Do buoyancy shorts work? Yes. Buoyancy shorts help provide increased core buoyancy in the water while swimming. This means you can maintain a horizontal position easier in the water. I have been using buoyancy shorts regularly for years and am a complete advocate for them helping improve my swimming.

Content Guide

  1. What are Buoyancy shorts?
  2. Buoyancy shorts vs pull buoy
  3. What do you wear under buoyancy shorts?
  4. Buoyancy shorts sizing and fit
  5. Core strength for swimming
  6. Why are buoyancy shorts better?
  7. Should I train wearing buoyancy shorts?
  8. Are buoyancy shorts allowed in triathlons?
  9. Do buoyancy shorts stop you from sinking?
  10. Do buoyancy shorts keep you warm?
  11. Best buoyancy shorts to buy

What are buoyancy shorts?

Buoyancy shorts are thick neoprene swim shorts.  They normally have a thickness greater than 3mm and designed to create more core elevation.  This allows you the freedom to swim, dive, jump into the water and much of the benefits that triathletes are accustomed to from wearing wetsuits in open water.  In this weeks blog we address the challenge of “Do buoyancy Shorts Work”? and help you decide if you should buy a pair.  

BlueSeventy-Core-Buoyancy-Shorts

Buoyancy Shorts vs Pull Buoy

Buoyancy shorts will make you swim your laps faster in the pool, but so will putting fins or using a pull buoy.

Buoyancy-shorts
Buoyancy-shorts

Buoyancy at the hip area is fantastic for elevating body position and allowing the swimmer to get a flat swim posture. Traditionally swimmers have used pull buoys for this.  Creating the closest thing to simulating wetsuit swimming when training in the pool.  Buoyancy shorts improve this permitting a more natural roll in the water aligned to your natural stroke.

The waist band sits in a natural position activating the core essential to an efficient technique.  A strong core is essential for those training for endurance swim events or Ironman triathlons where preservation of your reserves through the swim is essential.  With an elevated body position combined with rotation you are  able to get on top of the catch phase of your swim stroke.  This results in a more efficient stroke with the result a greater distance per stroke.

To measure for yourself use the Garmin SWOLF score results to see how your swimming is affected by a pair of buoyancy shorts.  If you are not familiar with SWOLF check out our article on the Garmin SWOLF score explained for more information. Read it to find out how to improve your swim efficiency and use this metric to track your swim performance.

SWOLF scores explained

For anyone competing in triathlon you will need a wetsuit. This can be a major investment so we want you to find the best one for you. Read our 15 of the Best Triathlon Wetsuits 2024 – Complete Buyers Guide from £100 to £1000. We review wetsuits every year and from our panel of test associates can share with you real people experience of owning and racing in these suits.

What do you wear under buoyancy shorts?

Putting the buoyancy shorts on and removing them is not as simple an exercise as conventional swim jammers.  That said this isn’t going to be taking you terribly long.  The latest range of neoprene buoyancy shorts include flexible stretch throughout especially in the side panels having been designed just for this.  An improvement on earlier models that were much more rigid.  In terms of what to wear underneath your buoyancy shorts, you simply wear nothing.  They go straight on in the same way as any normal swim shorts.

Why-swim-with-buoyancy-shorts
Why-swim-with-buoyancy-shorts

Buoyancy shorts sizing and fit

While they look a bit strange as you are essentially strutting about in rubber shorts its nothing significantly different to lycra style shorts that only a close inspection would reveal.  Given you are wearing something rubber consider size carefully and ideally buy where you can try them on.  We recommend being cautious in sizing rather than ambitious on what size you might be.  We can’t all be a medium!  That said in the same way as a wetsuit feels more snug on dry land so do buoyancy shorts that benefit from being saturated in the wet stuff.

If you have ever thought of buying a DryRobe I recommend you read my review of the Mens White Water Changing Robe first. It is cheaper and mirrors same quality features but allows you to feel less of a sheep when wearing one! Check it out.

Core Strength for swimming 

So if you are a “lazy” swimmer who drags their legs like an anchor battling with low legs then buoyancy could well be the answer.  The only issue is that if you are planning any triathlons overseas these can be non-wetsuit swims.  This restriction means you need to consider strengthening your core and improve your stroke rather than rely on buoyancy to correct your drag.  Check our article on core strength training for triathletes with 15 essential exercises and a free 10 minute workout.

Core Triathlete Workout
Core Triathlete Workout

Why are buoyancy shorts better?

Summarising the benefits for any of you still sitting on the fence.  Buoyancy shorts are better than relying on a pull buoy due to the following:

  1. You can maintain your standard stroke with roll unrestricted
  2. Your body is flatter in the water still without any risk of cramp from clutching a pull buoy
  3. You can kick!  Legs need not fall asleep and be a mere passenger

Should I train wearing buoyancy shorts?

My swim coach often frowns on me when I turn up in buoyancy shorts. For triathletes I disagree. In a triathlon you tend to swim in open water in a wetsuit. Not in hot climates agreed. Swimming in a wetsuit is a different sensation to pool swimming in your Speedos. Wearing buoyancy shorts for training gives you a closer training experience to triathlon swimming. I argue you should wear buoyancy shorts for training to prepare you for triathlon races.

It is sensible to balance this with normal swimming shorts training. This ensures you don’t ignore your core and fully engaging this.

Huub Buoyancy Swim Shorts

Are buoyancy shorts allowed in triathlons?

So can you wear buoyancy shorts in a triathlon?  While buoyancy shorts are a super addition to your training regime it is worth noting that they are not allowed in triathlon swims.  This is for all wetsuit and for non-wetsuit swims in triathlons.  While swimming shorts are permitted avoiding you having to hit the water in your budgie smugglers buoyancy shorts are not to be worn instead of a wetsuit.  The official triathlon rules mandate that wetsuits must not exceed the permitted thickness that rules out buoyancy shorts.

Do Buoyancy Shorts Stop you from Sinking?

Buoyancy shorts are not a life preserver. They are not a substitute for a life jacket. They will increase the buoyancy of your middle. So when swimming they push your body to be more horizontal. And reduce your middle and legs from sinking. Sinking legs is detrimental to your swimming form and slows you down.

Do Buoyancy shorts keep you warm?

Buoyancy shorts are made of thick neoprene up to 5mm. This thick material is significantly more insulating than normal swimming lycra. This material traps your body heat resulting in you feeling warmer. They are only shorts however so they will not keep you warm around your body. A full wetsuit is needed to provide true warmth while in lower temperature water.


Summary of Do Buoyancy Shorts Work?

For me they are a god send in winter when training in the pool.  I naturally have a very light kick in the swim so without a strong core my legs drag. Buoyancy shorts help me to swim with a wetsuit feel.  I don’t rely only on them through the winter months and interchange with swim jammers.  This variety helps not lose the natural challenge of swimming without core support.  

For a full round-up of 15 of the best buoyancy shorts you can buy read our complete listing. 


Do Buoyancy Shorts Work Infographic
Do Buoyancy Shorts Work Infographic

About the Author


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Categories: Swimming

Billy Ferguson

Having founded Trivelo in 2015 after many years competing in triathlon Billy continues to enjoy training and triathlon. Founder Billy is strongest in the water but continues to try and convince his body that he is an ultra runner.

9 Comments

Rania Moorhouse · 15/04/2020 at 9:30 am

Been thinking about trying buoyancy shorts for ages. This answers the questions I had and tipped me over. On it now to buy a set in readiness for the pools being open again. Will need all the help I can get not having been able to swim for weeks!

Hubert Well · 26/12/2019 at 10:49 pm

I hate swimming and willing to give buoyancy shorts a go as anything has to better than my current efforts!

Marciela Stukes · 16/09/2019 at 6:44 pm

This is great. I struggle with my swim and keen to try these out.

I have joined your rss feed and look forward to getting more updates like this.

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