If you’ve spent any time in competitive swimming, or even just watched the Olympics, you’ve probably encountered tech suits – the sci-fi looking swimwear worn by athletes chasing personal best times. Swimming tech suits, also known as technical suits or tech suits, are specialized garments designed to enhance an athlete's performance in competitive swimming. These suits are made from advanced materials that provide a high degree of compression, reduce drag, and improve buoyancy in the water.
The science behind how tech suits work is rooted the benefits of muscle compression and in the principles of fluid dynamics, also known as hydrodynamics. You may have heard of aerodynamics with planes and cars - swimmers are subject to the same principles of physics. Swimming through water requires overcoming resistance, or drag, caused by the water's viscosity. The more resistance, the more effort it takes to move. Tech suits reduce this drag by compressing the swimmer's body, creating a streamlined profile that reduces water resistance, and using materials that make it easier to slip through the water.
Compression also helps a swimmers muscles work more efficiently, so they can swim faster for longer. In this regard, the way in which the compression is designed becomes highly complex between tech suit models. One approach to tech suit compression involves using a combination of woven and knit materials that provide different levels of elasticity. This allows for precise compression around key muscle groups, improving blood flow and reducing fatigue during races. Another approach involves using materials with high-tech fibers that are designed to increase buoyancy, effectively lifting the swimmer's body higher in the water.
Stitched and bonded seams are two different techniques used in the construction of tech suits. Stitched seams use a traditional sewing method, where two pieces of fabric are sewn together using a thread. Bonded seams, on the other hand, use a specialized adhesive to bond the two pieces of fabric together. Bonded seams provide a smoother surface and reduce drag, while also allowing for more targeted muscle compression, but require more precision during manufacturing – making a more expensive tech suit for swimmers.
The benefits of tech suits are significant. By reducing drag and increasing buoyancy, swimmers can achieve faster times and improve their overall performance. Tech suits also help swimmers maintain proper body position and improve their technique, which can lead to fewer injuries and better long-term performance.
The history of tech suits dates back to the 1970s, when the first generation of nylon racing suits were introduced. These suits were basic compared to today's high-tech suits, but still provided a significant advantage over traditional swimwear. Over the next few decades, advancements in materials and manufacturing techniques led to the development of increasingly advanced tech suits – including suits that were deemed too much of an advantage, leading to regulation changes and banned products in the sport.
Today, there are many different brands and styles of tech suits available on the market, and the rules around tech suits in competition are highly regulated. Some of the most popular brands include Speedo, Arena, and TYR. When selecting a tech suit, it's important to consider factors such as the suit's compression level, materials, and seam construction. Choosing the right tech suit based on the events you’re swimming is also incredibly important, as some of the most beneficial tech suits for freestyle are too restrictive for breaststroke and IM events.
It's also important to make sure the suit fits properly, as a poorly fitting suit can negate many of the benefits of the suit. If a suit is too big, the compression is lost and your expensive tech suit loses any benefit over a practice suit. Too tight, and the fabric can be damaged or be too restrictive for your event. Because tech suits begin to degrade as soon as they’re worn, you’re not likely to find a retailer that will let you try one in person, and how far you size down from your meet suit size is very depending on the individual suit model. Xtreme Swim is always happy to help answer questions and find the right suit and size for your needs – just contact us.
Tech suits rule the pool when it comes to finding personal bests or setting records. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just going to your next big meet, investing in a high-quality tech suit can help you achieve your swimming goals and take your performance to the next level.