Starling, R. D., Costill, D. L., Trappe, T. A., Jozsi, A. C., Trappe, S. W., & Goodpaster, B. H. (1995). Effect of swimming suit design on the energy demands of swimming. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 27, 1086-1089.

Male competitive swimmers (N = 8) completed a standardized 365.8 m (400 yd) freestyle swimming trial at a fixed pace (~90% of maximal effort) while wearing a torso swim suit or a standard racing suit. Oxygen uptake (VO2), blood lactate, heart rate, and distance per stroke measurements were obtained. Additionally, the velocity obtained during a prone underwater glide following a maximal leg push-off from the side of the pool while wearing each suit was measured and used to calculate the total distance covered during the glides.

VO2 and lactate were significantly lower during the torso trial than the standard suit trial. Heart rate did not differ between trials for the two suits. Distance per stroke was significantly greater during the torso than the standard trial. A significantly greater total distance was covered during the prone glide while wearing the torso suit.

Implication. A specially designed torso suit reduced the energy demand of swimming compared to a standard racing suit which may be due to a reduction in body drag.

[Note: The simmers were unshaved. It has been shown that body hair has a strong effect on performance. The torso suit could reduce the body hair exposure and therefore, reduce drag given that the material of the suit was less resistant than an unshaven skin surface. The results of this study are not so much because of the benefit of the torso suit but rather because it reduced the amount of unshaven skin presented to the water. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened to the measured factors if a traditional suit was worn in a skin-shaved condition.]

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