INDIANAPOLIS – Fastskin suits significantly reduced drag, decreased energy cost and increased distance per stroke in competitive swimmers, according to a study published recently in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, the official scientific journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
Fastskin suits utilize woven or knitted fabric technologies, and have been designed to reduce friction and pressure drags. Previous studies have shown that these suits may reduce resistance in the water by as much as 10 percent. A reduction in passive drag (the resistance that has to be overcome) is thought to be beneficial for swimmers, possibly resulting in higher swimming velocity for the same energy cost, as well as reducing that energy cost for swimming at a given speed. Olympic swimmers have been allowed to wear drag-reducing suits since the 2000 Sydney Games.
The aim of the investigation was to compare the two most popular fastskin suits, one sleeveless full-body suit, the other covering the waist to ankle. The effects were tested in the 25- to 800-meter races to discover the degree to which the suits may affect performance at competition speed and decrease drag and energy cost in proportion to the body skin coverage.
In 14 competitive swimmers, the research team measured passive drag, oxygen uptake, blood lactate and perceived exertion. During the course of testing and compared to a normal suit, those that wore the full-body and the waist-to-ankle fastsuit experienced a performance benefit by up to 3 percent. Stroke distance improved significantly, and a significant reduction in drag resulting in a decreased energy cost was also found. A reduction was also notable in freestyle performance times.
“New-generation fastsuits may be a technological advantage for swimmers who wear them,” said Jean-Claude Chatard, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “This is similar conceptually to how engineers design cars for racing and how we can employ physics to compliment human performance. I think we all are eager to see how the swimmers in Beijing will utilize these suits to showcase their prowess and years of hard work and training.”
For more information on the sport science issues relevant to the 2008 Beijing Games, please visit ACSM’s coverage of the Games at www.acsm.org. The site features ACSM expert commentary, news articles and sport-specific information and resources.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
NOTE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 40, No. 6, pages 1149-1154) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 127 or 133. Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.