Shave off seconds

THE SPORT OF SHAVING

Some of us might like to do a bit of manscaping, but many professional athletes treat body shaving as a competitive sport. A hairless torso emphasizes muscles and can have technical advantages, but not for every sport. We dove into the science of sport to find out who really needs a follicle-free physique (and who just likes to feel silky smooth).

CYCLING

The way pro cyclists talk about shaving legs, you’d think it was a nitro boost on two wheels. Well it’s not. There are no scientific studies that say a clean-shaven leg will slice through the air any better than a hairy one. The resistance is way too tiny to matter. Professional cyclists who say it makes a difference in their performance are feeling the placebo effect of feeling and looking like a hardened athlete (same reason their lycra racing outfits are so brightly colored).

The only genuine reason for shaving your legs when cycling is to reduce road rash, the painful and gory removal of grit from wounds after a cyclist hits the ground. Having a hairy leg does not make this easy.

SWIMMING

Before high-tech suits were introduced, swimmers had good reason to shave their chests smooth: "laminar flow," or how easily fluid can pass around an object. Water is 1,000 times denser than air, so it takes a perfectly smooth surface to cut through it.

Studies have shown that removing body hair seriously increases laminar flow. While its effect on the distance of each stroke might seem like nothing, 100th of a second in an Olympic race is the difference between gold and silver.

BODYBUILDING

Bodybuilders don’t get any performance benefits from a thorough shaving; they just like their bodies tan, greased up, and hairless. It makes definition more visible, and as far as these athletes are concerned, every detail counts. Besides, what’s the use of having washboard abs if nobody can see them underneath a sweater of hair?