Being a swimmer, there is a lot of gear to purchase and take care of. Technical swimwear should be at the top of the priority list. Swimmers of every level wear bonded technical race suits in major meets. You might ask yourself, why splurge on technical race wear?
The textile fabrics that make up technical suits are faster than skin in the water. Add the compression benefits of streamlining the body, and racing with as much skin covered as possible, and race suits become much faster than training suits.
With so many options, swimmers can be overwhelmed with choices and want to know that the benefits promised by manufacturers will actually make a difference. Here are the key features to pay attention to.
LEG & BACK COVERAGE
Technical suits extend down to the knee for both men and women and some women's suits cover more of the back. This compresses more muscles which has physiological benefits. For swimmers who struggle to hold a good streamlined body position, a technical suit can help correct this and improve distance per stroke.
Swimmers can effectively make themselves smaller and more streamlined in the water with the help of compressive fabrics. Typically, the more compressive the suit, the more expensive, and will take more care and time to put on. However, there are options that are more affordable, easier to get on, and still offer many performance benefits over a normal training suit.
The best suits will repel water. When you splash water on them, it will run off the fabric, leaving it feeling dry. This is a performance benefit as suits won’t become heavy or waterlogged when wet.
NONSLIP LEG GRIPPERS
Gel leg grippers circle the inside of each leg opening and hold the suit in place, preventing it from riding up or creating drag-increasing ripples in the fabric. If the suit isn’t tight on your leg it will slow you down.
WELDED / BONDED SEAMS
This renders the suit virtually stitch-less and eliminates points of drag. A bonded suit will be faster than a stitched one, but it will also be more expensive and needs to be looked after by rinsing in cold water after use and only hang drying. Stitched suits are cheaper, but beware as some are made from non technical fabrics to keep the cost down, so will, in fact be slower than wearing a standard training suit.
Compressive suits won’t be the most comfortable necessarily, but shouldn’t be uncomfortable to the point of affecting your swim. If you wear a suit too big you’ll lose the benefits of wearing it. Fit is everything with a technical race suit and should never be overlooked. Contact the brand directly with questions or concerns.
Wearing a performance suit for swimming is completely down to personal choice. At the top level, all swimmers wear them especially those looking to challenge for junior and senior qualifying standards.
Written with technical assistance from Dr. Conor Osborough, PhD in swimming biomechanics and advisor to blueseventy.