An Explanation Of How Tech Suits Benefit Swimmers

katie-ledecky-tyr 5 - Tech Suits
Katie Ledecky. Photo Courtesy: TYR

An Explanation Of How Tech Suits Benefit Swimmers

When it comes time to race, many swimmers, especially those racing in high-level competitions, wear specialized knee-length swimsuits known as tech suits. They’re everywhere in the swimming world.

But how do tech suits work? And do they actually make you faster? 

According to a study done by Journal Of The American College Of Sports Medicine, the suits can significantly improve swimming performance. The study found that, on average, swim performance improved by 3.2% when swimmers wore a tech suit as opposed to a regular training suit. Additionally, the study found that tech suits can reduce drag by 4.4% to 6.2% and reduce the amount of energy needed for swimming by 4.5% to 5.5%. 

Manufacturers use a variety of technologies when making tech suits in order to enhance swimming performance. One of the most important aspects of how tech suits work is the muscular compression they provide. According to Swim Competitive, muscular compression increases muscle activation and allows blood to circulate more quickly. Increased blood circulation leads to faster replenishment of oxygen and nutrients in the blood and faster removal of lactic acid and toxins. Muscle compression ultimately reduces fatigue and increases power, leading to faster swimming. 

Tech suits are also made of a lightweight fabric, which allows swimmers not to be weighed down by their suits – an example is carbon fiber. In addition to being lightweight, tech suits are often made with water repellent fabric. This decreases water saturation and creates a frictionless surface that reduces drag. These suits are also almost completely seamless, which decreases drag and allows the suits to have a tighter fit. Arena, Speedo and TYR often use terms like ‘power skin’ and ‘second skin’ when referring to their suits, which are smooth and fit tightly. 

According to Swim Competitive, many tech suits include technology that can link muscle groups together and increase power. Some suits are woven in a way that connects muscle groups, while many newer suits use carbon bands and internal muscle taping to increase power. The way that the taping is placed can pull muscles in certain directions to bring muscle groups together and allow them to work more efficiently together. 

One study, conducted by Hartmutt Sandner involving 15 French athletes, found that tech suits can even increase stroke rate. The study suggests that the fit and material of tech suits creates very little resistance when swimming, which allows for longer gliding periods and increased efficiency. This led to an improved stroke rate and ultimately faster swimming. 

In addition to physical benefits, these suits can also have psychological benefits that can improve performance. According to Pro Swimwear, swimmers will feel faster when wearing a tech suit. Even if the suit isn’t actually making a difference on its own, the feelings of confidence and readiness that come from wearing a suit, that is advertised as technical and fast, can lead to faster swimming.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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5 months ago
Tight body suits not only seem problematic to me because they restrict breathing by constricting the abdomen and lungs; the tight clothing can also disrupt blood circulation and thus have a counterproductive effect?
4 months ago

” on average, swim performance improved by 3.2% when swimmers wore a tech suit ”
But what does this actually MEAN??
Say a swimmer goes 60 seconds unsuited, does this mean they’d go 58.08 in a tech suit????

2 months ago
Reply to  Janey

That is exactly what that means. Dropping almost a second in your 50 free time can be the difference between 1st and 16th place. In distance events its even more noticeable. I have a feeling that the performance gain for women is even greater since their suits are not just waist to knees like the guys suits.

Last edited 2 months ago by Paul
4 months ago

Good information, like to see your hard work. If you want to see more about swimming and lifeguarding click this Lifeguarding recertification

swim shady
4 months ago

I would be interested as to how the drag coefficient compares in the A3 phenom, being that its hydrophilic rather than repellant.

Steven Ross
3 months ago

I am 73. I swim 6 days a week, about 2 hours at a time. I want to replace my swimming suit. I called Mizuno. Mizuno has swimming suits of two broad categories. Some have compression and cost $400. Others do not have compression and cost $80. Is compression only for racing? Do the great swimmers like Ledecky and Finck use compression swimming suits even when they are not racing?