How much will shaving effect a swimmers time?

I’ve been in a thread on a swimming board about how much shaving will reduce times in a race. I’ve been a swimmer since high school, took off college and now come back. I have as of yet heard any good evidence of shaving helping enough to justify doing it.

So far I’ve always heard basically the same thing, someone says, well I shaved and took 2+ seconds off my time. Usually though they only shave for the “big” meet, which means they’ve done more then shave, they’ve tapered, they’ve trained for the meet, they usually eat better, and they are psyched on the day of the meet. I too drop times at big meets without shaving.

I know that the top swimmers want every hundreth of a second that they can get and I can see body hair taking a bit of time off, but not enough for the average swimmer to ever notice. So maybe someone has either seen a study like this, participated in one, or have some real evidence that shaving will take lots of time off. I just don’t see how body hair can make that much of a difference.

See this is what this board has done to me, it makes me question everything I hear.

Since it seems to have gotten eaten.

Hmmm, do they mean shaving their entire body?

I have rather hairy arms; shaving them smooth would make them easier (possibly noticeably so) to lift out of the water and slip into a forward reach position, but it would also cost me a little traction for the actual strokes.

IANARace Swimmer though…

The swim coach here at the college I work at, happens to be a good friend of mine. And I am here to tell you there is a certain amount of physics involved in the question you ask.

The long and the short of it is No, shaving will not help your time.

The more complex answer is Yes it will certainly help your time…

Huh??? :confused:

In reality shaving will not help your stroke at all, it does not give your muscles more leverage in reducing the drag on your arms or legs however, psychologically, you will feel like it does and this will be your leverage to lose that extra 2 seconds in your time. So if you shave you will feel like you are going to be faster, but in actuality you will just be psyching yourself into a faster lap…

I hope this answered at least some of your Q’s… :slight_smile:

Yep, that’s pretty much what I thought. As I said I can see some time dropping off, as in 0.01 second or so, but not the seconds that I’ve heard for so long. Well I think I will try anyway, at least I’ll get some laughs out of my teammates when I show up as a hairless ape, unlike old Mangetout, who seems to be our resident ape. :wink:

I notice a lot of the male swimmers are wearing jammer style shorts, instead of the speedos …I wonder if the jammers have better times (better hydrodynamics). Anybody know?

I wear them during meets now, mostly because it’s a team thing. I don’t notice any difference in times. I have been told that they do help keep the muscle tight.

However, there is a new Speedo body suit that’s called the Sharkskin. It is supposed to mimic a shark’s skin, imagine that, to help reduce drag. They are supposed to work, though I’ve never used one.

When the pool pervert is coming up behind you, its sure to give you a real boost! :wink:

I wouldn’t get hung up on the surface drag from a swimsuit – for women’s swimming it might make a difference since the suit covers so much surface area, but for a men’s suit, do you really think changing the suit’s properties will make a bigger difference than shaving? I think this is an innovation whose effect will be “in the noise” unless you’re Olympic caliber, and you consistently hit your times within a few tenths of a second.

I know that in (even high school!) crew, any treatment of the hull beyond a wash, wax, and polish is disallowed. This prevents you from using special oils. It also disallows 3M’s sharkskin tape that heavily reduces water drag. However, that’s after you’ve put riblet (sharkskin-patterned) tape or film all over a 30+ foot long boat… This article states that in the right configuration, the flow resulting from the same inlet pressure sped up 15%.

If you mummify a swimmer in super-duper high tech synthetic tape, you might get close to that 15% figure… but again, I don’t think shaving is going to get you any significant gains until the Olympic level.

Am I right that the increase in drag force is linear with an increased coefficient of drag (hairiness or smoothness of the object) but quadratic with an increase in velocity? If that’s the case, you’d be better off not shaving, and taking the 1920’s-style death ray out of your speedo.

Feh–this isn’t the “physics of swimming” board, anyway. I think the OP has been answered, sharkskin or no.

Well a jammer usually comes down to just above the knees so there is more fabric. However here is how the Fastskin, not Shark skin as I said before, works:

From here, which is old. The compression is important as is having no folds when you do flip turns etc. They even claim a 3% drop in times.

I wonder if reducing drag on an inherantly non-streamlined moving thing in the water (like a naked ape) would make as much difference as reducing drag on an already streamlined moving thing in the water (like a fish)… especially when the former will only be moving fast in the water for a few minutes at a time while the latter will spend a lifetime there.

A friend who used to be a competitive swimmer says that he always thought the benefit wasn’t really drag-related. He says that when you shave, you take off some skin, too, so when you hit the water, you tingle all over for a bit. For him, that psyched him up and he pulled harder.