If you are reading this, I’m guessing you are already convinced that tech suits can make a difference and help you to swim faster. If, for some reason, you don’t already believe that, I can assure you it is, in fact, the case, and tech suits can very well enhance your swimming performance.
I discuss this more in-depth in my article: do tech suits make a difference?
So, with that said, the real question is how much of a difference do they really make, and how much time can a tech suit help you to drop in the pool?
In this article, I am going to explain how much time a tech suit can help you to drop by looking at my personal experiences of racing in these suits as well as using scientific studies to create a formula that can better help you understand how much time you can expect to drop when wearing a tech suit for your specific swimming events.
In short, the time a tech suit drops depends on the events and strokes you swim. Swimmers will experience bigger drops in time on low-resistance strokes like freestyle and backstroke and smaller drops on high-resistance strokes like butterfly and breaststroke when wearing a tech suit.
My Personal Experience with Tech Suits
Before we look at the scientific calculation I’ve put together, I think it’s important first to discuss my personal experience with tech suits and their performance-enhancing nature.
Why, you might ask? Unlike a set-in-stone numeric formula, I am a human- just like you. A living, breathing person who swims and has a passion for the sport of competitive swimming. And this means that I will be more relatable than some mathematical calculations.
Throughout my swimming career, I’ve swum many races, just like you probably have or will in the future. And from all the races that I’ve swum, I can say that I’ve noticed a tendency to swim faster when wearing a tech suit.
You are probably asking, ” Well, how much faster? ” Generally, I have found that tech suits have helped me swim about a second or two faster in most of my races.
To the average person, that might not sound like that much and certainly won’t suffice for the high price of a technical swimsuit.
But to us, as swimmers, a second or two faster just by throwing on a different suit is a substantial amount of time to drop and can easily be the difference between making the podium or missing out altogether, breaking that big meet record, or just missing it, qualifying for that big team or swimming meet or getting left behind.
Remember, my main racing distances are 50s, 100s, and 200s, which are on the shorter side of things. For swimmers who swim longer distances, such as 400s, 500s, 800s, 1500s, and so on, the performance enhancements will probably be even bigger than a second or two.
So, with everything said and done, you might wonder, how do I know how much the tech suit helped?
Well, in reality, I really don’t know. Still, some of the indications are the differences between my times in the heats, where I either just used a standard swimsuit and then a tech suit for finals at some smaller meets, or another indication is that I like to swim some meets in a normal training suit and others in my tech suits.
There are also a multitude of scientific studies that show tech suits can improve performance. Some of these studies can be found later in this article.
Quick side note: if you are looking for a new tech suit, here are some of my top recommendations. You can also read the detailed reviews for each suit in my expert tech suit review.
Sprinters and IM
Middle and Long Distance Swimmers
12 and Under Swimmers
How Much Time Does a Tech Suit Drop?- How the Formula Was Put Together
Now that we’ve talked about my personal experience with tech suits, I am going to show you a scientific calculation that I’ve put together using a couple of studies to give us a little bit of a more concrete indication of how much time you can expect to drop when wearing a tech suit compared to a normal training suit.
The first study used for creating the formula was published by the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. This study investigated the effects of tech suits on swimming performance and gave a straight-up average performance enhancement of 3.2%, which is quite realistic, in my opinion.
Then, the second study I used in setting up the formula was published by the Journal Of Sports Medicine And Physical Fitness. Unlike the first study, this one required me to spend some time calculating the percentage performance enhancement as it wasn’t directly given.
Rather, the study gave an average time drop between 0,4 seconds and 0,52 seconds for the 50m event across all strokes. The 0,4-second drop was given for high-resistance strokes, namely butterfly and breaststroke, and the 0,52-second drop was given for low-resistance strokes, namely freestyle and backstroke.
Also, keep in mind that these times were pulled from 91 professional swimmers who competed at either the 2009 World Swimming Championships or the 2011 World Swimming Championships.
After taking a look at the average times and doing some math, I came up with the following numbers-
High-resistance strokes (butterfly and breaststroke) showed an average performance enhancement of 1.52% when wearing a tech suit. In comparison, low-resistance strokes (freestyle and backstroke) showed an average performance enhancement of 2.13% when wearing a tech suit.
When these 2 percentages were combined and divided again, they gave us a universal average performance enhancement of 1.83% for all 4 swimming strokes when wearing a tech suit.
Personally, I thought this number of 1.83% was a little low and that the 3.2% enhancement given by the first study was a little high, although still realistic in both cases.
Another reason for the second study’s lower performance enhancement may be that the times were based only on 50m events and not longer events as well.
So, with these 2 numbers from 2 different studies conducted by different scientists in different labs under different conditions came an average performance enhancement of 2,52%, which, in my opinion, is a very realistic enhancement for any event, and I was finally ready to put together my grand formula.
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The Scientific Tech Suit Formula
Below is the formula for determining how much time you can expect to drop when wearing a tech suit-
0,0252 x Swim Time = Time Dropped.
This formula shows how much time you’ll drop when wearing a tech suit; hence, your swim time is recorded when you aren’t wearing a tech suit. Thus, if you want to know how much time your tech suit helped you to drop during a race, use the following formula-
- Swim Time With Suit ÷ (1 – 0.0252) = Swim Time Without Suit.
- Swim Time Without Suit – Swim Time With Suit = Time Dropped.
Now that we have the formula let’s apply it to a couple of real-life case studies:
Let’s say you swam a time of 57,83 for your 100m freestyle without a tech suit. That would mean that you would be able to drop 1,46 seconds (1,457316 seconds, to be exact) when wearing a tech suit.
0,0252 x 57,83 = 1,457316 (Rounded down = 1,46)
Now let’s say you swam that time we just calculated; this would be 56,37 seconds (56,372684 exactly), and you want to know how much your tech suit actually helped you. Then you take the time you swam and put it into the second formula given above like so-
56,372684 ÷ (1 – 0.0252) = 57,83
Then, all you have to do to calculate the amount of time you dropped in total is to take your theoretical time that you would’ve swum without the suit and subtract it from the real-time you did swim while wearing the suit like so-
57,83 – 56,37 = 1,46 seconds dropped
Why the Formula Isn’t an Exact Science
Now that we’ve discussed that cool little scientific formula to calculate how much time your tech suit helped you to drop and how to use it, I want to talk a little bit about why it isn’t an exact science and why it won’t always be accurate in terms of real-life situations.
You see, there are far too many variables that affect your swimming times in everyday life, such as how much sleep you’ve been getting, how hard you’ve been training, how well your nutrition has been, how much you’ve been doing at school or work, etc., etc.
Plus, no one ever swims the exact same race; you’ll probably get very close on occasions, but swimming the exact same time for a particular race is super rare. There are always little things that change. For example, the pool you swim in, the weather, the people around you, how many strokes you take, your reaction time off the blocks, and so on and so forth.
So, just because the formula suggests that you would have swum X time with or without a tech suit, it doesn’t mean you’ll swim that particular time for your next race- it’s just an estimation.
That doesn’t make it bad; it just means that you have to give yourself some room, and you should consider other factors as well.
If the formula suggests that you can drop 1.73 seconds with a tech suit on a particular race and do everything almost exactly similarly, you’ll get close to that number.
However, if something goes wrong, like you have to glide into the wall on your finish, that number might differ, like 1,23 seconds or something similar.
Also, remember the formula was calculated from averages, meaning that male swimmers might see an even bigger performance benefit and female swimmers a slightly smaller benefit. At the same time, there might also be variations between strokes.
Furthermore, different tech suits provide different performance-enhancing features, and some suits are better designed for a particular stroke or event. So, to maximize your chances of swimming these times, you’ll need the right tech suit, and for that, I recommend checking out some of these articles-
- Best tech suits for butterfly
- Best tech suits for backstroke
- Best tech suits for breaststroke
- Best tech suits for freestyle
- Best budget tech suits
Tech Suits Can Help You Drop Time
As this article has proved, tech suits are among the coolest and most important pieces of swimming gear. Just imagine how much of a disadvantage you are when swimming without one.
Sometimes, this probably doesn’t matter, and you shouldn’t care too much about how the people around you are performing. Still, when it comes to the big championship final, or that qualifying meet, you certainly don’t want to be at a disadvantage to your competitors.