Case Study: Comparison of Swimsuits and Wetsuits Through Biomechanics and Energetics in Elite Female Open Water Swimmers

Rodrigo Zacca, Bruno Mezêncio, Flávio A de Souza Castro, Fábio Y Nakamura, David B Pyne, João Paulo Vilas-Boas, Ricardo J Fernandes

Research output: Contribution to journalOther Journal Articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


AIM: The authors investigated how the Arena Powerskin R-EVO Closed Back swimsuit and Arena Carbon Triwetsuit (full-sleeve wetsuit), both approved by the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) regulations, affect biomechanics and energetics of 3 elite female open water (OW) swimmers at maximal and 4 submaximal swimming intensities.

METHODS: Three elite female OW swimmers (OW1 = 24 y, 1.64 m, 60 kg; OW2 = 23 y, 1.69 m, 65 kg; OW3 = 27 y, 1.63 m, 64.5 kg) were tested 1 week prior to a FINA/CNSG (China National Sports Group) Marathon Swim World Series event and 40 days before the 18th FINA World Championships 2019. Each OW swimmer completed 2 identical testing sessions, one with a swimsuit and other with a wetsuit, involving shoulder flexion power output assessed from medicine-ball throw, maximal performance and drag coefficient assessment, and an incremental intermittent swim test at 4 different relative intensities.

RESULTS: Estimated peak oxygen uptake was 4.4 L·min-1 for OW1, 5.6 L·min-1 for OW2, and 5.0 L·min-1 for OW3. Despite a distinct behavior observed on index of coordination for OW3, a null index of synchronization, increased stroke rate (mean difference = 2%-8%), reduced drag factor (minimum = -14%; maximum = -30%), lower energy cost (mean difference = -2% to -6%), and faster performance (mean difference = 2% to 3%) were observed with the wetsuit compared with swimsuit for all elite OW swimmers.

CONCLUSION: The wetsuit enhances submaximal swimming performance, and this increase is dependent on the OW swimmer's characteristics. The higher stroke rate and lower stroke length detected with wetsuit could be related to movement constraints imposed by the suit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-136
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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