Competition Swimwear Choices
Competition Swimwear Choices: An Overview
When shopping for competition swimwear, a handful of factors should be considered to ensure the suit you choose performs to expectations. These key factors include the swimmer's level, intended use and fit preferences.
Entry-level swimwear is typically worn for non-competitive events like training. Durable fabrics like lycra and nylon are used to reduce water absorption and decrease drying time. Some suits also have tighter knit, sun-resistant fabric to provide greater protection when swimming outdoors. Overall, entry-level swimwear is designed for comfort and coverage while allowing the swimmer to move freely. Quality suits are made with fabrics optimized to withstand chlorine throughout daily use.
If you’re a competitive athlete looking to improve performance, technical swimwear is your best option. Technical suits are much more innovative than average swimwear: they’re made of lightweight, tight-fitting fabrics with a finish that repels water and offers a low absorption rate. This in turn provides a very low drag coefficient, allowing the swimmer to better glide through the water and gain a potential speed advantage*. Because of the enhanced drag-reduction properties, these suits are a huge step up and are much more expensive than a standard swimming suit.
*It's important to note that the International Swimming Federation (FINA) bans the use of many types of technical swimwear in competition. Any technical swimwear used in competition must be FINA-approved. Please visit www.fina.org for additional information, including a list of approved swimwear.
When it comes to fit, the suggestions for both entry-level and technical swimwear are similar. The torso should lay flat and should not gather or pull at the seams. The fabric should feel comfortably tight; movement shouldn’t cause pulling or stretching. Make sure the elastic on the leg and arm openings, as well as any straps, is secure but doesn’t dig into the skin. Checking the size chart of the particular brand you’re purchasing will ensure you’re purchasing a suit fit to your specific measurements.
Female swimmers have two main options - traditional and kneeskin:
For females, the traditional entry-level suit is a standard one-piece. Coverage and support varies depending on the thickness of the shoulder straps and cut of the neckline. (Thicker straps and modest necklines offer more coverage and support.) Additionally, different designs have varying leg cuts. More modest suits have cuts that extend to the upper thigh. The swimmer’s comfort level is most important when deciding on a design.
Kneeskin suits are ideal for competitive female swimmers. Similar to wetsuits, these suits begin at the shoulders and extend to just above the knee. However, they are made of tight, compression fabrics - like lycra - instead of neoprene. They allow freedom of motion while reducing drag.
Male swimmers have a few options, including jammers, briefs, and square leg suits.
The most modest option, jammers are tight fitting shorts that provide coverage starting at the waist and ending just above the knee. Generally, the waist can be adjusted using an elastic drawcord. Elastic bands around the legs ensure the suit stays in place during movement.
Form-fitting briefs resemble a “V” and sit low on the waist, with leg cuts at the hips. They typically have elastic bands at the waist and on the hips.
Square Leg Suits
These suits are similar to briefs, however they resemble a square instead of a “V”. They also offer more conservative coverage that extends to the upper thigh.
Regardless of design, you can increase the life of the suit by following the manufacturer's care instructions and always thoroughly rinsing the suit after pool use.