View Full Version : Full body swimsuits

June 8th, 2002, 06:40 AM
I compete at triathlon (the modern pentathlon variety, swimming, running, shooting), which entails a 100m sprint swim in a pool. Recently many masters competitors have been sporting full body suits, and claiming that this has reduced their competitive times by up to 6 seconds over a 100m! Is there any evidence that these costumes can bring about such dramatic improvement? My own feeling is that if they do, then it's a form cheating as the costume has become an artificial aid - so I haven't invested in one yet!

What is the general feeling about the use of these costumes for pool events?

June 8th, 2002, 10:24 AM
The theory, as I understand it, is that the bodysuit reduces drag - as a bathing suit can be less "draggy" in the water than skin, it would seem to make sense to cover up as much skin as possible. Hence the full body swimsuits for free, fly, and backstroke...breaststroke requires too much knee action, so the long suit is too restrictive. As well, the full body suits add compression to the major leg muscles, which is supposed to improve performance; and a bit of heat, which improves performance by increasing the blood/oxygen flow to the muscles.

As for a 6 second difference in a 100m...I doubt it. MAYBE a .6 second difference for a highly efficient swimmer.

Good luck in your competition!

June 8th, 2002, 05:33 PM
6 seconds difference in a 100m!!!! Where do I sign up!! Lexa is right, maybe .6 but not 6.0. I do wear a full body suit in competition and I think it does help even if only psychologically.

Also running in a full body suit after a swim would be uncomfortable. In order to work right the suit must be tight. When you run you do not want to be chaffed. And you certainly do not want to stop to take it off. That would add at least 10 minutes to your time!!


June 8th, 2002, 05:52 PM
Hi Joan,

I have worn the full body suit (to the knees and no arms for 8 years now. My experience has been that the suit improves my times by 1.5 - 2.0 seconds per 100.

I understand your reluctance to use technology to improve your time. However, haven't there been improvements in running shoes and running uniforms that have aided the athletes? And, certainly, there most be improvements in the manufacturing and design of guns that improve the quality of your shooting?

Why does improved uniform for swimming stand out when improvements in running gear and shooting gear are not brought under the same scrunity?

Just curious...

Paul Windrath

June 9th, 2002, 06:07 AM
Thanks for the responses. Why do I feel these particular suits are different than advances in running shoes or pistols? If the difference attributed to the suits was .6 of a second, then I have no problem with them, as they are probably just reducing drag, which has been the aim of competitive costumes for decades, but if they give added buoyancy to those who are less adept at body balance and compress muscles, then I feel that they are an aid. So I guess I really need to understand how they work before I would feel comfortable using them.

An example of pistol technology which is not allowed in Pentathlon is telescopic sites for instance. Also any advances in pistol or shoe technology would appear to benefit all competitors equally - but in our event it is only the "runners" who are claiming amazing PBs whilst using the full (inc. arms) body suits! By the way, as the events are not run concurrently, we have at least an hour between each event to get changed into appropriate gear - so whether or not they are good for running is is not an issue here. On a personal note, I have come back to the sport after a five year break, and am trying to get back to my previous times - I'm gradually getting there, but I guess for my own satisfaction, I'd like to know it was because of the training rather than just advances in equipment! Again thanks for your input. Joan

June 9th, 2002, 03:22 PM
Hi Joan,

I need to clarify something about the body suits - at least from my standpoint.

I do not think women benefit nearly as much from the body suits as men do. I believe regardless of the effect the suit may have on muscle compression and all that stuff.

I believe the suit streamlines men who previously wore the traditional swim suit. Our skin gets loose with age and the body suits keep the skin from "flapping" around which creates resistance and slows us down.

Women have always benefitted from the streamlining effect of the women's one piece suit, so a body suit will not have the same effect except perhaps with the legs being covered if you are using the knee length suit.


June 11th, 2002, 05:11 AM
Hi Paul
I think you've got a point there. They certainly seem to hold in the flappy bits!

The suits in question were from neck to ankle, and the arms go right down to the wrist. Getting them on seems to need the help of others as they are meant to be worn skin tight. It took me 15 minutes to help a fellow competitor into hers - I thought we were both going to miss the warm up!

June 11th, 2002, 10:18 AM
IMHO, if people are putting on full-body FastSkin or Aquablad, etc., suits, and dropping 6 seconds per 100, then what you really have is absolute proof of the high mental component of swimming.


Kevin in MD
June 11th, 2002, 04:04 PM
Bringing up 6 seconds per 100 makes me want to clear something up. Are we talking about the full body suits made by speedo like the aquablade? Or are we talking about the wetsuits like those made by Ironman or quintana roo.

A real wetsuit like we wear in tris or some open water swims can give you 6 seconds per 100 because they add bouyancy. The other suits that swimmers wore in the olympics won't give you anything like that.

June 12th, 2002, 05:50 AM
We are talking about the fast skin/aquablade type suits rather than wetsuits. Maybe it is all in the mind! J

June 12th, 2002, 03:22 PM
For what it is worth, I was a body suit skeptic until very recently. I wore an Arena Powerskin bodysuit (full legs, no arms, open back) for the first time in Hawaii and dropped a tremendous amount of time in all my events (50 free & fly, 100 free & fly, 200 free). Now, I have to say that I had a great taper -- but I definitely believe the suit helped with leg buoyancy (I don't float very well) and reducing muscle strain (from lack of "flapping around"). One of my former age group coaches is now a Div I college coach and has done extensive testing of the suits with his swimmers. He believes the full suits are worth 1.0 seconds per 100. I have to say that based on my swims, I agree!

I also was expecting the suit to be uncomfortable while hanging around between events, and it wasn't that bad at all! I intend to wear it again ... but save it for nationals! I don't want the magic to run out!

jim thornton
June 13th, 2002, 05:31 PM
I think body suits used in swim meets (as opposed to the neoprene body kayaks used in triathlons!) help different body types preferentially.

Alexander Popov: lithe, long, no fat, concave abdomen, no baboon-like body hair--relatively little benefit from a body suit.

Jim Thornton: aging, portly, convex abdomen, covered with a shag carpet of chest hair--relatively tremendous benefit from a body suit.

Note: I "swam" the Chesapeake Bay Swim (4.4 mile open water swim) in a Quintana Roo neoprene suit. I loved that suit! But in my heart of hearts, I believe it's a stretch to call what one does in such a suit "swimming." You float so high in the water that it really reminded me more of a form of kayaking.

Which brings me to my own bottomline for what makes one suit legal and another suit not: If it is used primarily to compensate for a general inability to swim at all (i.e., something an embarrassing percentage of triathletes probably should confess), then I don't think it's truly kosher. But if it's used primarily to allow regular swimmers to perform their best without first having to undergo a whole body bikini wax, followed by annointment with pool-polluting body oil to enhance slipperiness, then it's A-OK in my book.

Peter Cruise
June 13th, 2002, 09:58 PM
We've hashed out this one before; I am established as somewhat of a neo-luddite (agin the new suits, especially the expense of them)- but... I guess the line in the sand I wish to draw revolves around this: increasing our slipperiness is a general trend & has been for years & I guess I can't really quarrel as I have done the big shave numerous times- no the point that raises my hackles is that certain manufacturers claim through quasi-dendritic ridges etc to actually enhance performance through propulsive micro-design. Now their claims might be entirely bogus, but if they could be confirmed (or in some cases, extra buoyancy) than those suits should be excluded. I don't think we in Masters want to see our discipline, or Open swimming for that matter, degenerate to the level of, say, bobsled competition where money rules.