Friday, April 12, 2013

How To Choose A Wetsuit To Suit Your Individual Stroke Style

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When you are choosing a wetsuit you'll want something at the right price that fits you well, has great flexibility and looks good on you. But should you be considering your stroke style when selecting the right suit for you? Here at Swim Smooth we certainly believe so.

The buoyancy of a wetsuit has a huge bearing on how you swim in it, particularly the distribution of that buoyancy in different parts of the suit. We call this the "buoyancy profile" and broadly it relates to the buoyancy in the upper body versus the lower body of the suit. This is effected by the choice and thickness of materials in different areas of the suit.

It is critical that your wetsuit's buoyancy profile
is tailored to your individual stroke style
In this guide we'll outline some classic types of swimmer and what they should look for in their wetsuit, particularly in relation to its buoyancy profile. Identify which group you fall into and you'll be able to select the perfect wetsuit to make some big strides forward in your open water races this season.

Buoyancy Profiles And The See-Saw

A swimmer acts a bit like a see-saw in the water, pivoting around their centre:

Obviously to bring the legs higher in the water we could add extra buoyancy to the wetsuit legs. But equally, we could also reduce buoyancy in the chest, bringing the front end down and so the legs up. This double lifting effect is one of the secrets why the 3:5 profile HUUB wetsuits are so amazingly quick for sinky leg swimmers.

Conversely if a swimmer has a good natural body position we just need to maintain that with a wetsuit with a neutral buoyancy profile along their whole length. By giving them too much buoyancy at the rear we would bring them too high with the legs and leave them feeling awkward and unbalanced.

So the key when choosing a wetsuit is to select one that corrects or compliments your own body's buoyancy profile to leave you sitting perfectly in the water. Get this right and you will swim quickly and easily in your suit. Purchase the wrong suit and you'll be much slower than you could be or left feeling unbalanced in your stroke.

HUUB Wetsuits

This guide applies to selecting any wetsuit brand but as you know, Swim Smooth are part of the HUUB wetsuits design team. With our knowledge of stroke technique and individual swimmers, we carefully tailored buoyancy profiles for each type of swimmer within the range. As part of this guide, we'll highlight the prefect HUUB suit for each type of swimmer.

Sinky Legged Swimmers
SS Swim Types: Arnie, Arnette, Male Bambino

Low lying legs is the single biggest thing holding
this swimmer back in the water
Profile: Many triathletes without a swimming background suffer from low lying legs in the water creating a huge amount of drag. They often cross-over the centre line in front of their head and drive their kick from the knee rather than the hip.

Experiences: You don't have a swimming background and find swimming with a pull buoy significantly easier. You might be a powerful athlete on land but find swimming a frustrating experience.

Wetsuit choice: You need a wetsuit with reduced buoyancy in the chest and maximum buoyancy in the legs to rebalance you in the water. This will bring your legs up much higher than a conventional suit with high buoyancy in the chest. 3mm neoprene in the upper body and 5mm in the hips and legs is recommended.

Recommended HUUB suit: Archimedes 3:5, Aerious 3:5 or Aegis 3:5 (female version available). Improvements for sinky leg swimmers in these suits can can be phenomenal - reductions in swim times of over 20 seconds per 100m are quite common.

Female Swimmer With Good Natural Buoyancy
SS Swim Types: Female Kicktastics, Overgliders and Bambinos

Megan loves her new Aura
- find out why in her review here
Profile: Women are a different shape to men (you might have noticed!) and have a different buoyancy profile which needs a unique approach to wetsuit design. Not only is the distribution different but most women are more naturally buoyant overall than men and so require a less buoyant suit.

Experiences: You may find swimming in a wetsuit a little clumsy or unbalanced, and may struggle to get a good fit as traditionally wetsuits have been designed for men.

Wetsuit choice: With good natural buoyancy in the water you need a low buoyancy wetsuit in both the chest and legs to avoid bringing you too high at the rear which would leave you unbalanced. We recommend a 3mm neoprene thickness all over.

Recommended HUUB suit: Aura 3:3. The Aura is a unique thinner wetsuit design with less buoyancy. Easier to get on and off, and leaves you feeling balanced in the water when you swim. As a bonus the thinner material is more flattering too, avoiding the chunky look of men's suits.

Note: Although more rare than with men, some female swimmers do have sinky legs - follow our advice above for sinky-leg swimmers if you do.

Dominant Leg Kick Swimmers
SS Swim Types: Kicktastic

A dominant leg kick brings you into a high body position
Profile: Many swimmers with a swimming background have quite a dominant leg kick and in a conventional high buoyancy wetsuit are brought so high at the rear they start to kick air. Worse, being overly high at the rear leaves the swimmer feeling unbalanced and uncomfortable in their suit.

Experiences: When training in the pool you may be slower with a pull buoy although this isn't always the case if you kick more from the knee than hip. You dislike wetsuit swimming and may feel unbalanced and restricted in a conventional suit (often feeling that restriction in the shoulders).

Wetsuit choice: You already have an excellent body position in the water and so you need a wetsuit with a neutral buoyancy profile. i.e. the same thickness of neoprene in the upper and lower body. We recommend 4mm all over for men and 3mm for women.

Recommended HUUB suit: Male: Archimedes 4:4 or Aerious 4:4, Female: Aura 3:3. Using the exact same construction and technology as the HUUB 3:5 profile suits, you have the perfect suit to maximise your speed.

Long Gliding Stroke Style With Two-Beat Kick
SS Swim Types: Male Overglider

Profile: Despite working hard on creating a longer stroke style, swimmers with a long pause and glide in their timing normally sit a little lower in the water than they would like. This is especially the case if they have also introduced a 2-beat kick. Whilst their legs are not as low as the classic leg-sinkers, they will still benefit from getting their legs higher in the water.
Overgliders with a two-beat kick will benefit from
a 3:5 buoyancy profile to develop their body position.

Experiences: Although you enjoy swimming in a wetsuit you may find you don't perform as well in open water relative to your peers as you do in the pool. Waves and chop from other swimmers tends to stall you in the pause and glide in your stroke and may knock you off balance, leaving you quite uncomfortable swimming in a pack.

Wetsuit choice: As with the classic leg sinkers, choose a design with a low buoyancy chest and high buoyancy legs. We recommend 3mm neoprene in the upper body and 5mm in the legs.

Recommended HUUB suit: Archimedes 3:5, Aerious 3:5 or Aegis 3:5. You already benefit from swimming in a wetsuit but choosing a 3:5 will take your efficiency to an even higher level, locking your legs high up to the surface with its amazing buoyancy profile.

Experienced Swimmer With Good Upper Body Propulsion
SS Swim Types: Swinger, Smooth

Experienced swimmers with good body position need
a neutral buoyancy profile wetsuit
Profile: Always near the front of the field, experienced swimmers have good stroke technique from their days as junior swimmers. They already have a great body position in the water and although nobody's stroke is perfect they have only minor areas to tweak and improve.

Your experiences: Confident and capable, you are looking for a high quality wetsuit to transfer your pool speed across into open water.

Olympic Gold & Bronze Medallists, Alistair and
Jonny Brownlee chose the 4:4 Archimedes to compliment
their naturally high body position in the water.
Wetsuit choice: You already have an excellent body position in the water and so you need a wetsuit with a neutral buoyancy profile. We recommend 4mm neoprene all over for men and 3mm for women.

Recommended HUUB suit: Male: Archimedes 4:4 or Aerious 4:4, Female: Aura 3:3. As well as having a neutral buoyancy profile for you, the extreme flexibility and release features in these suits help maintain the kick and catch technique you've refined over the years in the pool. The perfect suits to devastate the field!

Still not sure which suit profile is best for you? Send us an email to telling us about your swimming. Or, if you're in the UK, book up a session with a Swim Smooth Certified Coach, not only will they help you develop your stroke technique but they will also give you some detailed advice on what to look for in your next suit.

Swim Smooth!

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