Drag Suits: When You Should and Shouldn’t Wear One

Michael Butler
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Why Swimmers Wear Drag Suits

A drag suit is a type of swimsuit traditionally worn by competitive swimmers to increase drag for faster swimming. Although newer competitive suits lack the traditional drag suit’s thickness, some swimmers continue to use them on a regular basis.

A drag suit is advantageous because it extends the swimmer’s range of motion to the full stroke length, as opposed to just the entry into the water (dive entry). Before modern-day suits, athletes would have to wait until their arms were fully extended, then push off, using the full length of their arms and body during the dive draw-stroke.

Modern competitive suits provide a more streamlined entry into the water, meaning that the swimmer can gain additional speed by taking advantage of the range of motion provided by the drag suit. Maximum speed is reached when push-off is achieved as the bottom of the elbow reaches the midpoint of the body. Drag suits are designed to maximize water resistance against the arm and back to maximize the effect of this push-off technique.

The Research on How Drag Affect Swim Performance

And here’s an interesting study out of South Africa that has important implications for triathletes.

The researchers had 10 recreational swimmers use 2 different types of drag suits worn over a swimsuit. The swimsuits were the same for both drag suits. This allowed the researchers to isolate changes in swim performance due solely to the drag suits.

The results were a bit surprising. The drag suits had about the same amount of drag, yet some of the swimmers went faster in one drag suit and some went faster in the other. The researchers did another study where they had swimmers go through a swimming motion while tethered to a force measurement device. This allowed them to measure the amount of drag each swimmer experienced.

Overall, the drag suits increased drag by about 550%. However, this was true only for 6 of the 10 swimmers. The other 4 swimmers actually experienced a slight decrease in drag with the drag suits.

There were 2 important factors that determined whether someone had a decrease or an increase in drag. The first was if the arm swing during swimming was double-arm (using both arms at the same time) or single-arm (two separate strokes).

For a single-arm stroke, the drag suit increased the amount of drag from 550% to 700%. For a double-arm stroke, the drag suit decreased the amount of drag from 550% to 480%.

How to Use Drag Suits Properly

We are going to cover what you need to know about drag suits. Most importantly, we’re going to explain when it’s a good time to wear drag suits.

Drag suits are made of tightly woven fabric, which are ideal for ponds and clear water. The tight weave keeps out most sand, small debris, and debris.

Most drag suits are a short jumpsuit style which covers most of the body, with a hood, and shoulder and knee pads as well. These are the best type of drag suits for most people. Some others have an insertable belt, which makes them easier to wear, especially when carrying your fishing tackle.

Use drag suits when fishing in a pond or another water source where there are lots of plants and debris. These drag suits will help pull some of the trash out of your way. If you’re fishing in a lake or river, you don’t need a drag suit.

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