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THE REVIEW

Top Swim Products Tested and Reviewed by Gold Medalist Mark Gangloff

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  • Jun

    The Gangloff Review: Top Pull Buoys Compared

    PULL BUOYS AND KICK PULLS REVIEWED: 

    Pull Buoys - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
    Head Swimming Pull Buoy - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Better Times Pull Buoy - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Sporti Pull Buoy - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Aqua Sphere Pull Buoy - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Speedo Adult Pull Buoy - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    TYR Training Pull Float - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Aqua Sphere Ergo Buoy - Gangloff Review | Product Page

    Kick Pulls - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
    Speedo Pull Kick - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Arena Pull Kick - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Aqua Sphere Pull/Push/Kick - Gangloff Review | Product Page

    Pull Buoy Reviews by Mark Gangloff

    There is only so much you can do to improve your swimming without utilizing additional tools. Some of my favorite tools that allow me to focus on my technique, which in turn makes me faster, are pull buoys and kick pulls. In this post I offer you three things that I look for when I look for the perfect pull buoy, a review of various pull buoys and brands, and review of kick pulls and brands. As always, it is important to choose the best equipment for YOU, but I hope that my gut reaction to each product provides you guidance as you search for tools to assist you as you work towards your swimming goals.

    What makes a good pull buoy? Three key factors help me choose the best pull buoy for me and my training. 

    Buoy Size

    This pull buoy has too much flotation. That pull buoy doesn’t have enough pull buoy. While I may sound a bit like our old friend, Goldy Locks, I want a pull buoy that is just right. When I look for the “perfect” buoy (for me), I look for enough floatation that I can maintain speed, but not so much flotation that my feet are higher in the water than my back. To solve a flotation dilemma, try pull buoys of various size.

    Buoy Width

    Hoping I don’t come across lazy, I must say, I don’t want to exert any extra energy trying to hold onto my pull buoy. Either having to squeeze a thin pull buoy between my legs or feeling like my legs are forced outside of their natural position can be detrimental to my efficiency and technique as I move down the pool. It can become an even bigger detriment as I turn at the wall. If the buoy does not fit properly it will slide out from between my legs as I push off the wall making doing anything over a 25 a little frustrating. So, examine buoy width for an ideal fit so that you can save your energy for the fun stuff, GOING FAST!

    Buoy “Slipperiness”

    Despite my lack of proper language, you all know what I mean when I stress the importance of slipperiness when choosing a pull buoy. One of the difficulties of developing a good pull buoy is making it comfortable while also making it functional. The most comfortable buoys are the softest one (no surprise here), but if they are too soft they are probably slippery as well. As I said above, a secure pull buoy on the turn is essential in a successful pull buoy drill. The fastest point in any lap of swimming is the point in which your feet leave the wall. My buoy needs to perform at that peak speed and I never want to compromise my speed just so my buoy stays in. My ability to keep that speed will affect the amount of speed I have at the end of the lap. If the buoy is too soft and slippery, it may find itself in the middle of the lane as you leave it in your wake off of the wall. Therefore, choose a pull buoy that is soft enough to provide some comfort, but solid enough to grip.     

    Head Swimming Pull Buoy

    Gut reaction: The Head Swimming Pull Buoy is very firm and very compact. You can tell the foam is much denser than other buoys. The foam is slightly rough (but not uncomfortable), which may prove to be an advantage if you have trouble with slippery buoys. Additionally, it is thinner than other buoys, which may also contribute to your ability to keep it in place. This buoy will not give you a ton of floatation but I found it to be enough to keep my legs in line with my body.

    Better Times Pull Buoy (pink)

    Gut reaction: This buoy’s foam is very soft to the touch, however it is not very dense (when you squeeze it, it leaves finger indentations) and is pliable. This buoy is narrow like the Head Bouy. Though somewhat stylish (come on, who doesn’t want a pink pull buoy?), this pull buoy may start to look dingy as it logs the miles (in the pool or thrown in the trunk of the car between workouts) because of its light color. At first I was slightly concerned that because the foam was soft that it would slip out but I was surprised once I got in and started using it, I had no problems.

    Sporti Pull Buoy

    Gut Reaction: This buoy is about an inch larger all the way around than the Head and Better Times buoy. The foam is rough like Head, yet still comfortable. If you need a slightly larger buoy that will give you some more lift without it being too large, this is a great choice.  

    Aqua Sphere Pull Buoy

    Gut Reaction: This buoy has soft foam with medium density. It is also a large buoy (width and height), though shaped a bit different as its lengths is actually shorter than other buoys. I am not sure if it was the way the buoy was cut or because of the softness of the material but I did have some slipping when I pushed off the walls with this buoy.

    Speedo Adult Pull Buoy

    Gut Reaction: With medium density foam, this buoy is still soft. If you have spent some time around a swimming pool you have probably seen a couple of these buoys lying around. I find its shape is a bit awkward with one side being wider than the other; despite my swimming experience and experience with a variety of products, I’m never quite sure how to place this buoy between my legs (thick side up or thick side down?). 

    TYR Training Pull Float

    Gut Reaction: One of the lesser dense buoys of the bunch, the TYR Training Pull Float is extremely malleable. I even found indentions in the buoy caused by the way it was positioned its box. Though these particular indentions did not affect its function, its pliability is noted and may effect on of the “keys” discussed above. This buoy provides a lot of lift on your legs, if your legs really hang low in the water choose this one. It will give you all the floatation you need. 

    Aqua Sphere Ergo Buoy

    Gut Reaction: Techy swimmers, this one is for you. With a slightly different, possibly more innovative, material this pull buoy appears shiny, almost like a glossy paint. It also includes straps. The straps are easy to remove, but I recommend giving them a try if you struggle to hang onto your buoy from time to time. There could be some interesting drills you could do with this buoy because of the straps as well. The first one that comes to mind for me would be to do some breaststroke kicking with this in, working on keeping your knees together. The straps could really help with this. If you have a creative coach this could give him/her some great ideas.  

     

    Kick Pull Reviews by Mark Gangloff

     
     

    A kick pull is a great piece of equipment. The kick pull will never completely replace my good ol’ fashioned pull buoy or kick board, but it is a great tool to use when I am on the road and want to travel light. The kick pull is a multi-use product that should make the transition from pulling to kicking easy.

     

    Speedo Pull Kick

    Gut Reaction: If using a kick pull primarily for pulling, then this may be the best choice for you. This particular kick pull is the shortest of the group and looks more like a typical pull buoy than the others I review here. The outside is soft enough to be comfortable but rough enough to stay in place when pushing off the wall. The Speedo Kick Pull will provide you with plenty of floatation--I was very pleased with its pulling performance. After doing some pulling with it I immediately started to do some kicking (one of the great parts about all kick pulls, grab it from between your legs and off you go for the kicking portion of you workout). Unfortunately, this is where the smaller size hurt the speedo kick pull. I pushed off the wall and immediately my body was low in the water. The contours of the buoy felt good in my hands, but prefer more floatation when making the switch to kicking. However, for smaller swimmers, this kick pull may be the best for you.

     

    Arena Pull Kick

    Gut reaction: This piece of equipment has been a staple my equipment bag. At first glance you will notice the difference in size between the Speedo and the Arena Kick Pulls (see picture). The design of the Arena Kick Pull is much thinner and much flatter than the more compact speedo kick pull. The Arena Kick Pull helps me maintain a great body line and gives me a good amount of floatation without disrupting my line. However, the Arena is extremely thin and often slides out from between my legs when I do a turn. Additionally, its foam is slightly slippery, which contributes to my problems at the wall. When I switch from pulling to kicking with the Arena, I find that this kick pull is much more kick-friendly. If you opt to use this kick pull as a weapon (one of my favorite past times as a young swimmer), the thin frame of this kick pull my not last as long as sturdier products.

     

    Aqua Sphere Pull/Push/Kick

    Gut Reaction: Thicker than the Arena, the Aqua Sphere Pull/Push/Kick may be better in the midst of a turn. Its design feels sturdy as its foam is dense and strong. Its surface is grippy making it easy to hang on to when pushing it into the wall. The leading side of what will be the kick board is tapered like the leading side of a kick board making a switch from pulling to kicking easy. I also liked the appearance of this product—it just looks cool.

     

     

    Here is a comparison picture between the largest (Aqua Sphere) and the smallest (Speedo): 

     

    I love swimming. And, I love utilizing a wide variety of tools and techniques to improve my swimming. Pull buoys and kick pulls are perfect tools to throw in your swim bag and pull out during practice or even during a meet warm-up. They are relatively small, easy to use, and can help you to focus on the details of your stroke. I encourage you to fill your equipment bag and highly recommend a good, quality, pull buoy and kick pull. See you at the pool!

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    Diane
    1 year ago.
    I was excited to win the Speedo kick-pull at a swim clinic, however, I have a hard time using it for a pull buoy because it tends to slip out - even when not turning. My legs are pretty skinny, so maybe that is why?
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