Athletic Swimwear: Sporty Swimsuit Styles, One-Pieces & More

What Is Athletic Swimwear?

Athletic swimwear refers to swimsuit styles designed specifically for sports, exercise, and rigorous aquatic activities. The key characteristics of athletic swimwear include:

  • Made using high-performance technical fabrics that are durable, quick-drying, and offer mechanical stretch for ease of movement.
  • Engineered for optimal hydrodynamics and aerodynamics.
  • Strategic seam placement to reduce chafing and irritation.
  • Secure construction and adjustable closures to prevent wardrobe malfunctions.
  • Silhouettes and cuts tailored for sport-specific motions.
  • Often employ compression materials to enhance circulation, muscle efficiency, and stamina.

Athletic swimwear styles cater to the full range of aquatic sports including lap swimming, diving, water polo, open water swimming, triathlons, surfing, water aerobics, synchronized swimming, and more. Both women’s and men’s athletic swimsuits utilize technical innovations and performance-driven designs to optimize function for the rigors of athletic training, competitions, or recreational sports.

There are several common swimsuit styles engineered for athletic aquatic activities:

One-Piece Racerback Swimsuit

The racerback one-piece swimsuit is a top choice for lap swimming, lifeguarding, and swimming competitively. Characteristics include:

  • Open racerback allows shoulder mobility.
  • Non-restrictive armholes facilitate broad range of motion.
  • High neckline stays place while inverted.
  • Full seat coverage remains secure when kicking.
  • Hydrodynamic seam placement and smooth fabric reduce drag.
  • Textured fabrics block absorbtion to limit weight gain when wet.

Variations on racerback athletic one-pieces include options with contrasting side panels, piping trim details, and chic open backs.

Athletic Two-Piece Bikini

For women pursuing water sports, the two-piece athletic bikini delivers functionality while still offering a stylish, feminine silhouette. Features include:

  • Structured compression crop top for bounce control.
  • High neckline provides optimal secure coverage.
  • Adjustable crossback straps stay firmly in place.
  • Ruched bottoms diffuse fabric tension during movement.
  • Textured quick-dry performance fabrics resist sagging or transparency when wet.

Flirty touches like contrast piping, mesh inserts, and bright colors feminize the athletic two-piece bikini.

Athletic Swim Trunks

Athletic swim trunks allow male swimmers freedom of movement while maintaining secure lower body coverage. Attributes include:

  • Hydrodynamic loose fit and mid-thigh length.
  • Smooth flatlock stitching to limit chafing.
  • Quick-dry technical fabric with 4-way mechanical stretch.
  • Elastic waistband with interior drawstring for adjustable fit.
  • Liner brief inside for extra security and opacity.

Athletic swim trunks come in solid neutrals for lap swimming or colorful prints for beach volleyball and other recreational water sports.

Competition Swimsuits

Streamlined competition swimsuits built for racing feature key innovations like:

  • Seamless construction using ultrasonic welding or digital taping for reduced drag and friction.
  • Panels of water-resistant, textured fabric to repel water.
  • Anatomical compression panels target core muscles.
  • Bonded seams and edges limit protruding edges.
  • High percentage of polyester for shape retention and durability.
  • Open back and low leg holes enhance extension and mobility.

Both brief and kneelength cuts are common in competition swimsuits.


Wetsuits for surfing, diving, and swimming in open water provide:

  • Neoprene foamed fabric that provides thermal insulation and buoyancy.
  • Flexible segmented construction to not restrict movements.
  • Seals around neck, wrists, and ankles prevent flush of cold water.
  • Textured exterior surface decreases drag in water.
  • Reinforced seams and stress areas for durability.

Full-body and shorty wetsuit styles suit different water temperatures and preferences.

Choosing the Right Athletic Swimsuit

Selecting the optimal athletic swimsuit involves evaluating:

Intended Water Sport

Match swimsuit design to the specific sport’s movements and exposure levels:

  • High coverage for water polo, diving, swimming laps – For rigorous upright sports, choose higher necklines, full bottoms, and one-piece styles.
  • Moderate coverage for snorkeling, surfing, water aerobics – These sports involve some inverted positions, opt for medium to higher coverage suits.
  • Full coverage for synchronized swimming, water skiing – One-pieces offer reliable coverage when constantly submerged and inverted.

Performance Features

Assess technical aspects like:

  • Fabric content – Polyester blends like polyester/spandex provide maximum stretch recovery.
  • Textured or bonded fabrics reduce surface drag.
  • Flatlock, zigzag, or banded seams minimize chafing against skin.
  • Strong, securely bonded straps and closures.
  • Compression fabrics improve muscle efficiency.

Style Preferences

Factor in:

  • Modesty level – Lower necklines and higher cut legs sacrifice some coverage.
  • Feminine accents – Pretty trim details, mesh/lace inserts.
  • Favored silhouettes – Traditional briefs, sporty shorts, stylish two-pieces.
  • Bold colors and prints – Bright hues and dynamic patterns express personal flair.

Balance performance necessities with personal style sensibilities.

Comfort Testing

Assess comfort and functionality by:

  • Trying range of motions – Lift arms, kick legs, twist torso.
  • Checking for tightness or chafing.
  • Jumping up and down to test bounce control.
  • Entering water to check transparency issues.
  • Swimming laps to confirm performance efficacy.

Make sure no part of swimsuit digs, gaps, or malfunctions when active.

Swimsuit Brands for Athletes

Some leading athletic swimwear brands include:


This venerable swimwear company offers high-performance competitive swimsuits alongside more recreational active styles for training and lap swimming.


Engineers technical fabrics and seam construction targeted to competitive swimming and aquatic sports like water polo and diving.


Specializes in competition swimsuits and goggles built for racing performance and endurance.


Known for durable chlorine-resistant swimsuits ideal for lap swimming and training.


Brings its advanced innovation in athletic wear to its swimwear collection designed for comfort, mobility and durability.


Integrates its signature compression fabric technology into supportive one-piece suits and mix-and-match separates.


Pioneered technical fabrics that mimic sharkskin for extra speed through water.

Aqua Sphere

Uses a unique bonded seam construction for barely-there smooth seams that won’t irritate skin.


Brings lively femininity to performance swimsuits tailored for surfing, wakeboarding, and water skiing.

Athletic Swimsuit Fabrics

Technical fabrics used in athletic swimsuits include:


Nylon offers lightweight strength, durability, and quick-drying properties ideal for swimwear. It resists pilling and retains shape.


Provides stretch and recovery to accommodate freedom of movement. Lycra® suits retain shape and resist sagging when wet.


Polyester swim fabrics are quick-drying, chlorine resistant, and shape retaining. The synthetic fabric stays smooth against the skin.

Supplex® Nylon

Supplex® nylon features a soft microfiber finish that feels smooth against skin without chafing. It offers freedom of movement.

Excel® Polyester

Excel® polyester fabric utilizes advanced filament technology for superior chlorine resistance, compression, and mechanical stretch.

Creora® HighcloTM

This premium spandex offers extra chlorine resistance. It provides reliable compression and stretch recovery, retaining its fit.

Competitive Swimsuits for Racing

Race-specific swimsuits feature strategic innovations like:

  • Seamless ultrasonic welded construction to reduce drag.
  • Kinetic compression panels that activate when in motion.
  • Textured fabrics that mimic shark dermis or fish scales.
  • Anatomical muscle support and core stabilization.
  • Welded sensory taping for real-time split feedback.

Technical competition swimsuits aim to shave precious milliseconds off race times.

Open Water Swimsuits

When swimming long distances in open waters, useful features include:

  • Bright colors for visibility.
  • Reflective accents to stand out.
  • Multi-directional stretch for comfort swimming freestyle.
  • UPF sun protection.
  • Stylish designs provide confidence and motivation over distances.

One-piece suits deliver reliable security and coverage for open water swimming events and triathlons.

Adaptive Athletic Swimsuits

Swimsuits adapted for people with disabilities, injuries, or medical considerations provide:

  • Easy entry and exit with back or front closures.
  • Adaptive fastening options like magnets, velcro, buttons, zippers.
  • Adjustable, easy-release straps to aid dressing.
  • Reinforced seams and fabrics resistant to wear and tear.
  • High visibility colors and tactile features for sensory issues.
  • Rashguard or wetsuit styles for temperature regulation.

Adaptive swimsuits allow people of all abilities to benefit from swimming and aquatic therapy.

Eco-Friendly Athletic Swimwear

Sustainable athletic swimsuits utilize:

  • Recycled polyester, nylon, and spandex fabrics.
  • Plant-based fabrics like sugarcane or eucalyptus-derived lyocell.
  • Non-toxic dyes free of harmful chemicals.
  • Green manufacturing powered by renewable energy.
  • Biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Fair trade production.

Eco-friendly performance swimwear helps athletes make an environmentally responsible choice.

What Are the Innovations & Technologies in Athletic Swimsuits?

Cutting-edge fabrics and technologies continue advancing athletic swimwear performance:

Seamless Construction

Seamless bonding using ultrasonic welding or digital printing creates smooth seams that nearly disappear against the skin. This reduces friction, drag, and irritation during repetitive motions.

Kinetic Compression

Strategically placed compression panels powered by the swimmer’s own movements provide musclar support and circulation enhancement while in motion.

Muscle Vibration Dampening

Technical fabrics absorb vibrations caused by muscle contractions and limb movements, allowing more efficient transfer of power into the water.

Intelligent Thermoregulation

Some fabrics respond to shifts in body temperature by opening mesh vents when overheated or tightening up when cold. This self-regulates comfort and ventilation.

UV Protective Fabrics

Innovations like UPF 50+ treatments allow athletic swimsuits to deliver sun protection on par with rash guards while retaining a lighter, more hydrodynamic feel.

Antimicrobial Treatments

Antimicrobials inhibit bacterial growth on the fabric’s surface to resist odors and deterioration.

Embedded Performance Monitors

Smart swimsuits feature embedded sensors that track biometric data like heart rate, calories burned, and lap times, transmitting real-time feedback to accompany the training.

When Katie was 10 years old, she won her first writing prize in an essay contest. That experience sparked her love and interest in writing. Throughout her life, she’s had various opportunities to expand her skill set. She wrote extensively about her experiences traveling the world and doing charity work. Currently, she is busy writing and taking care of her two step-sons and newborn daughter. She loves being a mother and makes time every day to fulfill her passion for writing & fashion.

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