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Best Swim Exercises and Workouts

Swimming is one of the most beneficial of all sports for your body. Being in the water makes swimming a low impact and low-stress activity. Because your body weighs much less in the water, and you are not carrying your weight, there is very little stress on your joints and muscles. This does not mean swimming is not a good workout, though, in fact, the opposite is true! Keep reading to learn some of the best swim exercises and workouts.

Swimming gets your heart rate up to a higher level because you are working your muscles to move in the water, fighting against the natural resistance of the water. Swimming regularly will build your overall endurance, allowing you to perform other physical activities for longer periods of time. It is also excellent for your heart health. Your lungs will also get many benefits from regular swimming. Every muscle in your body will get a workout when you swim, so what are you waiting for?

Learn the Five Basic Strokes

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke is one you have seen before. It is where you are swinging your arms out the side of your body in big wide circles. It is a stroke that provides an excellent workout. In fact, the butterfly stroke is known as the best stroke for toning. When executed correctly, it will tone and build muscle effectively. Over time it will improve your strength in your upper body. It will improve your flexibility and stretch your back which also helps improve your posture.

To do the butterfly stroke:

  1. Place your arms above your head while lying on the water.
  2. With your arms out above your head, pull your hands back toward your hips with your hands open to scoop the water. Push hard during this movement to get a good boost.
  3. After the big push, move your arms back above your head in the starting position.
  4. While your arms are in motion, start with a small kick with your legs, and finish the motion with a big kick while your arms are returning to the start position.


The breaststroke is not the most muscle-building workout for burning calories when it is compared with the butterfly or front crawl, but it is the most beneficial to your cardiovascular system. It will make your heart and lungs much stronger, as well as toning your triceps, hamstrings, back, and legs. It is a foundational stroke of swimming and muscle toning.  The breaststroke is a challenging stroke to get the form perfect, but when you do it is quite rewarding.

The trick to mastering the breaststroke is to grasp the timing of each of the elements involved in the movement. Remember this phrase to keep the elements straight in your mind, pull, breathe, kick, glide.

To do the breaststroke:

  1. Master each of the elements first. The glide is the most important element because it is first and last, and the form is critical. Keep your body straight with your arms extended forward and legs straight behind you with your body parallel to the bottom of the pool. Your face should be in the water as well.
  2. The pull is the part of the movement that starts propelling you forward. Turn your palms out and move your arms down to your sides.
  3. Next, turn your palms out and move them to your sides.
  4. Bend you elbows and push your arms down and pull your hands together and move to the front of your chest as in a praying shape.
  5. This pushes you forward and now lift your head and take a breath.

Front Crawl

The front crawl is another great stroke that is an excellent whole-body workout. It works the upper body exceptionally well, though. When doing the front crawl you will work your triceps, biceps, trapezius, deltoids, and latissimus dorsi. The front crawl relies heavily on your shoulders and can be a cause of injury to the rotator cuff if it is done too often over years and years. It is an excellent workout, but don’t overdo it.

To do the front crawl:

  1. Keep your body straight laying horizontally in the water making sure your shoulders and hips are lined up. Place your head forward but slightly facing down.
  2. Your legs should be continuously kicking, like the motor of a boat while your arms perform the movements below. Keep your toes pointed and knees bent a little bit.
  3. Bend one of your elbows up and out, preparing to push your hand into the water.
  4. Plunge your arm into the water and pull down, pushing the arm back toward your hip.
  5. When your arm has reached the hip, lift it up and prepare for another plunge.
  6. Alternate this movement with the other arm, taking turns with your arms.
  7. As you are doing this, keep your legs kicking just at the surface of the water, making small splashes as your feet re-enter the water.


This stroke will give you a full-body workout that is excellent for your lats. It does also provide substantial benefit to your chest, arms, core, and legs, but it really excels at working your latissimus dorsi, or ‘lats’. When executed correctly as part of your normal swim workout, this is one of the best strokes you can do. The backstroke is also sometimes called the back crawl, because of the resemblance to the front crawl.

The backstroke is done while you are in a horizontal position on the water with your torso facing up laying on your back. During the stroke, you will move side to side slightly, but most of the stroke has you facing belly up. You need to keep your legs moving. To have stronger legs you may want to take a look at the best leg extension leg curl machines since targeted leg exercise will definitely improve your swimming speed.

To do the backstroke:

  1. Keep your body flat and start kicking immediately.
  2. Use the flutter kick, keeping your legs straight, using your hips to move the legs instead of the knees.
  3. As your legs are kicking your arms should be at your sides with your palms nearly resting on the thighs.
  4. Reach an arm out upward-pointing toward space, and push it down, hitting the water.
  5. Dig your arm down into the water and push it outward, pushing yourself forward.
  6. Repeat this with the other arm while keeping the legs kicking.

Doggie Paddle

This is not technically a professional swim stroke, but it is one that we all learn first. It is a movement where your arms stay under your chest and never leave the surface of the water. It is a good way to move forward if you have a shoulder injury since it does not require you to make wide motions with your arms, engaging your shoulders. It will work your arms and upper body while also giving your legs a workout.

To do the doggie paddle:

  1. Start with your body under the water except for your head.
  2. Now start kicking your feet, bending your knees, and using the knees to kick the feet.
  3. Make cups with your palms and alternate pulling each hand back toward your waist as you keep your body in the water.
  4. Repeat this step as you keep moving forward.

Best Swim Workout

Before you do any workout, stretching is important. Take some time to warm up and stretch. If you are currently trying to build muscle, you may want to check out the best creatine supplements since they are extremely effective at adding new muscle tissue.

This workout is excellent for all skill levels. If you are new to swimming, or already familiar with more complex swim workouts, this one will give you an amazing workout. To do this workout, you will need a simple floating board. It is a combination of simple strokes for alternating distances that will give your muscles some great resistance training, and your cardiovascular system some excellent benefits.

  1. First, hold the board in front of you under your chest. Use your legs to flutter kick, pushing yourself forward for about 25 yards. When you reach 25 yards, take a little break for about 20 seconds.
  2. Next, you will be doing some laps, alternating freestyle stroke on the way there, and backstroke on the way back to the starting side of the pool. Rest for about 30 seconds between laps. Repeat this for 4 laps total. When you finish this, give yourself a minute of rest before moving on to the next part.
  3. On the board, use sprint kicks to get you across the pool, on the way back to the starting side, use easy style kicks. Repeat this for 6 laps, resting for 20 seconds between laps.
  4. Now take a rest for a full two minutes, allowing your body to get a break!
  5. Freestyle for 8 laps, resting for 20 seconds between laps.
  6. Alternate butterfly stroke and backstroke for 4 laps, resting for 20 seconds between laps.
  7. Finally, breaststroke for 4 laps with 20 seconds rest between laps.

This workout is simple, but that is the point! It will give you an excellent full-body workout while helping you master the strokes you learned earlier. Keep in mind that if you feel your muscles starting to cramp up, it is OK to take a break and give them a good rub-down. Don’t overdo it, If it is too difficult to complete all the steps, you can just do a few of them and try again tomorrow! If you enjoy low impact workouts, check out the best punching bags !