Encouraging More Adults to Swim
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Technique and Training

Masters Swimming 101

What equipment do I need?

Jim Harper | December 3, 2012

This article is part of the Masters Swimming 101 series

Not much! The beauty of swimming is that the water provides all the resistance you need to work every part of your body. No machine can match it.


Bulky suits weigh you down and make it harder to swim efficiently, so the best choice is a skin-tight material in one piece, designed specifically for swim training. Note: “real” swimmers do wear Speedos, among many other brands, but the women rarely wear bikinis unless they are designed for swim training. Wear a suit that will not move when you dive into the water or push off the wall. For men, surfer-style board shorts make completing a workout difficult. If you’re not ready to don a brief, try jammers, which resemble cycling shorts and extend to the knee.

Goggles and Caps

To protect eyes and hair from chlorine, two other critical equipment items are goggles and caps. Although swimmers with short hair may forego a cap, goggles are a must, or eyes will suffer. For both products, low-cost versions are more than adequate.


Don’t rush out and buy other equipment right away—your new coach and teammates can help you save time and money by letting you try out some of their stuff first. Some clubs have kick boards and pull buoys available for their swimmers. Pull buoys are sturdy flotation devices placed between the legs that allow for concentrated use of the arms only. Your coach may also recommend fins, paddles, or a snorkel.

Good swimming equipment can be hard to find. Your local sporting goods store may have the basics. We also encourage you to support our sponsors, who do a lot to support Masters swimming nationwide. Masters swimming geeks will love products with the USMS logo. Other good places to find equipment are at large pools and swim meets, where vendors often set up booths to sell equipment to the attending athletes.

Masters Swimming 101 Article Series

How to start swim practice as an adult
Swimming is great exercise, but practicing with a group can seem mysterious to...
What equipment do I need?
Not much! The beauty of swimming is that the water provides all the resistance...
What are the basics of pool etiquette?
Safety always comes first, and swimming's first rule is never to swim alone....
What is a typical workout?
Like a good play, a good workout develops in three main acts: the warm-up, the...
Yards and meters
Coaches will give instructions mainly in terms of distance (or yardage) and...
How do I use the pace clock?
A related question would be: Why are swimmers so obsessed with time? You'll...
More lingo you're likely to hear at practice
Here are a few more terms you'll likely hear at swim practice. Some of them...
How do I learn the four strokes? Why do I want to?
Some swimmers and many triathletes only want to swim freestyle, the fastest...
USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Jim Harper

Jim Harper is an All-American Masters swimmer and coach in Miami who writes about health and nature. He is a frequent contributor to SWIMMER magazine, a columnist for the Biscayne Times, and a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. 

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