What do you think is the best workout of all? Weightlifting/resistance training? HIIT training? Running/jogging? Sports?
The answer is swimming…
Swimming is a perfect combination of cardio and resistance training. To move through the water, your arms, legs, shoulders, hips, and torso have to work hard. The whole-body energy expenditure raises your heart rate and the fact that you're underwater forces you to regulate your breathing. The result: one hell of a cardio and resistance training workout!
The truth is that swimming workouts are as good as it gets, for some reasons:
Improves Musculature -- With resistance training, you often end up with big, bulky muscle. With cardio, you end up lean with less muscle definition. But swimming workouts deliver a beautiful combination of both. You develop long, lean muscles with serious endurance. If you round out your swimming workout with regular resistance training, you can have better all-around musculature.
Serious Metabolism Boost -- The amount of effort that goes into swimming workouts is comparable to an HIIT training session. Not only are you burning fat (thanks to the cardio element), but you're burning a lot of carbs for energy. The result is a serious increase in your daily energy production. You'll also find that your swimming workouts can lead to sustained calorie-burning for hours after you finish--unlike cardio training, which only leads to a few minutes of post-workout burning.
Boost Your Cardiovascular System -- The fact that you're working your entire body AND having to regulate your breathing means you're giving your body one heck of a workout. Your heart and lungs have to work extra hard to provide your body with enough oxygen to power your muscles as you swim. Swimmers tend to have VERY powerful cardiovascular systems, leading to better athletic performance overall.
Work Everything at Once -- With resistance training, you give your cardiovascular system a little bit of a workout. With cardio training, you do hit your muscles, albeit less than effectively. With a swimming workout, you're using both your muscles and your cardiovascular system to their full efficiency. It's one heck of a cross-training workout, one that will improve your fitness far quicker than either cardio or resistance training would on their own.
Stronger Core -- It's estimated that roughly 70% of the effort in swimming comes from your upper body, but your core has to do a lot of the work to engage both your upper and lower body at the same time. You can also do swimming workouts that emphasize your core muscles, developing serious back, side, abs, and hip strength.
Better Mobility and Flexibility -- One of the best things about swimming workouts is that they enhance both the mobility and flexibility of your joints, particularly in your upper body. The hot water helps to relax your muscles and connective tissue, making it easier for you to go through the full range of swimming motion. The more you train with the full range of motion, the more flexible and mobile your joints. Those with limited flexibility and joint mobility will find that swimming workouts can help to deal with joint problems.
No Impact -- Running, rowing, weightlifting, jumping rope, and even cycling involve some impact on your joints. The more effective forms of workout usually involve a lot of joint impacts, which can lead to injuries. Not so with swimming! With swimming, there is NO impact on your joints. Those with joint problems (shoulders, back, neck, hips, knees, ankles) can swim without worrying about damaging their bones. (Note: Repetitive motion injuries/strains are common.)
Increased Endurance -- The more you train your cardiovascular system, the better your endurance becomes. Training in the pool forces your heart to pump more blood and significantly increases lung capacity. You'll find that your endurance will be greatly increased even outside the pool. You'll find it easier to run, jump, and play without getting tired or out of breath thanks to the swimming workouts.
More Adventures -- Just like running and walking more makes it easier for you to hike and trek without tiring, so too swimming workouts make it easier for you to swim in lakes, rivers, and even the open ocean. You'll find that many awesome adventures and water sports are now an option thanks to the time you've spent training your body in the swimming pool.
Serious Weight Loss -- Have you ever seen a fat Olympic swimmer? The truth is that swimming is such good exercise that it can torch fat more efficiently than either resistance training or cardio. It's a two-for-one workout that will help you to get in shape better than almost any other type of workout.
If your goal is to get in the best shape of your life, you will do well to consider swimming workouts!
How to Work Out in the Swimming Pool
The primary difference between swimming workouts and land-based workouts is that you don't have as many options. You do one thing: swim. There are very few other ways to get fit in the swimming pool.
The good news is that there are a lot of different workouts you can do in the pool. Whether you want to do mild warm-ups, a drawn-out endurance training session, HIIT training, or even a resistance training-oriented workout, all of these things are possible. What matters is how you structure your workout.
If you're just getting in the pool and want to warm up, or this is your first time working out in the pool, it's important that you take it easy. Your workout is intended to get your body accustomed to the movements, the pace, and the breathing rhythms involved in a swimming workout.
For a warm-up or mild workout:
- Swim 5 lengths of the pool at a mild pace, using a more relaxed stroke (such as the breast stroke). Take a 10-second rest at the end of each length.
- Swim 5 lengths of the pool at a moderate pace, using a faster stroke (either breast stroke or the crawl). Rest for 15 to 20 seconds at the end of each length.
This is a simple warm-up and a great introduction to swimming workouts. You'll loosen up your muscles and help acclimate your body to the movements and breathing patterns of the workout.
Endurance Training Session
If your goal is to burn fat, endurance training is a great way to do so. The goal of this workout is NOT to run out of steam right away, but it's to push your body hard for no less than 30 minutes. That means going at a slower pace, at least until you've gotten accustomed to the swim workouts and your body has fallen into the right rhythm of movements and breathing.
Start off with 2 to 4 laps at a mild pace. Swim with the breast stroke or a light crawl--anything that gets the muscles warm and accustomed to the movement. Focus on your breathing and feeling each movement just right.
Once you're warm, it's time to settle in for the long haul. Keep the pace moderate ( slow crawl works), and focus on keeping your breathing regular. That breathing pattern is the only thing that will prevent you from running out of steam too quickly.
To figure out how many laps to do, time yourself for one lap. Then, do as many as it takes to fill at least 20-30 minutes. If you can push yourself for up to 45 minutes, you'll be in great shape!
Interval Training Session
This is not for newbies, but for those who have some experience with swimming workouts. These interval training sessions are going to be very tough on your body--both cardiovascular system and muscles alike. But they're the most effective option for both improving swim performance and general fitness.
Interval #1: Swim a lap as fast as you can, using the crawl as your stroke of choice. Once you complete that lap, swim another lap at a mild pace--change up the stroke if you want. Finish the lap, take a 10-second break, and hit another lap at full speed. Repeat this cycle for 15 to 20 minutes.
Interval #2: Swim across the pool as fast as you can, then swim the return stretch at a slower pace. Repeat this for 5 laps, then take a 2-minute break. Perform this 5-lap cycle 3 to 5 times to complete a kick-ass HIIT workout!
Interval #3: This works if you have a 50-yard pool! Set your timer for 7 minutes. Swim 5 laps (500 yards) as fast as you can, then rest until the timer finishes counting down 7 minutes. Depending on your speed, you could get anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes of rest. Repeat this once or twice more for maximum results.
Interval #4: This is a timed challenge, one that pushes you to swim faster and harder. Use a stopwatch to count your swim time for a single lap. Then add a few seconds to your swim time for a single interval. (For example, if your lap time is 53 seconds, add 7 seconds to make it a 1-minute interval). Set the timer to go off at the minute mark, and start swimming as fast as possible. Once you finish the lap, rest until the timer goes off. Repeat this 10 to 20 times for an awesome HIIT interval training session.
These intervals are an amazing way to kick your training up a notch and push yourself hard.
The best thing about HIIT training is that you can complete your workout in less time, and the metabolic increase will remain for hours after you finish. This type of workout is far more effective than basic endurance or cardio training, and you'll see progress in no time.
Muscle-Building Swim Training
While swimming training is more focused on cardiovascular performance, it also leads to serious enhancements in muscular strength. After all, your shoulders, arms, back, chest, core, hips, and legs are doing all the work of propelling you through the water, so you're bound to see muscle growth.
But for a swim workout that focuses more on building muscle, try one of these two methods:
- 1. The Butterfly -- The Butterfly is a swimming stroke that recruits your arms, legs, core, and back incredibly efficiently. The fact that it requires so much muscular energy makes it hard to sustain for prolonged periods, but it's amazing for building muscle.To perform a muscle-building workout, swim a single lap (or half-lap even) using the Butterfly stroke. Once you finish, rest for 60 to 120 seconds before performing another lap using this stroke. Repeat this for 20 to 30 minutes, or until your arms, leg, and core turn to jelly.
- 2. The Speed Crawl -- The crawl is one of the most efficient swimming strokes, but it works all of the muscles in your body. To build serious muscle, perform a lap at top speed. Rest for 60 to 120 seconds between each lap (to give your body time to recover), but push yourself to swim as fast as you can. By the end of your workout (20 to 30 minutes), you'll have given your muscles one heck of a workout
If your goal is to get in the best shape of your life, swimming workouts can be an amazing option. You'll see improvement in EVERY area of fitness: flexibility/mobility, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance. Best of all, you're doing it in a swimming pool!