How much does it cost? Tech suits start around $100 for a basic tech suit and closer to $300 for a hi-tech tech suit. If you’re not familiar with what exactly a tech suit is, right about now you’re probably wondering why are they so expensive and/or who would spend that much on one suit?!? (Or, maybe you’re a veteran in the competitive swimming world and are still wondering this!)
The short answer is science and research.
Before we unpack this short answer a little more, let’s first quickly define what a tech suit is so we are all on the same wavelength…
So, What is a swimming tech suit? A Tech suit is advanced material swimwear for competitive water sports such as triathlon and swimming. They are touted for their ability to reduce drag while maximizing muscle support, increase a swimmer’s glide, and absorb less water. Additionally, they must meet and pass FINA regulations.
Now back to that short answer that they are so expensive due to science and research.
So, why are swimming tech suits so expensive? For tech suits to be able to accomplish all of the aforementioned there is a lot of science and research required. And, science and research are both the opposite of cheap. So, this is what makes a tech suit so expensive- you aren’t so much paying for the specialized material itself as you are paying for all the science and research that went into that particular tech suit and its particular specialized material.
Also check out : Can You Run in Speedos? Or Do A Triathlon Shirtless!
What Is the Difference Between a Tech Suit and A Normal Tri Suit?
A tech suit is a much more sophisticated tri suit or swimsuit. While tri suits and other “specialized” swimsuits for swimmers may help one’s performance to a small degree, tech suits are much more hi-tech and have been shown to have at least a moderate, if not, significant positive effect on swim performance.
Tech suits have a slick appearance and are, generally, nearly seamless as well as extremely lightweight. They are also hydrophobic. These qualities are what allow for a better streamline/increased muscle support and reduced water absorption/drag.
Because of these qualities, tech suits are not meant to be worn every day- they are made to withstand only 10-12 swims, not 100s.
A regular tri suit or “specialized” swimsuit may be lightweight but not as light as a tech suit. And, though it may provide compression and thereby aid in making one more streamlined, they do absorb more water making it heavier and increasing drag. They are also made to hold up for several swims, sometimes even 100s versus only the 11 swims on average for a tech suit.
Furthermore, there is the difference in their price. A normal wetsuit/tri suit/”specialized” swimsuit will run you anywhere from $35 to $300, give or take a few dollars. A tech suit on the other hand will run you $100-$250 for a basic tech suit and closer to $300-$600 for hi-tech tech suit. (Source A) (Source B)
Do Swimming Tech Suits Actually Make You Faster?
Swimming Tech suits are designed to enhance physical performance in the water. The science is there to show that they do have a positive effect on stroke rate and length and thereby overall swim performance (i.e. they can give you a boost in performance, making you faster [or at least feel faster). Studies show overall swim performance increased by roughly 3% when wearing a tech suit. Furthermore, tech suits reduce drag by roughly 4-6% and decrease the energy needed by roughly 5%.
Here’s some science behind it. Tech suits are designed to be extremely snug which provides muscle compression. This muscle compression increases muscle activation and increases blood circulation. The increase in blood circulation leads to faster oxygen and nutrient replenishment and faster metabolic waste removal (i.e. lactic acid and toxins). All of this comes together to reduce fatigue and increase power which in turn, ultimately, results in faster swimming.
Though tech suits do enhance one’s performance, it’s worth noting that they are not a replacement for hard work and consistent training. Also, know that each manufacture will have their claims and studies about their suits. Ultimately, you will have to do your research and/or try them each out and make a decision as to the best one for you (& your budget). (Source)
How Much Time Does a Tech Suit Drop?
While each manufacturer will have data for each one of their tech suits and have their individual claims, here is what is known in general about their effect on swim times. Tech suits should decrease drag in the water and improve oxygen consumption. Studies show a significant decrease, roughly 16.5%, in passive drag (swimming underwater) in the streamline position. Additionally, studies show a slight decrease, roughly 5%, in active drag (surface swimming). Those same studies showed that oxygen consumption improved by roughly 11%.
Tech suits and times. One burning question regarding tech suits seems to always be ‘how much time does a tech suit drop?’. And, the answer is it depends on the particular tech suit.
Each tech suit manufacturer- Speedo, TYR, ARENA, etc.- will have their claims regarding time reductions and swim performance when wearing their tech suit versus their competitors. For instance, Speedo claims that their LZR Racer tech suit reduces drag/water resistance by 38%.
Additional to those stats, the lower resistance created by tech suits results in a longer glide phase and better efficiency. This increased efficiency can result in faster times.
Though the science is there to prove that tech suits do have an effect on stroke rate and length and some do find they can swim faster and easier when wearing them, how much time a tech suit drops will ultimately depend on the size and technique of the individual swimmer as well as the manufacturing of the tech suit. (Source A) (Source B) (Source C)
Are Swimming Tech Suits Worth It?
Now that we have defined what a tech suit is and looked at some of the science behind them, you may be wondering if a swimming tech suit is worth it? YES! Especially if you are a hard-core competitive swimmer.
There are many excellent reasons to invest in and wear a tech suit for competitive swimming events. But, here are three big ones
The tech suit is designed to fit very snuggly. This snug fit allows for muscles to be more compacted which in turn promotes better blood flow. This improved blood flow allows your body to flush lactic acid and other metabolic waste more quickly throughout a race. The compression also narrows the body making one more streamlined which in turn increases one’s speed.
tech suits are hydrophobic. This means they shed water versus absorbing it which ultimately reduces your drag. It is also what gives it and maintains its slick appearance.
It’s a psychological thing. Tech suits make you FEEL faster and like a STRONGER swimmer. Confidence can be the difference between victory and defeat.
It is important to note that a tech suit is not a replacement for hard work, consistency, good technique, and overall training [like a beast], but it can help enhance one’s performance as well as boost their self-confidence- all of which can give one a competitive edge. That said, many still feel a tech suit can “make or break” a race; therefore, they are willing to spend the money that a tech suit costs. For these very reasons, the tech suit is often seen more as an investment than an expense. (Source A) (Source B)
Why Are Some Tech Suits Banned?
Tech suits made with polyurethane have added buoyancy which ultimately gives a swimmer a competitive edge (and not necessarily a fair one); so, FINA has banned tech suits that contain any polyurethane (or violate any of their other regulations that have been put into place as of 2015). (Source)
Tech suits became all the rage in the late 90s to early 2000s. They even had full-body suits (suits that fully cover the arms AND legs as well as torso area- looked much like a wetsuit). Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics when 40+ swimming world records were broken.
This mass breaking of swimming world records piqued the interest of the International Swimming Federation (FINA)-the governing body for competitive swimming sports. So, FINA began investigating this phenomenon. Once all was said and done, they attributed this phenomenon to the wearing of tech suits.
In 2009, FINA banned tech suits that contained polyurethane because of their added buoyancy. And, in 2010, FINA began regulating tech suits. As of 2015, there are specific guidelines regarding a tech suit’s thickness, buoyancy, the permeability of the fabric, and zippers/fasteners (which are not allowed at all). Though tech suits containing polyurethane have been banned completely, tech suits are still allowed and used today. They just have to be approved by FINA/have the FINA logo on them. Additionally, for men, the tech suit must sit below the navel and above the knee. And, for women, they cannot cover the neck or extend past the shoulders or below the knee.
Do You Wear Anything Under a Tech Suit?
At this point, you may be feeling like a tech suit is in fact worth the investment. But, wait, do you wear anything under a tech suit? No- you should not wear anything under your tech suit.
First, wearing anything under your tech suit would violate FINA regulations and could potentially disqualify you. This is because the extra layer is believed to increase buoyancy and decrease drag (giving one an unfair competitive edge/advantage).
Secondly, they are not fitted to be worn over additional layers as with a wetsuit. This could potentially hinder one’s performance as it would make it bulkier and more uncomfortable.
For more on this, check out our post : How Tigh Should Compression Shorts Be? Can They Be Used for Swimming and Cycling ?
So, again, you do not want to wear any additional layers under your tech suit- just go commando underneath it. (Source).