How to Wear a Supersuit (and get away with it through Core Training)

Do you remember the Supersuit Era? From 2007-2009, swimmers were allowed to wear a full-coverage suit when they raced. The full-body streamlining gave them a competitive edge and enabled them to slide through the water using the suit’s technology. These high-tech suits allowed world records that hadn’t been touched in years to be completely shattered. There are even a few WRs from this era that still stand unbroken. Although the swimming community as a whole has deemed wearing the Supersuits an unfair advantage, there are many features of a Supersuit that we can still emulate in the water.

This got us thinking.

What if we could train our body to be its own Supersuit without being disqualified for wearing an illegal fastskin?

We believe this starts with dryland. Through proper dryland training, you can train your core to become your body’s own Supersuit. With a strong core, you become able to move through the water faster than ever.


The Science Behind the Suit

What made these magical suits work so well? There were two main factors: buoyancy and compression.

Before the magic of their suit, swimmers had to have precise body position and technique in order to cut through the water as efficiently as possible. Once the suit was on, it was like having the buoyancy of a wetsuit. Swimmers are elevated by this buoyancy and ride “higher” in the water. This reduced drag and allowed them to move at a pace that was above their body’s natural ability.

The suit also provided extra compression to the body. This made the body slimmer, allowing it to glide through the water with less friction. With the suit on the muscles could work together better so that the swimmer could transfer force more efficiently simply because being compressed made for less surface area moving through the water. Essentially, it was a way to improve your core functioning without actually having to develop a strong core.


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How Your Body Becomes a Supersuit through Core Training

When we can make our swimmers’ cores strong and stiff, we can transfer energy through the body more efficiently. Imagine a rubber raft and a hard kayak being pushed through the water with equal force. Which one is going to go further? Because of the tension that the streamlined kayak holds, as opposed to the flimsy rubber raft, the kayak is going to go further. The solid kayak that transfers force as it cuts through the water is an analogy for how we want our swimmers’ cores to be. A strong core makes the swimmer the kayak. A weak core makes a swimmer a raft.

The core’s job is to transfer force from the upper body to the lower body as you pull through the water, and from the lower body to the upper body as you kick. As the core synchronizes the movements of the extremities, it allows the body to create tension to pull the swimmer forward at a more powerful rate. In turn, this gets the swimmer on top of the water and puts the body in a better position to swim fast – similar to how a kayak will stay higher in the water than a raft.


What is Core Training?

The core is not just your six-pack ab muscles. Your “core” is the entire “trunk” of your body. It moves in all planes – meaning it moves in every direction and not just where we traditionally think of your ab muscles. Your core literally wraps around your mid-section and affects everything that your arms and legs are doing. Therefore, core work in the prone position, as well as the supine and standing positions is incredibly important to train. We want tension produced 360 degrees around the trunk in order to move like a solid kayak without having to put on a special suit.


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How to Know if Your Core Training is Working

First and foremost, we should always be testing our core’s ability to “brace.” Before jumping into a variety of core exercises, it is imperative to know that you are bracing the core properly. In order to test your brace, there is a simple test you can perform (by yourself) that we call the “gut punch test.”

To do this, simply stand up tall and create tension in your core. As you brace, see if you can lightly punch yourself in the gut as you breathe without letting go of that tension. Try talking to really challenge yourself. If you can maintain this tension for at least 30 seconds, you are able to brace your core well and should keep progressing your core training. If you are struggling to breathe and brace at the same time or cannot maintain tension for at least 30 seconds, you may need to build breathing exercises into your dryland program before progressing into core exercises that challenge your core to brace in all movement planes.

When combining proper bracing in with core training, you are on your way towards building that solid 360 degrees core. Think of bracing your core in everything that you and your swimmers do. A strong core in the water holds all of a swimmer’s extremities in alignment.


Core Training Conclusions

While the Supersuit era was fun for people who got to wear the suits, it did not serve the sport of swimming in a way that could help athletes progress at their craft. Through proper core training in dryland, we can hold ourselves in alignment and consistently on top of the water without this technological aide. While swimming in water exposes core weakness, dryland is truly the best way to develop the core muscles. The water environment is too buoyant for efficient core training to take place, while the gravity of land-based training allows swimmers to really see when they are not properly bracing or creating that straight line through the midsection.

Training the core in all movement planes is how to maximize your core training. Maybe you are in the prone position doing exercises like planks, or in the supine position doing flutter kicks, or even standing up performing anti-rotational band presses. However, you choose to train your core in dryland, it is important to make sure you are activating it properly and following a balanced dryland program in order to develop your ultimate, all-natural “Supersuit” for the water.




Core Training for Swimmers

Core Training for Swimmers





Core Training for Swimmers Webinar

Core Training for Swimmers Webinar



Core Training for Swimmers

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SURGE Strength - Dryland Training for Swimming

Courtesy of SwimSwam’s exclusive dryland training partner, SURGE Strength.

SURGE Strength, a strength training brand created by Chris Ritter, CEO of RITTER Sports Performance, aims to build better athletes and faster swimmers through dryland programs and educational courses.

Get started with a SURGE Strength Dryland Program or enroll in a dryland course in the SURGE Strength Academy today!

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About Chris Ritter

Chris Ritter

Swimming has always been a part of the life of Chris Ritter, founder of RITTER Sports Performance What Chris discovered after his swimming career, as he entered his swim coaching career was how important dryland training for swimmers can be. Chris has earned numerous strength and conditioning certifications, including: CSCS, NASM-PES, USAW …

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