As anyone involved in swimming knows, swimsuit technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Top end racing suits today boast properties that greatly enhance swimmers’ ability to slice through the water.
Operating under the same principles of hydrodynamics but applied to different ends are drag suits. Instead of snug fitting material that maximizes efficient movement through the water, drag suits use looser fabric to increase resistance.
Looser fitting suits made of nylon or mesh, or even old sagging racing suits with holes in them (worn over each other) can be used as drag suits. There are even specially made drag suits with pockets to provide even more resistance. And, of course, a pair of shorts (athletic shorts of swimming shorts) also qualifies as a drag suit.
Wearing a drag suit during your swim training can be a good way to develop force (the ability to overcome resistance), which is the precursor to power (the ability to apply maximum force at a quick rate) and muscular endurance (the ability to maintain a high force load for an extended duration of time). However, it is only beneficial as long as wearing a drag suit does not adversely impact your form.
If you are a newer swimmer still working to improve your efficiency in the water, you’re generally better off donning the same style of suit you will race in during your swim workouts. This will allow you to maintain correct body position as you ingrain the proper stroke fundamentals into muscle memory.
If you are looking to develop force and muscular endurance in the water, pull sets with paddles are another way to achieve these objectives in lieu of a drag suit.
Consider your goals as you decide whether to swim in drag or not. Beyond any physiological benefits, some swimmers enjoy the psychological boost of switching from a slower drag suit to a faster racing suit for competition. Determine what’s best for you given your current swimming ability and racing goals.