How to Know What Kind of Swimsuit to Wear

Outdoor shot of smiling young female model in bikini standing against blue sky.

A good workman might never blame his tools, but the right tools sure can help you get the job done faster and better. Whether you are a novice or a wonder in the water, there is such a thing as the wrong swimsuit for the activity you are doing. From drysuits to wetsuits and everything in between, here is a guide to choosing the best training suits for swimming.


Traditional Workout Swimsuit

What traditional suits may lack in flash, they make up for in comfort. These fairly modest one-pieces are made of forgiving fabric that allows stretch and durability. Their extra coverage and thicker straps mean better support. They are used for lap swimming, open water swimming, racing, diving, water aerobics, and aqua jogging.

Minimalist Workout Swimsuit

Minimalist workout suits could be considered the hipper version of a traditional suit, portraying sleeker silhouettes with skinny straps, back cut-outs, and high-cut legs. This open style may lead to fewer tan lines, but it does create drag, which is why they are not usually worn for competitions. They are more commonly used by divers and outdoor, lap, or open water swimmers. Many swimmers will go one size smaller in a minimalist suit for a tighter fit.

Workout Bikini

Workout bikinis are the most revealing, and options are versatile. They are designed specifically for hydrodynamics (i.e. they will stay on for the duration of the workout), but certain styles are built to accommodate certain body types and preferences. Thick straps and more coverage equate to greater support, and bottoms with drawstring waistbands will stay put during dives and push-offs. Workout bikinis are mostly used for lap swimming and aqua jogging.


Swimskins are a viable option for competitions as many do not allow wetsuits. They are made from Lycra or spandex and have a slick outer coating that helps reduce drag. They are fast in the water but do not provide insulation or buoyancy like wetsuits.


When it comes to wetsuits, what it boils down to is extended buoyancy, speed, and warmth. Therefore, it may not necessarily be easier to swim in a wetsuit, but it could enhance your performance. Wetsuits are made with naturally buoyant neoprene rubber, helping swimmers stay higher in the water, prevent drag, and increase speed. However, different kinds are made for different activities including surfing, scuba diving, jet skiing, and swimming. For example, many triathlon wetsuits are made with Yamamoto neoprene rubber, which is more stretchy, lighter, and more buoyant.

Wetsuits are mostly used for triathlons or competitions. Some are for specific purposes and offer specific benefits. Be aware of these prior to purchasing, and always make sure it fits just right. The wrong wetsuit, or an ill-fitting one, can do more harm than good.

Wetsuit vs. Drysuit

Wearing a wetsuit may require adjusting certain areas of your stroke. Here are a few key differences you will see in wetsuit versus drysuit swimming.


Because wetsuits provide extra lift in the water, swimmers will stop or slow their kick. With a drysuit on, your body position in the water will generally be lower, meaning your kick is essential in gaining speed and position. The kick gives propulsion, lift, and balance to the stroke, and more forward momentum when you go to breathe.

Body Position – Buoyancy

When converting to open water swimming, even the most competent lane swimmers will experience drag with a wetsuit on. They are not accustomed to the buoyancy of the wetsuit and do not know how to compensate for it. Their chest will lift higher, almost creating an arch in their back as they swim, and resistance will increase and slow them down.

Body Position – Core

Swimmers often disengage their core once their wetsuit is zipped up. The core is used to stabilize body position, but is no longer needed due to the wetsuit’s buoyancy. This causes easy displacement from arm stroke and water movement, and weaker core posture means you are taking more strokes to cover less ground. Think of your arm entry into the water as an anchor point for your core; you have to push and pull your core up to that point. If it is engaged, you will be able to effectively pull forward.

Arm Recovery

High-end wetsuits are made with more panels for an increased range of motion. Cheaper wetsuits offering fewer commodities might result in arm fatigue during the recovery part of your stroke. If your wetsuit does not allow for big motions, you’ll have a lower shoulder position and more drag. No wetsuit means no resistance on shoulder motion at all, which comes as a trade-off for buoyancy.

Once you’ve done a little research and have chosen your perfect practice suit, put it to good use and sign up for classes with SwimJim!