This study examined the effect of artificially increasing body fat levels by at least 2% on swimming performance. Subjects were 10 competitive swimmers with body fat levels below 25% for females and 15% for males. Latex pads of 50 to 300 g simulating the density of body fat were fitted to the swimmers under a spandex triathlon suit in the abdomen, hip, thigh, chest, back, and buttocks. Each subject swam a supramaximal 50-yd freestyle with and without the pads, in a counterbalanced design, swimming twice under each condition. Swimmers swam significantly slower with the latex pads than without them. There was also a significant correlation between the difference in swim times and the percentage increase in artificial fat. One must look at these results with caution, however, since the latex may differ from body fat in consistency, thereby changing drag characteristics. Also, the subjects were not extremely lean and it is not known whether increases in buoyancy due to a greater percentage of fat tissue might aid a leaner population.
(C) 1994 National Strength and Conditioning Association