Drag Suits for Swimming: What You Need to Know

A drag suit is a type of swimwear designed to increase resistance in the water, helping swimmers build their strength and endurance during training sessions. They are typically made of thick polyester, which is far from water-repellent and designed to soak up water like a sponge, increasing resistance as you swim.

As a swimmer, you might be interested in trying out a drag suit to amp up your training routine. Wearing one helps develop force—the ability to overcome resistance—leading to power and muscular endurance. Not only does a drag suit offer physical benefits, but it also provides psychological advantages, giving you the confidence to perform better when you switch back to regular swimwear.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the features of drag suits, when to wear one, and how it can greatly impact your swimming performance. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how a drag suit can be a valuable addition to your training arsenal, helping you reach your swimming goals faster than ever before.

What Is a Drag Suit?

A drag suit is a type of swimwear designed to provide additional resistance for swimmers during their training sessions.

Made of thick polyester, a drag suit soaks up water, increasing drag and resistance as you swim. This added resistance enables you to focus on developing your force, power, and muscular endurance while in the water.

Unlike high-tech racing jammers or kneeskins, which are made to repel water and reduce drag, drag suits are purposefully designed to counteract that effect. The mesh pattern found in many drag suits increases surface drag and overall resistance, making your swim training more challenging.

Wearing a drag suit gives you the opportunity to engage in sport-specific resistance training. By challenging your body to work against the added drag, you are able to build strength and stamina more effectively.

Additionally, the mental aspect of training with a drag suit can provide psychological benefits. Removing the suit after a workout can offer a sense of ease and improved performance, motivating you to push harder in your training sessions.

Purpose of a Drag Suit

Increased Resistance

Wearing a drag suit during your swim sessions can offer several benefits. One reason to wear a drag suit is to increase resistance while swimming.

A drag suit is a secondary, baggy suit designed to create drag when worn over your regular practice suit, as it is typically made of a mesh outer lining with a drawstring for extra hold.

This added resistance closely simulates sport-specific training, similar to using DragSox, stretch cords, or swimming with a band around your ankles.

Improving Technique

Another aspect of using a drag suit is improving your swimming technique. By increasing resistance, a drag suit forces you to work on your stroke’s efficiency and maintain proper form.

That said, it is crucial to strike a balance, as excessive drag can negatively impact your distance per stroke and alter your technique.

As a savvy swimmer, you must learn to use drag suits strategically during your training sessions.

Boosting Endurance

Drag suits can also help boost your endurance and power in the water.

By wearing a drag suit, you are effectively training your body to overcome increased resistance. This, in turn, helps develop force, power, and muscular endurance, allowing you to maintain a high force load for an extended period.

The psychological aspect of using and removing a drag suit during training can also provide a mental boost, as you’ll feel lighter and faster once the drag suit is removed.

Types of Drag Suits

There are several types of drag suits available, each with unique features to help you improve your swimming performance. Let’s explore some of the most common types: Mesh, Loose Fit, and Parachute.


Mesh drag suits, such as the Speedo Poly Mesh Training Suit (pictured above), are popular for their thick polyester mesh construction. They are designed to create resistance in the water due to their purposely baggy fit and mesh lining. These suits come in various colors and sizes, providing you with a comfortable option to enhance your training.

Loose Fit

Loose Fit drag suits are designed with a casual fit, providing extra resistance in the water. These suits can be made of nylon or mesh, or can even be old sagging racing suits with holes in them, worn over each other. Athletic shorts or swimming shorts can also act as a drag suit, as long as they create the desired resistance during your swim.

Swim Parachute

Swim parachutes provide an innovative approach to resistance training in swimming. These suits have pockets or attachments designed to catch water and create more drag as you swim. The additional resistance helps build strength and endurance, making this type of drag suit ideal for serious swimmers looking for a unique challenge.

How to Wear a Drag Suit

Wearing a drag suit correctly will help you make the most out of your swim training sessions. There are a few essential aspects to consider when using a drag suit, including sizing, positioning, and layering.


Choosing the right size for your drag suit is crucial for both comfort and effectiveness. A good rule of thumb is to wear approximately the same size as your regular practice suit, as drag suits are designed to fit over them. However, remember that drag suits typically come with a drawstring to provide extra hold during swimming, so you can adjust the fit accordingly.


Proper positioning of a drag suit is essential to ensuring you reap its benefits while maintaining good swimming form.

When putting on the drag suit, make sure it sits comfortably at your hips, without being too tight or too loose. Adjust the drawstring as necessary to achieve the desired hold.

Keep in mind that the main goal is to increase drag resistance without sacrificing swimming technique or causing discomfort.


Drag suits are intended to be worn over your main practice suit. Start by putting on your regular swimsuit and then layer the drag suit on top of it. This arrangement will create the necessary drag resistance without impacting your range of motion or overall comfort.

Avoid wearing multiple drag suits at once, as this can hinder your swimming technique and cause undue strain on your muscles.

Benefits of Using a Drag Suit

Wearing a drag suit during your swim training can yield several benefits for you, one of which is the development of force. By overcoming resistance while swimming, you can improve your power and muscular endurance.

Drag suits are a great tool for resistance training while swimming, making your workouts more challenging and effective. As a result, you’ll build strength and improve your swimming speed over time.

Another advantage of using a drag suit is the psychological boost it provides. When you remove the drag suit during a high-intensity set, you’ll experience an increased sense of speed, enabling you to glide through the water effortlessly.

Finally, by incorporating drag suits into your long, low-intensity sets, you’ll train your body to pull against stronger resistance compared to swimming without a drag suit. This not only builds power but also enhances body awareness and overall technique.

When to Use a Drag Suit

When exactly should you use a drag suit? Are there times when you shouldn’t train with one?

During practice sessions, wearing a drag suit can be beneficial to train your body to overcome added resistance. This added resistance pushes your muscles to work harder, thereby enhancing your overall swimming performance.

While training with a drag suit, it’s essential to maintain focus on your technique. There may be times when you need to concentrate on perfecting your stroke or refining your skills.

In such instances, it’s better to remove the drag suit to ensure that the additional resistance does not hinder the correct execution of your technique.

  • Interval training: During your interval training, wear a drag suit for certain sets and then remove it for others. This allows you to experience both resistance training and speed work in a single session.
  • Long-distance/endurance swims: Wearing a drag suit during longer swim sessions can help enhance your stamina and muscular endurance. This will better prepare you for the demands of competitive events.
  • Mental conditioning: Using and removing a drag suit can provide a psychological benefit by helping you feel confident in your abilities when you’re not wearing one.

Remember, it’s crucial to listen to your body and coach while deciding when to use a drag suit. Balancing its usage with technique and speed work will optimize your training and ensure you stay on track toward reaching your swimming goals.

Tips for Training with a Drag Suit

When incorporating a drag suit into your swim training routine, consider the following tips to maximize its effectiveness:

Start Slowly: If you’re new to using drag suits, ease into it by wearing the suit for a portion of your workout. Gradually increase the time spent in the suit as you become more comfortable with the additional resistance.

Focus on Technique: The resistance provided by a drag suit can help improve your swimming technique. Pay close attention to body position, arm strokes, and kicking during your training sessions to ensure you’re maintaining proper form.

Alternate Exercises: Mix in different types of exercises like using a kickboard, pull buoy, or swimming with a band around your ankles. This variety will help you enhance different aspects of your swimming ability while using the drag suit.

Measure Progress: Track your performance over time to see the benefits of using a drag suit in your training. Monitor improvements in exercise duration, distances swum, and overall conditioning to gauge how the added resistance contributes to your progress.

Remember, consistency in training is key to witnessing improvements when using a drag suit. Keep these tips in mind as you incorporate this valuable tool into your swim training routine.