If you've been a part of the competitive swimming community for any amount of time, you've most likely heard of technical suits. As swimwear technology advances, it's essential to stay up to date with the latest racing suit trends if you want to realize your full potential in the pool. But what exactly is a tech suit, and how much do tech suits help?
This complete guide will answer your questions, such as what the best tech suit is for you is and how long tech suits last. You'll also learn about the benefits of a tech suit and what to think about when choosing one, such as sizing, style, brand, restrictions and maintenance practices.
What Is a Swimming Tech Suit?
A technical suit is a special type of high-technology bathing suit specifically designed for swim competitions to optimize athletic performance. Tech suits for males usually look similar to traditional swim jammers but are tighter around the thighs to compress the leg muscles more. Women's tech suits are created to compress the muscles by wrapping around the shoulders in addition to the legs and core to provide full-body compression.
Because they are developed for high-intensity racing, tech suits are not intended for wearing to everyday practice sessions.
Benefits of Tech Suits
While there are numerous advantages to wearing a tech suit for competitions, here are the top three:
Tech suits were developed to improve athletes' blood flow while swimming by compressing their muscles. Compression enables the body's systems to flush out lactic acid and metabolic waste more quickly during hard efforts, resulting in improved performance.
Along with muscle compression, a tightly fitted tech suit makes your body more streamlined, which means you can move faster through the water. A tech suit can also help you maintain better body alignment, assisting your breathing and reducing overall fatigue. All of these factors can help increase your speed on race day.
Tech suits are made from a hydrophobic material that repels water. Because the suit does not absorb water as you swim, you experience less drag and less water weight slowing you down.
Tech suits also have few seams. The seams they do have are carefully constructed to direct the flow of the water and make the suit function as close to a second layer of skin as possible.
3. Psychological Edge
Sports are largely mental games, and competitive swimming is no different. When you believe you are strong and smooth in the water, you perform at your best. A tech suit can give you the psychological upper hand by increasing your confidence and making you feel faster.
By making you feel more hydrodynamic and prepared before a big meet, a tech suit can give you the edge you need to outswim your opponents. Choose a tech suit in a unique color or style that expresses your personality to feel as confident as possible when you dive into the water.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Tech Suit
If you want to start taking advantage of all the benefits a tech suit has to offer, it's time to think about what kind of tech suit is right for you. Choosing a tech suit is a big decision, and there are a few key factors to consider when finding the right tech suit for you. Include these three steps in your tech suit decision-making process:
1. Focus on the Fit
When shopping for a new suit, swimmers have a tendency to overly rely on their typical swimsuit size. This approach may work for regular practice suits, but every technical racing suit is going to be sized a bit differently. Instead, prioritize how the suit feels over the actual number on the tag. As swimming suit technology rapidly evolves, the size and fit of different tech suits also changes, so pay more attention to a suit's structure, comfort and materials than the size.
Your comfort and range of motion in the suit is the most important component of finding the right tech suit. If the suit feels too tight in the legs or shoulders, you could be in pain throughout your race. Look for the suit that will help you swim as fast as possible rather than the most brightly colored or in-fashion suit.
2. Evaluate Brand and Style
Before choosing a tech suit, research the latest brands and styles to determine which type of tech suit is best for your swimming techniques and races. Tech suits can be made from a variety of materials that each behave differently in the water. Some fabrics allow for more stretch and flexibility while others concentrate on compression, so think about the way you move and what kind of suit would complement your movements best.
For instance, if your favorite stroke is breaststroke, look for a suit that has seams around the leg muscles that will allow for more stretch. Similarly, if you're a long-distance swimmer, don't get a suit that's designed for short sprints. There are a lot of different brands and styles of tech suits on the market, so make sure you're aware of all your options before deciding which suit to buy.
3. Think About Money Matters
High-quality tech suits are not cheap, but they are a worthwhile investment in your training and swimming success. Along with the hard work you put in at practice, a tech suit is the final step for getting you prepared to race at the highest level possible. Doing the research required to find the best brand and fit for you will make purchasing a technical suit pay off in the long run.
Although it is important to not compromise on quality when it comes to buying your tech suit, keep in mind that the most expensive tech suit is not necessarily the best. Sometimes an older model or less expensive brand can be just as effective as the latest tech suit release. Even if you are on a tighter budget, you can still find a tech suit that will fit your needs.
How to Know Your Tech Suit Size
While fit is the most important part of purchasing a tech suit, knowing your size can be a helpful starting point. The most reliable strategy for finding your ideal tech suit fit is to choose a brand first and check out that brand's specific sizing guidelines.
After finding your size, be sure to try the suit on and get adjusted to the feel of its compression. Regardless of what the sizing chart says, try on a different size if the suit feels too tight or too loose.
Styles of Tech Suits for Men and Women
There are tech suit style variations for both men and women. Some of the differences come down to personal preference while other differences have more to do with fit and form.
Tech Suit Styles for Men
The main difference when it comes to technical suits for men is length. Most competitive male swimmers opt to wear a jammer-style tech suit, but there are shorter brief-style tech suits available. While shorter men's tech suits may be quicker to put on, longer tech suits provide more compression and water-repellence. The compression effects of a jammer can make men feel like they have a slimmer profile in the water, which can make them more hydrodynamic and faster.
Another main difference in men's tech suits is the waistline. Regular waist tech suits stop just below the top of the hips, whereas high waist tech suits cover all the way up over the hip bone. While a high waist tech suit may provide a bit more core support than a regular waist tech suit, choosing between the two mostly comes down to fit and comfort.
Tech Suit Styles for Women
Women's tech suit styles can vary in leg length as well as back structure. Tech suits for women come in the traditional, high-cut leg style or neck-to-knee coverage. A neck-to-knee tech suit is a popular choice among female swimmers because they provide a larger surface area of water-repelling material and compression technology. However, some female swimmers prefer traditional-style tech suits because they can feel less restrictive and offer a greater range of leg motion.
Women's also come in open back or closed back styles. Open back tech suits look more like traditional swimming suits, leaving the back uncovered and exposed, whereas closed back tech suits cover the lower portion of the back with material, leaving only the shoulders exposed. Some female swimmers feel more comfortable in the familiar open back swimsuit style, but some favor the added compression that comes with a closed back tech suit.
Regardless of its style of back, a women's tech suit will have flat, wide straps to give the wearer sufficient support and control. Some tech suit straps will have elastic in them to add a bit of flexibility. Make sure you choose a tech suit with straps that are tight enough to keep the suit fitting properly, but not so tight that your movement feels constrained.
Popular Tech Suit Brands
When searching for the best tech suits, here are a few of the most popular brands to consider:
- Speedo: As one of the most famous swimwear brands in the world, Speedo upholds its reputation by producing quality tech suits. Speedo drew the inspiration for its tech suit designs by analyzing how shark skin behaves in the water to reduce drag. With maximum compression and increased flexibility, Speedo tech suits can enhance swimmers' speed, power and comfort.
- FINIS: To make their tech suits the best they can be, FINIS works alongside Olympic swimmers to test and evaluate the performance of its suits. FINIS takes the fit of its tech suits seriously and strives to make its suits lightweight enough to glide through the water while being durable enough to withstand many races. FINIS technical suits each include a single layer of panels on the inner thighs to give swimmers a greater range of motion and additional speed.
- TYR: TYR has always been a swimwear staple, and its tech suits are some of the most advanced on the market. TYR tech suits use hydrophobic material, so they repel water rather than absorb it. This ability to repel water, along with an anatomically-engineered fit and features like turbo woven fabric, help to decrease drag and increase your speed. Thanks to its innovative design, a TYR tech suit maximizes every stroke to get you to the finish line as fast as possible.
- Arena: As the leading brand choice for Olympic swimmers, Arena is a trusted swimwear provider. The tech suit material used by Arena provides enhanced compression and flexibility. By being both hydrophobic and lightweight, an Arena tech suit manages to cut down on drag while being comfortable at the same time.
No matter which swimwear brand you choose, make sure you find a tech suit that is FINA-approved. Because FINA has strict standards regarding the style, material, thickness and surface treatment of tech suits, you can have a high level of confidence in the quality of tech suits that are FINA-approved.
How to Put on a Tech Suit
Because they are designed to be extra tight, putting on a tech suit can be tricky. Here are seven tips to make putting on your tech suit a smooth process:
- Start dry: Make sure you are completely dry before attempting to put on your tech suit and never wear any other swimsuit under your tech suit. Shaving your legs before putting on the suit will make it easier to slide it over your legs.
- Flip up the leg grippers: Tech suits have a rubber grip at the bottom of each of the legs to help keep the suit in place. Flip these grippers up to make sliding into the suit easier.
- Be patient: Sit down to gradually put the suit on one foot at a time. You will need to gently pull the suit up your legs very slowly without pinching it with your fingernails in order to preserve the fabric.
- Line up the seams: After pulling the suit up evenly over both of your legs, check that all the seams of the suit match up with your body. Fix any seams that may be twisted uncomfortably around your leg.
- Carefully stretch over the hips: Getting the tech suit over your hips is the most difficult step, especially for females. Be sure the suit is entirely over your knee caps before attempting to pull it above your hips.
- Lightly stretch the suit over your shoulders: Once the suit is as high above your hips and buttocks as you can get it, begin to gently pull the shoulder straps up until they are properly set in place.
- Flip the grips: Wait to flip the grips at the end of the legs until you are certain the suit is in the right place because you won't be able to readjust it after you flip them. When you're ready, flip the grips, and you'll be ready to race!
Tips for Maintaining Your Tech Suit
Once you've chosen the perfect tech suit for you, you'll want to take good care of it so it lasts for as many races as possible. From how to wash a tech suit to how to dry it, follow these six tips to keep your tech suit in pristine condition:
- Don't overwear your tech suit: Because racing suits can start to stretch and degrade rather quickly, you will need to limit the wear and tear you put on your tech suit by not wearing it to practice. Instead of wearing it throughout the season, save your tech suit for big meets, such as the league championship meets scheduled for the end of the season.
- Protect your suit between races: When wearing your tech suit at a meet, guard it against snags and tears by putting on pants or shorts over it when you're not racing. Additionally, avoid placing any sharp objects near your suit.
- Remove the suit slowly: When it is time to take your tech suit off, remove it just as slowly and carefully as you put it on. Even if you're upset over a disappointing race, don't take your frustration out on your suit and risk stretching it out.
- Rinse the suit in cold water: Rinse your tech suit out by taking a cold shower or rinsing with cold water in the sink. If you choose to shower, avoid getting any sort of soap or shampoo on the suit.
- Don't dry your suit: Don't ever put your tech suit in the dryer. Otherwise, it can sustain permanent damage. You should also avoid using a blow dryer on it or wringing out the suit. Instead, roll the tech suit up in a towel to transport it to your home where you can allow it to air dry.
- Don't hang up the suit: Although you should always let your tech suit air dry, you should never hang it up to do so. The weight of the suit's fabric on the hanger can cause it to stretch out. Simply lay the suit out on a towel once you get home.
New USA Swimming Tech Suit Restrictions
The final factor to keep in mind when considering a technical suit is age. As of September 1, 2020, 12-and-under swimmers have new restrictions on what types of tech suits they are permitted to wear for competition. Under these new rules, no 12-and-under athlete may wear a technical suit at an approved, sanctioned or observed swim meet.
According to USA Swimming, a technical suit features these components:
- Bonded or taped seams: No matter its material or shape, any swimsuit that has taped or bonded seams is not allowed. Tech suits use taped and bonded seam methods to better fuse seams together and increase compression.
- Woven fabric past the hip: Any swimsuit that has woven material that extends beyond the hip area falls under the tech suit ban. Regardless of what seams it has, a suit that has woven material beneath the hips is illegal.
To comply with USA Swimming regulations, look for a suit with these qualities:
- Limited woven fabric: Suits with woven materials and sewn seams that do not pass lower than the hips are permitted.
- Limited knit fabric: Likewise, suits with knit materials and sewn seams that stay above the knees are permitted.
- Stitched seams: Seams that have been stitched together with thread are compliant with USA Swimming regulations.
- No FINA logo: Suits without the FINA logo are approved for 12-and-under competitions. However, certain suits that have the FINA logo and a check mark next to it are permitted because the check mark indicates that the suit does not meet the definition of a technical suit.
Find the Right Tech Suit for You at All American Swim
If you're looking for a speedy tech suit, check out the wide variety of dependable tech suit brands offered by All American Swim. From Arena to Speedo, All American Swim has top-quality brands to help you perform your best on race day. By selecting from our large inventory of men's and women's technical suits, you can find the best fit for your size, stroke style and budget.
To find a professional-grade racing suit that will make you feel faster than ever, shop tech suits from All American Swim today.