Sleeveless vs Sleeved Wetsuits Revisited

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One of the most common questions this time of year is: “Should I get a sleeveless or sleeved wetsuit?” Like any triathlon training and racing question, there is no universal rule to follow. Full suits are more buoyant, hydrodynamic, and warmer but at the same time a little bit more constraining; sleeveless wetsuits on the other hand do not constrict as much but you are not as hydrodynamic since water can flow freely in and out.

These are some factors that you should consider when renting or buying a wet suit:

1) Comfort: If you are an experienced swimmer and have many years of experience, you might find the sleeves of a full wetsuit uncomfortable. Newer swimmers usually do not have as much trouble with this. The better quality wetsuits, however, like the Blue Seventy Helix eliminate this feeling of constraint.

2) Temperature: USAT rules state that:

“Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wetsuit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wetsuit at their own discretion, provided, however
that participants who wears a wetsuit within such temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Above 84 degrees, wetsuits are prohibited.

Usually at any temperature above 74, it is advisable to go sleeveless unless you really like your sleeves. Between 70-74 is a gray zone; if you get cold very easy, then consider a full suit otherwise sleeveless will be better. Under 70, it is
usually wise to go with a full suit. Under 60, bring a neoprene cap; and under 50, consider some booties. If you are racing in a pool, it is unlikely that you will need a wetsuit.

3) Distance: For longer distances (Ironman and endurance swims like the Bay Swim), a sleeveless wetsuit may be better unless you are a very strong swimmer. Across those long distances, your arms will get very tired unless you have built up the strength. However, for 1.2 miles and under, you are not going to be in the water long enough for the sleeves to exhaust your arms. Your arms may still get tired but that is because you are racing. Since you are only in the water for 15-25
minutes for super sprint, sprint and Olympic/International distances, the type of wetsuit will not matter as much.

If the water temperature is warm but you still want the hydrodynamic advantage then a speed suit like De Soto’s Liftfoil or the Blue Seventy’s P3Z is well worth considering. As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact us and we will be happy help out!

Train Hard, Recover Harder
Coach Chris