Discovery Fit & Health
In light of the number of swimming records set since the introduction of the LZR Racer swimsuit in 2008, it's hard to debate the fact that special suits can affect swimmers' speeds. The suit was specially designed to repel water, reduce pressure drag and increase buoyancy, along with other features. A ban on special high-tech suits like the LZR Racer by racing's international governing body took effect in 2010 [source: Crouse]. Some people felt like wearing the specially designed suits was equivalent to taking drugs in terms of the advantage they offered and that allowing them threatened the sport's integrity. The suits were so effective that they almost leveled the playing field in terms of competitor conditioning.
It is important to note, however, that the swimmers breaking records in high-tech suits were world-class speed swimmers to begin with. Special training, long workouts, the use of video playback and other factors must be taken into consideration, as well, when looking for the secret to faster swimming times.
One of the reasons new swimsuits have been successful is that their designs have found ways to minimize drag. Speedo tested their suits in a NASA lab to try out at least 90 different fabrics. They exposed the fabrics to wind-tunnel conditions to see which had the least drag [source: Goodgame]. The effect of water drag can slow down even the strongest, most practiced swimmer. Minimizing water drag is key, then, to maximizing swimming times. Strength and conditioning always are key to improving swim times, but you can reduce wave drag by swimming underwater and reduce pressure drag by swimming in a horizontal line. And have you ever wondered why male swimmers have no visible body hair? That's because shaving body hair limits roughness drag. There's also something to be said for the psychological effect of wearing the best technology available that probably makes you feel you can go faster and smoother, kind of like when you're in a new car or on a brand new board.
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