The pull buoy 99% of the time is going to be as high up between the legs as you can, keeping your feet and ankles relatively still, plantar flexed the feet so that the toes are pointed away to the rear, and not dragging the foot with a runner’s ankle. With the pull buoy you can focus on the pull. The problem with it is that people tend to relax the core too much and one of the issues with adult onset swimmers is the lack of connectivity through the core. We can pull like crazy, we are aerobically strong, our muscular strength is very strong, but we are not able to apply that force on the water because it’s not connected through the core. You are essentially pulling against a wet noodle. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around because you might have someone that can do tons of crunches, sit-ups, and planks for a long time but they don’t have the dynamic core strength to be able to apply force on the water with a fully extended arm and keep the core still. That takes a lot of of time for most people and if you are using the buoy too often you can get away from that. However, the buoy is most triathlete’s and runners turned swimmer’s best friend because it lifts the hips up. They are generally going to be very low in the water if you come from a running type of background, denser muscle in the legs, and tight in the hip flexors, the hips are going to drop a little bit. It is said that every inch your butt drops below the surface can be 50 more pounds of drag you have to pull through the water, so how can you use the same effort and go faster? Lift your hips up, put in a pull buoy and you're there so you can focus on your pull.
There are a number of different paddles. My go to these days is the Finis Agility Hand Paddle, there are no straps that you have to worry about replacing over time or breaking, you just stick your thumb through the hole and go. The “feel” for the water at the initial catch is much better and it is just the right size to provide good feedback without being too big and only mashing water downwards and not rearwards early in the stroke. With an adult onset swimmer that's an area of concern because we don’t have a very good feel for the water in the first third of the stroke or catch, but with the Finis Agility Paddles you can still have a decent feel of the water up front as far as paddles go. There is also the Freestyler Hand Paddle which is shaped like a triangle and has a little fin on the bottom for a better feel of direction. This is the best paddle for working on alignment, so if you have trouble keeping your arms straight when extended out front, this is going to be the paddle for you. I have also been experimenting with the Finis Iso Paddle, with these paddles you can isolate some anterior or posterior muscles on your stroke depending on which way you wear it. If you switch hands with the paddle you essentially have an extra paddle or portion on the outside or inside depending. I really like these paddles for continuing to build specific strength and more importantly awareness of the pitch of my hand throughout the stroke. I think the Iso Paddles should be used sparingly, but are proving to be a great tool.