SLEEVELESS WETSUITS ARE BEST
Nicolaou, K. D., Kozusko, J. M., & Bishop, P. A. (2001). The effect of wetsuits on swim performance. Journal of Swimming Research, 15, 20-26.
This study evaluated the effect of full-body and sleeveless wetsuits on 800-m swimming performance. Female collegiate swimmers (N = 9) swam three counterbalanced randomized trials of 800 m. Velocity, distance per stroke, swimming efficiency, heart rate, ratings of perceived exertion, and perceived comfort were recorded for both wetsuit trials and a swimsuit trial.
Distance per stroke, ratings of perceived exertion, heart rate, and swimming efficiency index were the same for all trials. Both wetsuit trials were similar in comfort. Kicking was inhibited in 50% of Ss in the full wetsuit and 27.7% in the sleeveless suit. Swimming velocity was significantly faster than the other two conditions in the sleeveless suit, while the full-body suit was significantly faster than the swimsuit condition.
The major effect of wetsuits is increased buoyancy, which reduces various forms of drag resistance. Since distance per stroke did not change, the suits did not affect the biomechanics of the crawl stroke action. There is a possibility that sleeves inhibited both movement range and kinesthetic control, resulting in a reduction in performance when compared to the “freedom of movement” sleeveless suit. The authors of this article emphasized the possibility of a full suit contributing to heat build-up while the sleeveless suit facilitated heat dissipation. However, Ss did not report heat as a discomforting factor.