High-Tech Rubber Suits Seeing New Life in Elite Competitive Swimming

Though FINA has said that the high-tech rubber suits that tore up the World Record books in 2008 and 2009 will be revisited in 2013, after the London Olympics, for now the polyurethane supersuit industry is dead.

Or is it?

More and more teams have found a way to incorporate these ultra-fast suits into their training regimines. Over the past few weeks, both Trojan Aquatics and the Gator Swim Club (which are, without much argument, two of the three top post-grad programs in the country) have been slipping on their old LZR’s and X-Glides, though not in competition.

Gregg Troy and Dave Salo are two of the hottest names in coaching right now, and both have run “race-pace” sets recently that incorporate these suits to give swimmers a whole new feel.

The idea makes a ton of sense, and have resulted in some spectacular practice-times. Eric Shanteau, at the end of a set of (50 br, 50 br, 100 br) x 6, reports that he went a 1:00.8 100 breaststroke wearing an Arena X-Glide. That’s a much faster mark than he’s been in a meet yet this season in a legal suit.

Last week, Ryan Lochte shared a similar story. He had a set of four 100’s (one free, one back, one breast) on a 4-minute interval in a full-body suit. His times were 48.6 on the free, 54.2 on the back, and finished with a 1:03 on the breast. The backstroke mark was right at his season-best time, and the other two swims were easily the fastest he’s been in 2011.

These suits, when used judiciously, can provide some psychological benefit – think the effect you get on the second-half of a stretch-chord swim.

The question is whether or not there’s a long-term marketing opportunity for the suits for training purposes. If the suit manufacturers aren’t worried about shaving off every last .01 from swimmers’ times, can fast-suits be made economically enough to use them on a regular basis? My guess is no. But for the time being, this is  a highly creative use for a suit that’s otherwise just taking up closet-space. This is a great example of coaches using some inginuity to make the best use of the materials and circumstances that they are given.

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Well I’ve used my B70 a few times when the heater wasn’t on at the pool to keep warm!


I really hope FINA doesn’t re-approve rubber suits. It’s sad that they were ever let into the game to begin with. Frankly, I think swimming should go back to racing briefs for men and traditional one piece suits for women. No rubber/polyurethane to artificially keep you afloat, no artificial muscle compression. You just have to work hard and win races based on what your body and muscles can do on their own. That’s the way it should be, that’s the way it should always be. Well that’s my one cent thought on the subject.


They should go back to full body textile (maybe no arms). It’s good for the sport to have some debate/competition over equipment, even if the effect is minimal in comparison to polyurethane. It also allows for more sponsor visibility, which could bring more money into the sport.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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