Tomikawa, M., & Nomura, T. (2004). The effects of triathlon wetsuits on physiological responses and stroke parameters during submaximal swimming. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(5), Supplement abstract 1150.

This study assessed if the velocity of swimming in a wetsuit or swim suit was different. Triathletes (M = 9; F = 4) performed a progressive swimming test for VO2max and blood lactate. Stroke length and stroke rate were determined from videos of the test swims and converted to a stroke index (velocity x stroke length).

There was no difference in VO2max between either suit. However, the velocity of swimming at VO2max was higher in a wetsuit than in the normal suit. VO2 was lower in a wet suit than swim suit at 60% vVO2max, but there was no difference in lactate. There were no differences at 80% vVO2max. At both submaximal velocities, stroke length and stroke rate were no different but stroke index was significantly higher for wetsuits.

Implication. Wetsuits improve physiological characteristics at moderate submaximal velocities (e.g., 60% vVO2max) but not at upper-submaximal velocities (e.g., 80% vVO2max). However, stroke index is improved at both submaximal velocities. Since 80% vVO2max approaches race pace, it would be expected that race performances would improve if a wetsuit was used.

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