What Swimsuits Do Olympic Swimmers Wear?

Swimsuits make our lives easier and more comfortable during the heat of the summer months. You can rock them to the pool, beach, water parks, or even to gym. Asides from all of these, you can rely on them to make a bold fashion statement with your swimwear. This diversity of use has seen the swimsuit rise to become an essential clothing item for either recreational or sporting activities.

But to the average person, all swimsuits look and feel alike. This assumption is nowhere near the truth as swimsuits differ for different users and purposes. And although a swimsuit should top your list of must-have swimming gears, it’s essential also to know the differences in purpose. If you plan on actively competing as a swimmer, one question that would have popped into your head is: what swimsuits do Olympic swimmers wear?

True to the fact, Olympic swimmers wear swimsuits, but it is different from the regular swimsuits you see on the beach. They often rely on competitive swimwear to help them gain an edge over fellow contestants in a swimming or water-related event.

What Are Competitive Swimsuits?

Unlike regular swimsuits, whose designs help create an aesthetically pleasing appearance, swimsuits designed for use during competitions help with performance in swimming competitions.

A swimsuit can be said to be competitive if its design uses a particularly low resistance fabric capable of reducing skin drag and improving performance during use in a swimming competition. Competitive swimsuits are useful in swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, or triathlon events.

These suits are made from a wide range of materials, including spandex, nylon, or high-tech polyurethane panels, and provide little to no thermal protection. Many Olympians that participate in swimming events also wear unique swimsuits such as partial bodysuits, racerback styles, jammers, and racing briefs. All of these assist with gliding through the water hence creating a speed advantage and increasing performance.

Competitive swimsuits saw a boost in popularity around the year 2000 when manufacturers fashioned them to behave as shark skins do in the water. Swimsuits saw a considerable upgrade in how they reduce friction and drag with a corresponding increase in a swimmer’s efficiency. With its tight-fitting, there is a reduction in muscle vibration, leading to rapid fatigue.

Olympic Standard Swimsuits

Before now, swimmers at the Olympics usually wore swimsuits that provide minimal skin coverage as necessary. Back then, swimmers relied on completely shaving the hairs on their bodies to help improve their speed and overall performance while in the water. Today, advancement in technology has seen a change in the swimsuits usage at international swimming events and is inclusive of the Olympics. This has seen manufacturers creating a mega change in the look of an Olympic swimmer.

The world swimming governing body, the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), has guidelines governing what swimsuit is usable in a competitive event. It stipulates that any competitive swimsuit must use natural fabrics and be devoid of excess technological input that can give the wearer undue advantage. Olympic swimmers now wear swimsuits that provide coverage from the arms to the knee. And Men’s swimsuits can only extend from the waist to the knees and women’s suits from the shoulders to the knees. Again, all swimsuits in an Olympics event must undergo inspection and secure approval for use by FINA.

ALSO READ: Is It Okay to Wear a One Piece Bathing Suit?

What Are Olympic Swimmers Suits Made Of?

Olympic swimmers generally wear swimsuits made from elastane, spandex, nylon, or polyester. The only non-acceptable swimwear in the Olympic Games are those using  non-textile materials like polyurethane panels. Brands such as Speedo, Arena, TYR, or Finis are a ready source of standard Olympic swimsuits for competitive and open water swimmers. Also, if you are a triathlete, be sure to get your Olympic swimsuits from brands like Orca, TYR, or BlueSeventy.

Some Recommended Olympic Swimsuits Approved by Fina

Below is a list of some recommended Olympic swimsuits approved by FINA:

1. Nike Women’s Hydrastrong Racerback One-piece

Nike Hydrastrong Racerback One-Piece Black 34


Designed for active female swimmers, it has flat seams and comes with apple back coverage. The swimwear is comfortable and usable with a wide range of water-based activities.

2. Arena Powerskin ST 2.0 Men’s Jammers Swimsuit

arena Men's Powerskin ST 2.0 Jammers Racing Swimsuit, Black, 28


This swimsuit uses uses a knitted fabric to give an improved all-round performance. Strong enough to create a well-streamlined structure in water. This is a quality buy for active swimmers who intend to achieve Olympic standard swimming style. 

3. Blueseventy NeroTX Kneeskin Swimsuit

blueseventy neroTX Kneeskin - Swim Racing Tech Suit - FINA Approved (W32, Pink)


This swimsuit comprises treated nylon and hydrophobic fabric that offers high compression. It is lightweight, utilizing ultrasonic heat-bonded seams to reduce drag further.

4. MY KILOMETRE Jammer Swimsuit

MY KILOMETRE Jammer Swimsuit Mens Solid Swim Jammers Endurance Long Racing Training Swimsuit Black


This swimsuit comes with a stretch waist and an interior draw cord for a comfortable and adjustable fit. It use a composite material with a flat-lock seam for extra durability.

ALSO READ: Can You Swim Laps in a 2 Piece?

Are Olympic Swimmers Allowed To Wear Full Body Suits?

The Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games saw a rise in full-body swimsuits with the neck-to-knee Speedo model, the Aquablade making its debut. Several of the wears then went on to win several medals. These swimsuits provided coverage for all body parts except for the feet, hands, and head, which led many to believe the suits were performance-enhancing.

By the year 2008, these types of suits were already famous, and the Olympic games of that year saw increased usage of the full-body swimsuit. Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuit topped the list and was dubbed the fastest swimsuit. Its design uses a compressive, water, and chlorine-resistant fabric, reducing drag and creating the most streamlined shape.

The success of the full-body swimsuit at the Beijing games saw a boom in the numbers of several other full-body suits making it into the market. Some went on to employ polyurethane panels which considerably increased buoyancy in the water. The 2009 World Championships was the climax of the reign of full-body suits as it resulted in the breaking of 43 world records. Following a proposal by the United States, FINA agreed to ban full-length bodysuits from use in competitive events in an almost unanimous decision.

Does Shaving Make You Swim Faster?

Yes, competitive swimming is all about speed and how fast you can make it to the finish line. This means swimmers are always searching for ways to improve their speed and get an advantage over other competitors. Friction and drag are the two major factors that slow down a swimmer in the water and searching for ways to reduce drag are essential to becoming faster in water.

Asides from the body shape, the human hair increases drag by up to 10kg of extra weight. And getting rid of the hairs on your body will assist you with improving your swimming speed almost instantaneously. Shaving off your body hair creates a similar effect as wearing a tech suit except for added buoyancy.

This practice has been around for years, and to prove its efficacy, several studies have been conducted. In one such research, nine breaststroke swimmers were observed, and it was found that once the hairs were shaved, the swimmers experienced a reduction in blood lactate concentration, VO2, and longer distance covered per stroke.

Is Technology Negatively Affecting Competitive Swimming?

The winning margin in competitive swimming is always less than one-tenth of a second. And with the infusion of technology into swimsuits, there is a disparity of chances for swimmers not using a technologically-improved suit. This is because tech swimwear helps improve the speed and mobility of the swimmer, unlike before when swimmers rely on practice and hard work. Asides from polyurethane panels, newer swimsuits are now employing elastic bands to help further create a streamlined shape in water for improved mobility. Many consider using technology to manufacture performance-enhancing swimsuits as a form of technical doping.

Why Are Women Olympic Swimsuits Tight?

Most Olympic swimsuits come from more robust and light threads consisting of carbon fiber. The presence of these carbon fibers improves the material’s overall strength and reduces its chances of tearing. In the end, you have a tight suit that will require ample time to put on. A swimmer might spend anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes attempting to get into their swimsuit.

Do Olympic Swimsuits Compress Breasts?

Yes, Olympic swimsuits are tight and often compress the breast like those in a sports bra. This tightness is because swimmers need to maintain a streamlined shape in water to have improved mobility and better performance. So tight swimsuits used in the Olympics helps hold the breast firmly in place while reducing any potential for drag to occur.

This compression has nothing to do with the size of female swimmers’ breasts. Small breasts in female swimmers is since swimmers who go on to perform at the Olympics start at a young age as such the upper body undergoes development to create the perfect swimming body.

Conclusion – What Swimsuits Do Olympic Swimmers Wear?

Olympic swimsuits differ from regular one-piece or two-piece swimsuits because they provide support for you when in water. They make for an excellent booster of speed and buoyancy while improving overall performance. Olympic swimsuits have been controversial, especially with full-body suits made famous by the American swimmer Michael Phelps. Although banned, some Olympic swimsuits today still push the boundaries of physical abilities with the aid of technology.


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