Is It Easier to Swim in a Wetsuit?

Many triathletes have felt that, with a wetsuit on, they seem to swim faster than without one. However, is it all in their minds, or is it really easier to swim in a wetsuit?

Yes, it is easier to swim in a wetsuit. Wetsuits provide added buoyancy, helping you keep more of your body above water, and keeping you from experiencing as much hydrodynamic drag. This results in you swimming approximately 6% faster in a 400m race, and 3.7% faster in a 1,500m race compared to a swimsuit.

is it easier to swim in a wetsuit

In this article, we will go over the top reasons why swimming is easier with a wetsuit, but also some of the changes you need to make in order to transition over to swimming in a wetsuit.

Wetsuit Buoyancy and Its Impact on Swimming

Buoyancy plays a crucial role in swimming. It’s the upward force that counteracts gravity and supports your body in the water. In simpler terms, buoyancy helps you float. This force depends on the density of the liquid you’re swimming in and your body’s volume. The more buoyant you are, the easier it is to stay afloat and swim.

Now, you must be wondering how wetsuits come into the picture. Wetsuits are made of neoprene, a material known for its insulating and buoyant properties. When you wear a wetsuit, it increases your overall buoyancy, helping you stay afloat with less effort.

The thicker the neoprene, the more buoyant the wetsuit will be. This enhanced buoyancy allows for a flatter and more streamlined body position in the water, making it much easier to swim efficiently. However, too much buoyancy can be counterproductive, so it’s essential to find the right balance depending on your swimming preferences and skill level.

Wetsuits and Swimming Performance

Just how much can wetsuits improve your swimming performance due to the increased buoyancy they provide?

Ask any triathlete, and they will tell you that they felt like they swam faster wearing a wetsuit compared to swimming without. But anecdotal evidence is not always correct, so what do studies show?

Research has shown that swimmers can increase their swimming speed by 0.07m/s with a wetsuit, resulting in a 6% improvement. This equates to a 20.08-second difference in a 400m freestyle swim performance.

Does a Wetsuit Make Swimming Easier?

While it’s true that the added buoyancy can help improve your body position in the water, swimming in a wetsuit can also influence your swim stroke. Therefore, it’s essential to practice and refine your technique while wearing a wetsuit since some adjustments might be needed.

For example, you might need to alter your kicking patterns to maintain a streamlined position in the water and focus on keeping your upper body relaxed, so it doesn’t feel constricted by the wetsuit. Working on these aspects of your stroke can help you make the most of your wetsuit and enhance your swimming experience.

Furthermore, when selecting a wetsuit, keep in mind that comfort, fit, and flexibility are crucial factors. A good-fitting wetsuit should not restrict mobility or make you feel uncomfortable in any way. For this reason, you should specifically look for a triathlon wetsuit, over a scuba or surfing wetsuit, which may have thicker padding in different areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do wetsuits make you swim faster?

Yes, wetsuits can improve your swimming speed. They provide buoyancy, which helps you maintain a better body position in the water, reducing drag and allowing you to swim faster. Additionally, the insulation offered by a wetsuit keeps you warm in cold water, which can also contribute to improved speed and overall performance.

What are the benefits of wearing a wetsuit for swimming?

Wearing a wetsuit for swimming offers several benefits, such as enhanced buoyancy, insulation, and reduced drag. These advantages help you swim faster, conserve energy, and stay warm in cold water. Moreover, wetsuits provide some protection against abrasive surfaces and marine life.

How do wetsuits affect buoyancy?

The buoyancy of the wetsuit material helps you float more effortlessly. This increased buoyancy reduces the energy needed to maintain a good swimming position and contributes to faster swimming times because you will experience less hydrodynamic drag.

Do triathletes swim faster in wetsuits?

Yes, triathletes usually swim faster in wetsuits due to their improved buoyancy, which allows for a more streamlined body position and reduced drag. However, check with the specific race you’re participating in, as not all races allow wetsuits.

How to swim efficiently wearing a wetsuit?

To take full advantage of the extra buoyancy provided by the wetsuit, there are three tips you should incorporate into your swimming. They are: using a lighter kick, using a straighter arm recovery, and using a slower stroke rate. The main reason being, you do not need to expend as much energy just to stay afloat thanks to the extra buoyancy provided by a wetsuit, so you might as well conserve energy by focusing on maintaining correct body rotation, cadence, and breathing, without compromising on your body position.