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How To Use Buoyancy

April 17, 2018, 11:53 a.m. (ET)

Sponsored Content by ROKA


While buoyancy shorts such as ROKA’s SIM Shorts have grown rapidly in popularity over the past five years, there remains a deficit of advice on how often and how best to use them. Opinions differ widely, from athletes who never take them off to old-school masters swim coaches who openly deride them. What follows in this article are a few principles we’ve found helpful when incorporating buoyancy shorts into a well-rounded swim training program.

1. If wearing buoyancy shorts gets you to swim more, then swim with buoyancy shorts!

Swimming more makes you faster, with few exceptions. So be honest with yourself, and if you will swim more with buoyancy shorts, use them liberally. We’d still encourage you to take note of the other principles in this article, but remember that if training with buoyancy removes a psychological barrier and helps you be more consistent, you’ve found the ultimate secret training weapon.

2. Train with buoyancy some of the time, but not all of the time.

For a developing swimmer, this could mean you wear them 80 percent of the time but go without them every fifth workout or for one set in each workout. For an experienced swimmer, it could mean you wear them once per week with specific intent.

3. Consciously reinforce good habits.

Use your sessions in buoyancy shorts to consciously think about those things that are difficult to work on when you’re just fighting to maintain good body position. Pick one thing at a time to focus on: examples could be body rotation, maintaining a straight body line (i.e. not “fishtailing”), or the timing of your kick, pull and breathing.

4. Practice easy speed.

Do sets to work on easy speed: not sprinting, but up-tempo work where you get used to feeling light and quick. This would typically be done with 15-second to 1-minute efforts with approximately a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio. The key is to finish each effort just before fatigue causes your stroke to break down.

5. Train with buoyancy on recovery days.

Some days you need to swim, but you want to keep your heart rate down. Training with buoyancy on these days will allow you to stay aerobic and take the load off your legs. Make a conscious effort to feel how easy swimming can be. Maybe you’ve seen a great swimmer gliding effortlessly while cooling down after a race and somehow going faster than you could ever dream of. Visualize yourself being this swimmer and internalize this feeling.

6. Learn how to leverage buoyancy to create extra speed, just like you will with a wetsuit.

When training with buoyancy shorts, make sure they don’t only lift your butt. Rather, maintain your core tension and use the buoyancy at your hips as a foundation to raise your overall body position — you should do the same thing when you wear a wetsuit, and it’s important to get used to it.

7. Replace your pull buoy.

Let’s be honest: trying to keep a pull buoy between your legs in and out of flip turns is no one’s favorite thing about swimming. Buoyancy shorts give almost the same lift as a pull buoy, so shorts and an ankle band serves as a great replacement for a pull buoy. Most shorts go on or off in just a few seconds underwater, so they’re quick to get in and out of during a workout.

Note: Neoprene flotation shorts are not legal in USA Triathlon Sanctioned Events when water temperature is above 78 degrees due to violation of Article 4.9 Illegal Equipment. Below 78 degrees, they are legal if no other wetsuit is worn.

This article is sponsor content by ROKA, the Exclusive USA Triathlon Uniform and Swim Category Partner. The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician, dietitian and/or coach.