an area of low pressure which will create drag. In fact, this is exactly what happened during the last winter Olympics in Sochi: “it seemed that the vents on rear of the suit, put in to allow heat to escape, actually allow air to enter – in turn creating drag.” (1)

There were probably other reasons that would explain the slow times of the US Speedskaters in Sochi, but having a mesh strip on the back of the speed suit definitely contributed. All the designers needed was a quick review of fluid dynamics and this could have been prevented. Maybe now they can recycle those speedy speedskating suits and use them for drag-creating training tools!

References

Speedskating Report Finds Several Sochi Mistakes
U.S. speedskaters cleared to change suits

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(1) http://gizmodo.com/report-yep-under-armours-suits-did-slow-u-s-speedska-1570744914

 

 

Brief History of Resistance Training Gear for Swimmers

From my post on Aquavolo.com:

From the early age of competitive swimming athletes have been using various devices to help them get stronger and faster.  Fins and paddles were probably among the first training devices to be used by swimmers.  Benjamin Franklin, who was an avid swimmer, invented both in the early 18th century (around 1717).

However, in this post I wanted to look at the training gear other than paddles and fins.  In particular, I wanted to see how resistance gear has changed in the last 100 years.  As the title states, this is not an in-depth review but rather a quick overview of the evolution of resistance equipment for swimmers.

In general all swimming resistance gear can be broken into 3 categories:

1. Devices that connect a swimmer to the stationary part of the pool.  For example, a band that connects a swimmer to the start block.

2. Devices that are connected to a swimmer and not connected to the a stationary part of the pool.  In such cases swimmers usually pull something behind them.  For example a parachute, a bucket, etc.

3. Devices that are worn by a swimmer and that allow free swimming.  For example, a drag suit.

The first device I looked at was a “Swimming Apparatus” from 1914.  It was invented by C. Homewood.

read full post

FAQ about DragSox

source: AquaVolo.com

DragSox

What is DragSox™ ?
DragSox is a power training device that is used in the water.

What’s so cool about them?
The beauty of DragSox is in their simplicity and effectiveness.  They add significant amount of resistance while being completely noninvasive.  Its totally unique design allows the swimmer to maintain natural body position and balance with complete freedom of movement.  Also, they look cool.  When you are in the pool, everyone will want to talk to you.

How can DragSox  benefit me?
DragSox add a lot of resistance in the water.  To overcome that resistance, your muscles have to work harder.  The harder your muscles work, the stronger and more powerful they will become.  If you want to get stronger, more powerful and faster, DragSox are for you.

Who are DragSox for?
Anyone who wants to improve physically (get stronger, more powerful and faster) and doesn’t mind hard work.

Who are DragSox NOT for?
If you don’t want to work hard or have the patience to see improvements over time then DragSox are not for you.

Who uses DragSox?
A wide range of people use them: from elite swimmers to lap swimmers who only recently learned how to swim, from age group swimmers to people who could be their grand-parents,  swimmers, runners, triathletes and other athletes who do cross-training in the water.

What strokes can DragSox be used in?
DragSox can be used in all four strokes.

Can I use DragSox with fins?
Yes.  There is an opening at the bottom that was designed specifically for this purpose.

What else are DragSox good for?
It is an excellent training device for water running.  Check this video to see what it looks like:http://aquavolo.com/video/water-running-dragsox™.
You can use them for water aerobics (in the deep end).
Some people use them for rehabilitation after an injure (talk your physician first).
If you come up with some clever use for DragSox, let us know and we’ll add it here.

Are DragSox similar to parachute?
They are similar only in the way that both create resistance.  Swimming with parachute, however, is extremely annoying because you’re always kicking the strap.  This is a common complaint.   We, for once, have never met a swimmer who wouldn’t complain about parachute (and we know a lot of swimmers!).  In fact, this dislike of swimming with a parachute was one of the reasons why we invented DragSox.  (here is a related post: http://aquavolo.com/journal/article/2011/01/swimming-parachute-vs-dragsox)

Are DragSox similar to fins?
No.  They are the opposite of fins.  Please read this post for more information:
http://aquavolo.com/journal/article/2011/01/dragsox-are-opposite-fins

Are DragSox similar to Power tower?
Please read this post: http://aquavolo.com/journal/article/2011/03/dragsox™-vs-power-tower

What do you really think about DragSox?
DragSox is the best power training device on the market for swimmers!  Seriously, as swimmers, we have tried all kinds of power training gear and none of it is as effective and fun to use as DragSox.  We have been training with DragSox for a while now but still,  every time we do a workout with them, we get an unbelievable sense of satisfaction!

Where can I buy DragSox?
You can buy them from our online store: http://aquavolo.bigcartel.com/

 

Kick Hard Swim Fast!