Have you ever wondered wetsuit is fastest – a sleeved or sleeveless? Is there a difference?

You might be surprised by the results of a 400 meter time trial I did recently. I was lucky enough to borrow a sleeved and sleeveless Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit from Craig Percival from Aquashop in South Melbourne.

I went to the pool, did a usual race warm-up…then two-400 meter time trials.

Test Conditions


A 7 second improvement with the sleeved version was consistent with what Craig Percival from Aquashop in South Melbourne. He had a 9-second improvement over 400m with the sleeved wetsuit.

blue seventy helixSleeveless Wetsuit Time Trial – 4:22

In the initial 400m with the sleeveless wetsuit I swam a 4:22. The stroke rate felt harder to maintain. I don’t know if this was because it was the first time trial or because having no sleeves made a difference.

Sleeved Wetsuit Time Trial – 4:15

After some recovery I did the second time trial in the sleeved version of the wetsuit. It was easier to maintain an 82 stroke stroke rate. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be much quicker but the result was surprising.

Is Sleeved Best For Everyone?

Now does that mean that the sleeved wetsuit is best for everyone? Of course not. You see a lot of top athletes don’t wear sleeved versions of the wetsuit like Sam Sheppard that we saw in last week’s video.

It does not necessarily mean that the sleeved version of the wetsuit is the best one to go with. Yes it is generally faster, but it might not suit your stroke. You might prefer the freedom of not having sleeves.

It all comes down to your own preference.

Based purely on swim speed, it shows me that the sleeved wetsuits are usually faster than the sleeveless wetsuits. There are a lot of other factors that are come into it that are worth considering if you are looking at getting a new wetsuit.

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Go to Effortless Swimming Membership Program to get online swim coaching.

I hope this helps you make a more educated decision if you are looking for a new wetsuit.

Article by Brenton Ford

4 Responses

  1. Hi Brenton,

    Thanks for a great post. How do your times compare with when you swim without a wetsuit?

    Best, Chris

  2. I’d like to follow the reasoning as to why the sleeved wetsuit may be faster, what is behind this speed difference?

  3. Not what I’d call a “fair” trial! Maybe do it again with the sleeved suit first and sleeveless second and look at BOTH sets of times. THEN I’d be more convinced.

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