Get Your Dream Abs from Swimming

If you’ve ever watched a professional swimming competition, one of the first things you’ll likely notice is the incredible physique of the athletes. Take the world’s winningest swimmer Michael Phelps, for example. Not only did he top Men’s Health Magazine’s Top 100 Fittest Men Ever, but with just one look at his stats, you recognize immediately how fit he truly is—at 6-feet 4-inches tall and 194 pounds, Phelps’ chest size measures in at 46-inches around. His waist, on the other hand, is a slender 34-inches. And while he’s undoubtedly an incredible athlete with incredible fitness, he wouldn’t be the person he is today if it was wasn’t for the sport that got him there in the first place: swimming.

Rio de Janeiro – 2016 Olympic Games

Phelps’ abdomen is one of his most famous features and a lot of that can be attributed to the sport of swimming. If you are someone who perpetually struggles with achieving the ab structure you want, this article will give you helpful insight into why and how swimming can be the key to helping you achieve the muscle structure and tone you’ve always wanted.

Why Abs Are So Hard to Get

For decades, six-pack abs have been the ‘defining factor’ in being physically fit. And while having abs is often a common attribute of athletes, visible abdominal muscles don’t always come easily to a majority of people. There are several reasons that some people struggle to develop the chiseled, quintessential abs. Along with easily controllable things like dehydration, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol intake, and stress, abdominal development can also be hindered by factors like genetics, minimal carb consumption, and binge eating.

How Swimming Can Diminish These Obstacles

Swimming is unique because it works muscles throughout the entire body. Along with strengthening your hips, legs, and glutes through kicking, swimming is also a great way to build significant upper body strength in the arms, back, chest, and major muscle groups. More than anything, however, swimming consistently exercises the core muscles and enables your abs to aid in overall stability and body control.

Simply put, core muscles like abs, hips, and lower back are completely engaged when you’re swimming. Not only do these muscles help you balance and stay on the water’s surface, but when kicking, they have chief control over your speed and agility through the water. In correlation with your core’s rotation as you stroke, the repetitive up-and-down movement of your legs directly engages each muscle group in your abdomen. And while this rotating movement is only used in two strokes—backstroke and freestyle—other strokes like butterfly and breaststroke require your body to use a leverage-like movement that also directly targets your abs.

Regardless of which swimming stroke you favor the most, you can rest assured that not only are you getting a great workout that builds total body strength and increases endurance, but you’re also getting one of the best, most effective abdominal exercises possible.

3 Additional Water Exercises to Pair With Swimming

Along with practicing the traditional swimming strokes, consider the following pool exercises to help you get the chiseled abs you want.

  • Kicking sets: Grab a kickboard and practice various types of kicks including the flutter kick, like in freestyle and backstroke where you alternate legs; dolphin kick, where your legs pulse together like a mermaid; and breaststroke kick where you imitate frog kicks by pulling your heels up toward your glutes and sweep them out, back, and around. Focus on engaging your abs during each kick.
  • Treading water: In deep water, spend 30-second intervals switching between treading as hard and aggressively as you can and floating on your back for 30 seconds. This high-intensity exercise helps you firm up muscles all over and is a big-time calorie killer.
  • Water jogs: Similar to treading water, this exercise is done in short-burst intervals and can greatly work your core. In waist-deep water, spend 30 seconds jogging aggressively making sure to engage arms, raise knees, and rotate through the core. Between intervals, spend 30 seconds lightly walking in a large circle.

Exercise Education

If you think you’ve tried everything to get rock-hard abs with no results, consider hitting the pool for regular swimming workouts that strengthen the whole body, target the abs, and increase endurance. For more information on how you can find your fittest self, check out the services and other blog posts offered by the swimming experts at SwimJim, today.

We’re giving it to you straight: You’re never going to swim like Michael Phelps. For starters, you’re probably not 6’4”—and in the water, length means speed. Then there’s your—by comparison—penguinlike wing span. Phelps’s span is 79 inches, and it propels him through the water like a nitro-fueled speedboat. And the 45 miles of practice he puts in a week? Great for him, but you have commitments.

Now, the good news: All of this had less to do with Phelps’s eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics than one basic in-pool principle that anybody can learn: “The longer and more streamlined you can make your body, the faster you’ll go,” he says.

“It’s that simple.”

Phelps and swimming guru Terry Laughlin, president of the New York-based swimming think tank Total Immersion (, helped us put together a step-by-step swimming workout guide to leaving your lanemates behind. If you’re a beginner, our plan will keep you from flailing about like you’re being attacked by piranhas. If you’re a pro, we’ll show you how to shave seconds without having to shave your knees. (If you want to be a pro on land, then crush more calories and chisel your body with the new Men’s Health DeltaFIT Speed Shred DVD program.)

We’re focusing on the freestyle stroke here, not only because it provides a killer cardio workout, but also because it works the most muscles overall—building core strength and carving your V. And it shreds calories. Blows them right out of the water, in fact. Phelps is as thin as an Olsen twin, yet he eats 8,000 calories a day. His average breakfast: two egg-and-cheese sandwiches, a bowl of grits, a western omelet, French toast, and a stack of chocolate-chip pancakes (“for dessert,” he says). Being 19 doesn’t hurt, of course, but if Phelps can keep his abs well groomed despite eating enough for four, you should be able to make sizable strides with just a modest amount of effort.

Here’s our seven-step plan for leaving everyone in your wake.

Swim Tall
“Water is 1,000 times denser than air,” says Laughlin. “So the single most important factor is to slip your body through the smallest hole in the water.” Imagine a central axis extending from the top of your head to the opposite end of the pool. Rotate your body along this axis with each stroke, stretching your leading arm (the one reaching out front) as far forward as you can. Keep the muscles in your lower back and abs taut as you power through the water—doing so will keep the propulsion coming from both your arms and legs and stop your midsection from sagging like an old first-mate’s belly.

Drop an Anchor
Swimming with just your hands is like jumping with just your feet. Instead, grip the water with your entire forearm and hand, holding your forearm at a right angle to your upper arm and digging in like you’re gathering sand with a shovel. Keep your hands broad, flat, and firm. You’re not pushing your arm through the water as much as anchoring it and pulling your body over it.

And if you want to be more skillful on the diving board, check out How To Execute a Perfect Flip Dive.)

Put Yourself on Heavy Rotation
Each stroke begins with your leading arm having entered the water, and that side of your body—the low side—pointing almost at the bottom of the pool. The other side of your body—the high side—should be raised, with the arm that just finished its stroke getting ready to return to the water. Power is triggered when you drive down the high side of your body, Laughlin says, throwing your high-side arm forward along the central axis into the leading position and forcefully rotating your hips and torso. Meanwhile, your low-side arm becomes the pulling arm underwater, working with your rotating torso to provide acceleration.

You can build the body to pull you through the water with ease by trying The Summer-Fit Workout today!

Keep Your Head Down
Freestylers used to hold their heads high. That forced the rest of the body to drop, turning it into a high-drag plow. “I look pretty much straight down at the bottom of the pool,” says Phelps. Not only does this technique cut drag, it keeps your torso high, reducing strain on your neck and lower back.

Find Your Glide Path
In the pool, fewer strokes is better. Your goal should be a high DPS—swim-speak for “distance per stroke.” Elite swimmers like Phelps can easily traverse a 25-yard pool in seven strokes (each hand entry counts as a stroke). Try to keep yours below 20 by conserving momentum. Pull yourself over your anchor and continue to glide forward with one arm forward and the other back. “You’ll travel farther and faster with your legs streamlined near your axis,” says Laughlin. When you begin to slow, start the next stroke.

Drag Your Feet
“If you’re a good kicker, you’re a good swimmer,” says Phelps. The secret is turning your feet into fins. Here again, leverage rules: Your legs should be taut, scissoring you through the water, while your feet remain flexible. This will help them snap at the downstroke of each kick, adding oomph and helping twist your torso along the central axis. If your feet don’t flex well, buy a set of kicking fins (we like the Slim Fin, to add flexibility.

Don’t Waste Your Breath
Gasping for air every time your head nears the surface is a great way to drown. Instead, make each breath count. Emphatically exhale the air from your lungs (all of it, not just 90 percent) before snagging a quick, full breath on the high side. Beginning swimmers need to breathe after each stroke, but as your endurance improves, try breathing on alternate sides—that is, after three strokes. It’ll reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders that results from always breathing on the same side.

Matt Bean Matt Bean is the senior associate editor for Men’s Health.

10 Full Body Exercises That Get You the Most Bang For Your Buck

When it comes to exercising, most of us would prefer to get maximum results in the shortest amount of time possible.

So it doesn’t make much sense when people spend all of their time in the gym on single muscle isolation exercises like biceps curls, leg extensions and triceps kickbacks when they could be getting stronger, faster and burn more calories in less time with full body exercises.

While isolation exercises are great for bodybuilders trying to gain massive size,they’re not necessarily the most efficient exercises or the best choice for the typical exerciser looking to get in the best shape in a limited amount of time.

Not only will full body exercises make you more functionally fit, meaning they’ll help you perform better in everyday activities or athletics, they’ll also work more muscles at one time and burn more calories while doing it.

Here are 10 full body exercises that will get you more bang for your buck:

1. Burpees

If I had to pick my favorite exercise of all time, burpees would be it. Not only do burpees require nothing but your own bodyweight—meaning you have no real excuse not to do them—they’re an awesome overall body strengthener and will condition you like no other exercise can.

How to do them: Stand up straight, then get into a squat position with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back into a push up position and lower your body so that your chest touches the floor. Jump and return your feet to the squat position as fast as possible. Immediately jump up into the air as high as you can. Add a little clap for pizazz!


2. Squats

Not only will squats give you a strong, powerful lower body, they’ll also work your core, strengthen your back and work shoulders as well.

Plus, you can do squats using just your own body weight for an awesome, do-anywhere exercise, add weight to make them even more challenging.

How to do them: Stand with your feed hip-width apart while pulling your shoulders back and engaging your abs. Push your butt and hips back as if you were sitting in a chair. While keeping your weight on your heels, lower down until your thighs are parallel or lower to the floor. Raise back up to the starting position, squeezing your butt and pushing your knees outward as you straighten.

3. Step ups

Step ups are a fantastic exercise you can do with very little space that will strengthen your legs and core muscles, build endurance, and get your heart rate up all in one move.

To make step ups more challenging, add weight or step onto a higher surface.

How to do them: Stand in front of a box or an elevated surface, pulling your shoulders back and keeping your abs tight. Set your left leg onto the box, then step to top of the box making sure your feet are flat. Step back down with the same leg, then repeat with your right leg.

4. Pull ups

Pull ups are one of the best upper body exercises of all time, and not only work your arms, shoulders and back, but will also strengthen your core as well. If you can’t do one quite yet, don’t give up all hope—with practice, anyone can do a pull up (yes, that includes women!).


How to do them: Start by hanging from a pull up bar with your palms facing away from you. Keeping your chest up and your shoulders back, squeeze your glutes and cross your feet, then pull yourself up so that your chin rests over the bar. Lower back down with control.

Pull up modifications for beginners:

  • Jumping pull ups: Jump up from the ground or an elevated surface, using momentum to help propel yourself up to the bar.
  • Negatives: Jump up to the bar so that you’re in the top of a pull up position, then slowly lower yourself down with control.
  • Use bands: Looping a band around the pull up bar and then again around your feet (or knees) can help you push past the sticking point of the pull up.

5. Push ups

Forget the fancy machines, do push ups instead. Push ups work your arms, back, chest, core, butt and even leg muscles. And the best thing about push ups? You can do them anywhere.

How to do them: Start in a plank position, with your shoulders directly over your hands. Tighten your abs, glutes and thighs, then lower yourself down so that your chest touches the floor while keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible. Push yourself back up into the starting position and repeat.

Push ups modifications for beginners:

  • Incline push ups: Find a bench, a table, or a similar sturdy raised surface and assume a plank position with your feet on the floor and your hands on the elevated surface. Do a push up from this position. As you get stronger, find lower surfaces to do them on.
  • Push ups from your knees: Start in a push up position with your knees on the floor. Tighten your abs, glutes and thighs, then lower yourself down so that your chest touches the floor while keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible. Push yourself back up into the starting position and repeat.

6. Dips

Want to work your chest, triceps, shoulders and abs all at once? Start making dips your go-to exercise.

How to do them: Stand in between a set of parallel bars. Grab the bars, straighten your arms, and hoist yourself up off the ground while slightly crossing your legs. While pulling your shoulders back and keeping your chest up, lower yourself down so that your elbows are parallel to the floor. Raise yourself back up to the starting position so that your arms are straight.


Dips modifications for beginners:

  • Elevate your feet: Assume the same position between a set of parallel bars as described above, but put your feet on an elevated surface to make it easier.
  • Use a bench: Sit on a bench or sturdy surface with your feet on the floor and your hands behind you, elbows bent behind you. Raise yourself up off the bench so that your arms are straight and feet still on the ground. While keeping your shoulders back and abs tight, lower your butt to the bench, so that your elbows form a 90 degree angle. Raise yourself back up and repeat.

7. Jump lunges

Jump lunges will not only make your legs burn like crazy, they’ll get your heart rate up quickly as well and challenge your balancing skills—making them a fantastic full body conditioning exercise.

How to do them: Start in a lunge position with your knees touching or almost touching the floor. Jump up explosively and switch legs so that your rear leg is in the front and front leg is in the rear, then repeat as fast as you can.

8. Kettlebell swings

Everyone from bodybuilders to the most casual exerciser loves kettlebell swings for a reason: they rock. Not only are kettlebell swings great for fat loss, they’ll build increased power, cause greater muscular endurance, increase your anaerobic and aerobic capacity, and more.

How to do them: Stand with your legs hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell between them. Allow the kettlebell to swing slightly behind your legs, then propel your hips forward, bringing the kettlebell straight over your head. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell and point it straight up or slightly forward. Pull the kettlebell down from the sky and repeat.

9. Handstands

Handstands are one of the most underrated exercises for one main reason: most people think they just can’t do them. But even if you start out doing handstands against a wall, they’ll help you build a strong upper body and core, increase your balancing abilities, aid in bone health, and more.

In fact, doing handstands every day can even help you feel less stressed out—and who doesn’t need that these days?


How to do them: Start with your hands on a floor in an area where there’s nothing around you to bump into. Jump or tuck up with control and hold the handstand. Lower yourself down with control.

Handstand modifications for beginners:

  • Handstand facing away from the wall: Face away from the wall with your hands on the ground shoulder width apart.
  • Slowly walk your feet up the wall until you’re vertical, then walk your hands close to the wall. Get out of the handstand by walking your feet down. Try holding a handstand for 5-10 seconds for six sets. If this is too tough for you still, practice walking up and down the wall until you build enough strength.
  • Handstand facing the wall: Face toward the wall, place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart, and jump up into a handstand with control. Work up to holding a handstand for 60 seconds. Once you’ve got that down, try and remove your feet from the wall.

10. Box jumps

Great for building lower body strength, conditioning, and preparing you for any sports where jumping is involved, box jumps also burn major calories and will get your heart rate up in a hurry.

Plus, jumping up on something high makes you look like a badass, and who doesn’t want that?

How to do them: Stand in front of a box or sturdy raised surface. Jump up onto the box, landing with both of your feet on top then straighten your legs. Jump back down from the box, then immediately jump back up and do it all over again.

Now go work hard, get sweaty, and have fun!

I just finished filming this workout and wow it kicked my butt! I will definitely add this workout to my favorites for days when I want a total body strength and HIIT cardio sweatfest in under 40 minutes. It really challenged me and I loved it.

This is one of our signature “workouts for people who get bored easily”, meaning that there is not a single repeat exercise in this entire workout. It makes for a unique challenge but it also makes the workout go by really fast; it’s almost impossible to get bored with this format. Whenever you’re struggling or if you catch your intensity dropping, remind yourself that you only have to do each of these moves once. Just one time through. So don’t be stingy with your energy or endurance; put everything you’ve got into each interval and leave it all out there. You will likely feel less stressed and maybe even a little bit of a calm energetic feeling by the time you’re done here. Exercise does amazing things for the brain and body!

This workout makes an appearance in our new 4 Week FBSweat Program – a program that lets YOU choose the length of your workout each day

The routine weaves together total body strength exercises, high intensity interval training, and a cardio burnout. Both warm up and cool down are included, meaning all that you need for an awesome home workout today is a set of dumbbells (which are completely optional and can be replaced by any other object that safely adds resistance) and some motivation.

Remember; if you’re having trouble getting started, just think of how good you always feel once you’ve pushed yourself through a workout & you’re greeted with that Workout Complete screen.

Workout Structure – About this Workout
Workout video includes cardio warm up, total body strength training, high intensity interval training, a burnout cardio round and a cool down and stretch. I highly recommend dumbbells for the strength training portion but you can always improvise with something around the house or even get in a great workout without any weights at all. This is an intense workout that requires a good amount of baseline fitness and understanding of form, though we always encourage everyone to modify to make exercises work for their own needs.

*I have included the amount of weight that I used for each exercise but it’s important to realize that this is just for reference; each person will lift differently depending on their own strength and weaknesses. Keep in mind that form is most important and once you have that down, you should be aiming to lift a weight that is heavy enough that you are really struggling by the last couple of reps in that 45 second interval.

5 Minute Cardio Warm Up: 25 Seconds per interval

HIIT Cardio Workout: 20 on 10 off – only one time through for each interval
2 Squat Hops + Reverse Lunge (squat hopping to the side)
2 x Runner’s Knees & Switch
Double Burpees
Push Ups
Static Squat Reverse Step Jump (stay low the whole time)
Kickout + Step Out (burpee kickout & then step just one foot back in tall plank)
Squat Jack Burpees
Heel Clicks + Touch Down
Fwd Jump, 2 Hops Back
Lateral Leaps
Plank Jack + Step
Jab Punch Knee & Switch
2 Single Leg Lateral Hops + Touchdown
Curtsy Lunge Jumps
Push Ups + Leg Raise
Lunge Squat Lunge (lunge to sides, squat in center)
Static Squat
Jump Squats

Water Break

Total Body Strength Training: 45 Seconds on, 15 seconds off
Squat + Overhead Press (16 lbs per pound)
Close Row Tricep Extension with Step Back (12 lbs per hand)
Bicep Curl Reverse Lunge (16 lbs per hand)
Reverse Fly Deadlift (3 lbs per hand)
Deadlift (28 lbs per hand)
Woodchoppers – split the interval on each side (12 lbs per hand)
Curtsy Ventral Raises (3 lbs per hand)
Calf Raise Lateral Raises (3 lbs per hand)
Bridge Fly + Extension (16 lbs per hand)
Pullover + Bridge (16 lbs total)

Cardio Burnout: 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off
Jumping Jack High Kicks
Side Lunge Center Jumps
Knee Pull + High Kick & Switch
Sumo + Round Kick
3 Shuffles + Squat Jump

Cool Down & Stretch

I have to apologize to you guys because I meant to show a low impact modification for each exercise but the routine was fast paced enough (due to the lack of repetition) that it didn’t really facilitate a real-time demonstration of alternate versions.

Well, what did you think of this workout? Did you have fun with it? Did it make you sweat, and do you think you’ll be sore tomorrow? I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I know I will come back to this one often!

If you enjoy our free workouts, please share! Fitness Blender offers hundreds of workout videos for anyone, for free. We also offer very inexpensive home workout programs, which are largely what allow us to keep our workout videos free. The other reason we are able to keep FB free is because the people who workout with us share our workouts with friends and family, which means we don’t have to pay for expensive advertising to keep doing what we do. So, if you like it, just pass it along!

Happy Workout Complete!

EDIT: Noted about the preview timing, thanks for the feedback. For this video in particular, just make sure you take a peek up at the screen a little earlier than usual.

Which Muscles Do I Build While Swimming?

Are you looking for the best full-body workout? Better yet, do you love swimming? If so, we’ve got some great news for you: all your swimming muscles are practically all of the muscles in your body! When it comes to swimming, it’s one thing to know you’re getting great exercise in the water, but it’s something else entirely when you know exactly what muscles you’re building while enjoying the sport. Whether you are swimming the breaststroke, backstroke or butterfly stroke, you use a full-body range of muscles to get through the water making swimming an excellent go-to workout. Read on to learn about all the muscles you’ll work and build with each type of swimming stroke.

Swimming Muscles Used With Breaststroke

As the easiest stroke for first-time and amateur swimmers, breaststroke comes naturally to most people. The scooping-and-streamlining arms and “frog” kick make it an easy, comfortable, and effective stroke for many swimmers to master. The muscles used in swimming breaststroke are:

  • Hand muscles
  • Forearm flexor and extensor muscles
  • Biceps, triceps, and deltoids
  • Neck muscles
  • Back muscles
  • Trapezius muscles
  • Spinal cord support muscles
  • Teres major and minor muscles
  • Rhomboid major and minor muscles
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Groin muscles
  • Hamstrings and quadriceps
  • Calf muscles

In order to do breaststroke properly, every aspect of the body must be engaged. Therefore, in addition to the aforementioned areas, you’ll also be working muscles you maybe never knew you had such as shin and various foot muscles. Check out this video to see these muscles in action.

Swimming Muscles Used With Backstroke and Freestyle

As the second easiest stroke to master, backstroke also comes naturally to many swimmers. Interestingly enough, because they are almost identical in body movements, backstroke and freestyle use almost the exact same muscles. Where the two differ comes in how the strokes are performed. As its name suggests, backstroke, also known as the back crawl, is done on your back. Freestyle, or front crawl, is done on your stomach. Both strokes use the following muscles:

  • Hand muscles
  • Forearm flexor and extensor muscle
  • Biceps, triceps, and deltoids
  • Shoulder muscles
  • Neck muscles
  • Chest muscles
  • Side muscles
  • Outer abdominal muscles
  • Inner abdominal muscles
  • Back muscles
  • Trapezius muscles
  • Spinal cord support muscles
  • Teres major and minor
  • Rhomboid major and minor
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Groin muscles

Similar to breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke also engage muscles in the feet, shins, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. You can watch the muscles working in both backstroke and freestyle.

Swimming Muscles Used With Butterfly

Notorious for being the most difficult of the four strokes, the butterfly is both physically demanding and strenuous on the body. In order to properly propel yourself, the muscles in your upper body, back, and legs must be fully engaged. In addition to some of the minor muscles mentioned in breaststroke, freestyle, and backstroke, the key muscles used in butterfly include:

  • Back muscles
  • Trapezius muscles
  • Spinal cord support muscles
  • Teres major and minor
  • Rhomboid major and minor
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Groin muscles
  • Hamstrings and quadriceps
  • Calf muscles
  • Several different foot muscles

Here Are Some Additional Perks to Why You Should Swim For Your Workout

If you’ve been a lifelong advocate of swimming, then we don’t need to convince you why the sport is one of the best on the planet. However, if you’re still unsure whether or not swimming is for you, perhaps the following information can change your mind. Check out these top 7 reasons swimming might be a great sport for you:

  1. The buoyancy of the water diminishes the demands of gravity, which makes it the ideal low-impact sport for people looking to put little stress on bones and joints.
  2. Instead of running several miles with very few burned calories to prove for it, in just an hour of swimming you can burn 500 calories or more.
  3. As odd as it may seem, swimming has been shown to help encourage smokers to stop the harmful habit.
  4. Swimming is a welcoming sport for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or have any special skill to participate. Whether you’re a beginner or have been swimming for years, the sport encourages everyone to come as they are.
  5. Swimming is a great cardio workout and often considered to be the best aerobic sport. Between improved breath control and better blood circulation, you’ll find that your entire cardiovascular health can be improved through swimming.
  6. Unlike sports such as basketball, football, running, and skiing, you won’t find yourself needing to retire from swimming as you age. The low-impact nature of swimming makes it a lifetime sport that will almost always be an option.
  7. Lastly, one of the greatest perks of swimming is that it offers a total-body workout. From toning your arms and legs to sculpting your back and abs, the swimming muscles you’ll build are unlike anything else.

Read up more on these different styles and strokes and watch all these muscles in action in this video. If you’re interested in the full-body workout swimming provides, sign up for one of our classes today.

What Muscles Does Swimming Work?

Have you heard? Swimming is one of the only workouts that works every single major muscle group in your body. The muscles swimming works change based on which stroke you are working on. We will dive into this and more as we look at the core of it all—how swimming can sculpt your body. You will find that if you mix it up, you can tone your entire body with swimming workouts. So, let’s find out, what muscles does swimming work?

Upper Body

Just look at a photo of an Olympic swimmer (eh hem, Michael Phelps), and you will notice that they generally have broad shoulders, sculpted deltoids, and beautifully formed trapezius muscles, creating a sort of “V” shape in their bodies. That is because moves like the breaststroke work the entire upper back and shoulder area. The most popular stroke, the freestyle, also does a lot to sculpt chest muscles and your biceps, triceps, forearms and upper back. The muscles swimming works depends on the stroke you are working on, but for the most part, your body will be heavily relying on your arms to thrust your forward through the water. Especially with moves like the butterfly stroke, the most effective all-around stroke, where you are literally propelled by the force of your arms against the resistance of the water. So, if your upper body is a weak point for you, swimming may be just the way to build up and stretch out your muscles, making them longer, leaner, and stronger.

Core Muscles

Similar to exercises like TRX suspension training, when you are swimming, your body is relying on your core to keep you stabilized. Along with all of the other benefits of swimming, you can count on the fact that every single way you swim will benefit your core. The lack of gravity requires that you try and achieve a specific posture, or, when treading, requires that you use your core to keep you above water so that you can breathe. Buoyancy and its stabilization powers, demands that you consistently try to stabilize yourself even while wading in the deep end of a pool. This is why your core muscles will be working at a higher level than if you were merely standing on land. As we get older, it is essential to have strong core muscles for stabilization when walking and simply getting around the house, and just by floating in the water, your body is utilizing its core to keep you upright. When floating on your back, many swim instructors will tell you to think of a string pulling you up from your belly button, this is so that you engage your core and will help you to build stronger abdominal and surrounding muscles and assist you in floating almost effortlessly above the water. And since everything you do in the water requires you to engage your core, this is a great way to become a more stabilized individual both in and outside of the water.

Lower Body

Don’t worry about your booty anymore! You will get a kick-ass glute workout as you propel yourself through the water using your legs to accelerate you. When you are working on your freestyle, along with your upper body and core, you will also be working on your upper legs, including your glutes, thighs, hamstrings, and quads. As you shift into strokes like the breaststroke, your legs will be moving in more of a wide circular motion (think of how a frog swims) this will be working your inner and outer thighs. And, don’t forget the backstroke which will strengthen your quadriceps and even your hamstrings. The beauty of lap swimming is, if you have a trouble area, more than likely there is a way to work it through perfecting a stroke.
For a full list of muscles used when swimming, this is a great resource.

How To Learn These Low- Impact Exercises

There are plenty of resources online to show you exactly how to complete any one of these swimming exercises. If you would like a little more of a personal experience, join us in one of our Aqua Fit classes where you will learn how to exercise in the water, or look for a swim instructor who can help you work on your form to assure that you are getting the most out of your time in the pool. Like any other workout, form is incredibly important and could be the difference in you scorching through calories, or feeling like you didn’t even work out.

Chuze Fitness Locations with Swimming Pools

Want to swim at a Chuze near you? Check out our locations with pools below!


Garden Grove, Rancho Cucamonga ,Corona, Anaheim, Cudahy ,San Bernardino


Broomfield, South Monaco, Englewood, Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster,

New Mexico:

Winrock Town Center

Can You Build Muscle Mass Through Swimming?


Swimming is an excellent, low-impact exercise for burning calories and getting fit. It’s ideal for those with injuries, joint problems or other issues that make cardio and weight lifting exercises difficult. Swimming is generally considered a way to build lean muscle, but if you’re looking for mass and can’t handle a more strenuous workout regimen, is it possible to gain that mass through swimming?

Yes, it is. Just look at Olympic swimmers who spend hours in a pool. They don’t have the same mass as a bodybuilder, but it’s not all lean muscle either. Swimming can build muscle, but you won’t see the fruits of your labors as quickly as you would with free weights.

Building Muscle Through Resistance

Your muscles grow when they stretch, tear and recover from resistance exercises. Like weightlifting, swimming is a resistance exercise, but unlike weight lifting, it places inconsequential amounts of stress on your bones and joints. This can decrease the amount of muscle you build in a short amount of time, but it also decreases the impact on your body, which is a huge benefit for staying physically active your whole life.

Swimming will build muscle much faster and more effectively than traditional cardio exercises like running or biking. The constant pushing and pulling against the water, which has a much higher resistance level than air, builds muscle capacity and endurance. Before you know it, you’ll have a fully toned swimmer’s body—maybe even with a six-pack!

Best Practices for Building Muscle While Swimming

Swimming with various strokes is a great way to build muscle, but if you want to speed up the process and target certain muscles, there are a few things you can do.

Be Consistent

Swimmers seeking muscle mass won’t get there if they only swim once or twice per week. Consistency is key in building muscle groups and maintaining the toned look of a swimmer’s body.

It’s best if you have a swimming pool in your backyard where you can swim laps anytime you like. If the cost of installing such a pool is impossible, joining a gym with a swimming pool will work too, as long as you’re dedicated to going 3-5 times per week.

Eat Correctly

As you may know from other forms of exercise, you’ll have a hard time getting toned if you aren’t eating the right foods. Increase your intake of lean proteins and decrease refined sugars and processed foods. Healthy foods are ideal for recovery, which is key to building muscle quickly and safely. And just because you’re swimming doesn’t entitle you to follow a 10,000-calorie-a-day diet a la Michael Phelps.

Focus on Arms and Legs Separately

When lifting weights, you probably focus on your arms one day and your legs another. The same principle applies with swimming, but you’ll have to get a little more creative with how you do it in the water.

To focus on your legs, swim with a kickboard. Your arms will do nothing but hold you up, and your legs will do all the work of propelling you across the pool. This is also great for engaging your core and building those central muscles that are essential for being a great swimmer.

To work your arms, use a pull buoy, which isolates your arm muscles and will help intensify your workout. It’s hard to take your leg muscles entirely out of the equation when swimming, but this style of exercise will allow you to build the muscles in your arms more quickly.

Vary and Intensify Your Routine

Just as in the weight room, doing the same routine in the pool consistently for weeks on end will do little for muscle growth. You’ve got to mix things up. You might do the breast stroke for a week and switch to the back stroke the next. Each routine will work different muscles, ensuring you don’t neglect certain muscle groups while you train.

It’s hard to find ways to intensify your routine with swimming since you can’t add more weight. But you can vary the way you perform each exercise. You might increase the length and decrease your speed one day, or you might speed it up and practice sprints with different strokes. Varying and intensifying your routine will keep your muscles guessing and engaged so they can grow and adapt.

Maintain Traditional Strength Training

Swimming is a great way to stay toned, but it shouldn’t completely replace traditional strength training. At least twice a week, incorporate some form of weightlifting into your workouts.

If you like, you can reduce the impact on your body and bring strength training into the pool. Use a set of water dumbbells to do Bicep Curls while treading water, for example. You could also wear light weights around your wrists and ankles to increase resistance. (Be careful when adding weights in the pool, since it can make you sink!)

Building muscle through swimming is a great way to stay lean and toned if you go about it the right way. These tips can help you build muscle with very little
long-lasting impact on your joints and bones.

  • 3 Reasons Why Swimmers Need Strength Training
  • Why Swimmers Shouldn’t Overtrain Their Quads
  • 10 Tips for Effective Strength Training Programs for Swimming

There will be days this summer when your outdoor workouts are perfect. You’ll breeze through a HIIT routine or bang out a bodyweight workout at a local park, and you’ll keep your cool—literally and figuratively. But then there will be days when there’s no trace of a breeze, and your body’s taken such a banging, you can hardly walk to the park. Now what?

Hit the pool to build muscle, drop weight, and give your joints a break with some swimming workouts.

10 Best Outdoor Workouts to Burn Fat and Build Muscle >>>

“Swimming is one of the best full-body, low-impact physical activities you can do,” says Jimmy Minardi, personal trainer and creator of Minardi Training. “It offers something no other aerobic exercise does—the ability to work all the major muscle groups without harsh impact to your skeletal system. Every kick and every arm stroke becomes a resistance exercise—which is the best way to increase overall fitness, strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance, enabling you to re-sculpt your body.”

With these swimming workouts, you’ll turn fat into muscle, and torch calories all-summer long—instead of the heat torching you all-summer long.

Precooling: The Pre-Workout Technique You Need to Try This Summer >>>

1. Kick Drills

Hold a kickboard in front of your body at arm’s length. Tighten your core muscles while you flutter kick or dolphin kick across the length of a pool. “Focus on flexing your foot past 90 degrees,” Minardi says. “It’ll give you greater propulsion and better results.” Try these alternate kicks to target different muscle groups:

Flutter Kick: Legs are extended straight back, in line with your body, as you kick them up and down.

Works the transverse abdominis—the deepest ab muscle group under the obliques.

Frog Kick: Bend your knees and bring your feet together, drawing your legs up toward your body (resembling a frog’s). Next, straighten your legs as far as you can, and then quickly bring them back up again.

Works the inner thighs and glutes, and is excellent for toning and shaping.
Butterfly Kick: Bring your legs together completely from your thighs to your feet. Point your toes. Use your hips to kick your legs, keeping them together, acting as a fin to push through the water.

Works the internal abdominal oblique (deep ab muscle, which is a great stabilizer and postural muscle group), the external abdominal oblique (the muscle alongside your abs), and the rectus abdominis (aka your six-pack).

“Take it up a notch by ditching the kickboard and lying on your back with your arms overhead,” Minardi says. “This forces you to rely more heavily on your abdominal and leg muscles, giving you a more intense exercise.” Beginners should complete 150 meters of kicking, and intermediate swimmers should complete 400 meters.

First Smartwatch Just For Swimmers >>>

2. Breaststroke and Butterfly Drill

Full body strokes like the butterfly and breaststroke engage your core muscles, and improve endurance and speed. “Breaststroke swimmers should perform one arm pull for every three leg kicks,” Minardi suggests. “And butterfly swimmers should use one arm pull for every three dolphin kicks.” Focus on tightening your core muscles, and using them to help bring your arms out of the water. Advanced swimmers should complete 10 25-meter swims with 15-second rest intervals between each.

5 Training Tips from Michael Phelps >>>

3. Water Running

Also known as aqua jogging, this exercise provides the high-intensity cardio aspect of running without the punishing impact of striking on a hard surface. “The water should be just below your neck, and if you want to engage your arms, you can add hand paddles to engage your triceps and biceps,” Minardi says. Essentially, you run through the water just as you would outdoors (only with slight tweaks on proper form). Your back should be straight; your arms should be bent at the elbow, and your hands balled into fists as you pump them through the water. Run as hard as you can. Do 3 rounds of 5-minute running intervals.

Plunge into Cardio: How to Swim Off the Calories >>>

4. Leg and Core Toners

Stand with your back against the side of the pool, and your arms extended backwards holding the edge of the pool on each side. Then, pull your legs up toward the surface, keeping them together until they’re extended straight out in front of you. Next, move your legs outward to a V-position and then back together. Keep them together, and move back down to the starting position. Keep your movements controlled, engaging your abs and glutes to complete each motion. Continue pulling them up, out, in and down for 3 sets of 20 reps.

10 Workouts That Work Better Than “Cardio” >>>

5. Water Crunches

“Nothing beats the water resistance of a pool for targeting abs with a greater range of motion,” says Minardi. Float in the water on your back perpendicular to the side of the pool. Put your legs, from the knees up, on the deck of the pool, while the remainder of your body is flat in the water. Use your abdominal muscles to pull your upper body up out of the water as far as you can. Use your muscles again to lower your body back into the water. Do 3 sets of 20 reps.

5 Exercises to Work Your Abs to Exhaustion >>>

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By Jacqueline Brennan, NASM-CPT

Having a strong core is crucial for swimmers. The core is responsible for maintaining stability through your center, but also for providing coordinated movement of the arms and legs.

We know all of you are always looking for new dryland training exercises. Here are eight Pilates exercises to challenge your stability, strength and core endurance!

1) Opposite Arm/Leg Reach: Begin on all four (quadruped position) and engage your core to stabilize your center. Without shifting weight from right to left extend your right arm forward and your left leg back. Hold for a count of four and return to center. Switch to the opposite side. Repeat 6x on each side. Remember to keep your hips square to the ground and your shoulders grounded away from your ears.
2) Side Plank: Lie on your side with your feet stacked or staggered, find your hand directly underneath your shoulder and press yourself up. Keep your head in line with your spine and your hips stacked. Draw your shoulder away from your ear, engage your back and core muscles to support your spine. You can increase the intensity by lifting the top leg, lowering and lifting your hips, adding rotation of your upper body and you can modify by dropping down to the bottom knee and holding.

3) Side Plank + Rotation: Begin in a side plank position on your forearm with your elbow directly underneath your shoulder, feet can be stacked or staggered. Rotate your torso reaching your top arm through. Return to a side plank position and repeat. Complete 1-3 sets of 10 and repeat on the other side.

4) Criss Cross: Also known as the bicycle, this exercise can be so wonderful when done right. Slow down and rotate from your center rather than from you neck. Focus on curling up and rotating, think lift and turn. Keeping your elbows wide will help avoid pulling on your neck muscles. When done correctly after 6-8 repetitions you will feel the work!

5) Plank: For easy proper alignment start in a quadruped (all four) position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and holding strong through your core extend your right leg straight back and your left leg to meet it. Keep your body in one long line with your chin lifted up off of your chest and your back wide. Challenge yourself and try to hold for between 30-60 seconds. You can perform this on your forearms as well.

6) Advanced Oblique Curls: Lying supine, raise both legs to a 90-degree angle or as straight to the ceiling as you can (this can also be performed with the knees bent to tabletop). Reach your arms straight up over your chest, keeping your shoulders down away from your ears and curl your head, neck, and shoulders off of the mat. Begin by lowering your left leg to hover over the ground while keeping your right leg reaching to the ceiling. Rotate your torso towards your right leg (the leg reaching up) taking your arms to the outside. Curl up a little higher. Inhale and lower a little and exhale to curl back up. Repeat 10x on each side.

7) Double Straight Leg Ab Curl: Extend both legs straight up and curl your head neck and shoulders off the mat. Inhale and lower back to the mat just two bones (little movement) and exhale curl up higher. Keep your tailbone heavy and your shoulders down away from your ears. Move from your center!

8) Swimming: Lying supine, lift your upper and lower body off your mat by engaging your upper back muscles and the muscles of the entire back line of your legs. Keep your head in line with your spine to avoid straining your neck. Lift and lower your opposite arm and leg, repeat.

Jacquelyn Brennan is a health and wellness expert who shares her knowledge daily at Fitsouffle. She holds a degree in kinesiology, and currently teaches Pilates, group exercise, and is a Certified Personal Trainer in Chicago, IL. Jacquelyn loves inspiring others to get moving, stay healthy, eat well, and learn how to exercise effectively.

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Core training is one of the most important things a swimmer can do to improve their times in the water and that’s why we will be taking a look at the best core exercises for swimmers at home.

There are many reasons why it’s so important for example- increased power in the water, improved body position, and better balance and stability.

Many swimmers neglect their core training.

This is a huge mistake from their side because they are placing themselves at a huge disadvantage compared to swimmers who do train their core regularly.

a Strong core will also help you to have better underwaters. If you have ever watched any big swimming race, you will understand how powerful underwaters are. They literally have the power to turn a race completely upside down.

If you want to become a faster and better swimmer within the next couple of months and years. Then you should start to train your core regularly. The core plays a massive role in swimming, it is needed from power output all the way to having great technique.

Before we start let’s look at some reasons why the core is so important in swimming-

5 Reasons why a strong core is important in swimming

  • Linking the upper and lower body whilst swimming

We all know by now that for you to be able to move your body most effectively through the water a coordinated movement of the arms and legs are essential. One of the main components of this coordinated movement is a strong core. The core is the centerpiece between the upper and the lower body while swimming.

  • Improved balance and stability in the water

The core acts as a stabilizer to the pelvis and the spine. Thus having a strong core is an essential part of having better stability and balance in the water. For example, if you were to look at young swimmers, you’d notice that they are all over the place while swimming, this is because their cores usually aren’t strong enough to support a stable and balanced stroke.

  • Improved body position whilst swimming

Body position is easily the most important thing in swimming. You should be trying to improve your body position in all ways and if training your core will help to improve it, then DO IT! Body position is important for reducing resistance in the water (a lot), perfect technique, powerful stroke and a good range of motion through the water.

  • More power in the water

This one ties in with linking the upper- and lower body together. When you have a strong core, it assists in more power exerted from the legs and the arms during the pull and the kick. The main reason this happens is that it keeps the upper- and lower body muscles engaged when you start to fatigue, allowing to keep your body position together for longer.

  • Better underwater fly kick

The core plays an important role in trunk flexion. Basically meaning the up and down movement known as the butterfly kick. When you have a strong core you will be able to perform a faster and more powerful underwater butterfly kick, ultimately placing you at a huge advantage in a race.

10 Best core exercises for swimmers at home-

  • 1.) Sit Ups

Sit-ups are probably the most basic core exercise out there. That being said it is also one of the most effective core exercises out there. Sit-ups strengthen most of your core muscles and they are relatively easy to perform.

Some college swim teams dish out a 1000 reps of sit-ups before practice, this just shows that they truly are an effective and basic core exercise. Thus I recommend them to all swimmers.

Sit-ups can be performed almost anywhere, making them an easy exercise to do at home for some extra core strength.

If you had to choose only one exercise for the core, I’d say sit-ups could be a great possible choice. Try to do 50-150 reps a day.

Quick Tips

  • If you can, try to get a partner or something to hold your feet down, this will reduce momentum and make it more effective.
  • Try to use as little as possible momentum when doing sit-ups. Come to a dead stop at the bottom of the movement to accomplish this.
  • 2.) Plank

The plank is another awesome core exercise for swimmers. It targets practically all of your core muscles and can easily be performed at home.

The plank has many variations you can choose from. Start with a basic plank and progress to more advanced versions of the plank from there on. Overall this is an awesome exercise and it can develop some serious core strength.

Quick Tips

  • Try to avoid dropping your hips.
  • Keep your body in a straight line.
  • Keep your head and neck in a neutral position.
  • 3.) Russian Twist

The Russian twist is another great core exercise for swimmers. It works the entire set of abdominal muscles as well as the obliques. This is a great exercise for freestyle swimmers because it focuses on the rotational movement found in the freestyle arm movement.

While performing this exercise you will also need to keep your hips in a stable and coordinated movement, just like you’d do when swimming.

The exercise can easily be performed at home and it has many different variations to switch it up. Overall this is a great core exercise for swimmers, not just freestylers. I definitely think all swimmers can benefit from this exercise.

Quick tips

  • Keep your legs a few inches above the ground. Don’t just hover them slightly above the ground when performing this movement.
  • You can add a medicine ball to make it harder.
  • 4.) Wheel Rollout

The wheel rolls out is one of the more harder and more advanced exercises for your core out there.

The wheel rollout is very challenging and it targets the entire core, as well as some of your back muscles. This is an awesome movement to improve your core strength. In my opinion, the wheel rollout is one of the best core exercises for swimmers at home.

This movement can easily be performed anywhere you want, although it will take some time and practice to master it for beginners. You will need a wheeled roller, I found a nice one on Amazon, check it out HERE.

Overall this is a great core exercise for swimmers. You might even consider doing it before training for that pre-swim core activation. Just throw your roller in your swim bag and off you go to training.

  • 5.) Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks are a pretty basic, yet effective core exercise. They aren’t anywhere as challenging as the wheel rollout, but will still provide some good core activation.

They are easy to perform and you can do them at home. Some beginners might find it challenging placing their hands next to their sides while performing this exercise. Try to place them underneath your bum, to make it easier until you are strong enough to place them by your sides.

The flutter kick is a great burn out exercise. I like to do a set of these after my core workouts to see how many reps I can do before I completely fatigue and can’t do them anymore.

Quick Tips

  • Beginners can place their hand underneath their bum.
  • Try to perform the flutter kick in a slow-ish controlled movement.
  • Once you are strong enough you can place your hand behind your head while doing this exercise.
  • 6.) Cycle Sit Ups

Cycle sit-ups are a great core exercise. Similarly to flutter kicks these also serve as a really nice burn out an exercise at the end of your core workouts.

The cycle sit up, isn’t anything like a sit up, instead of focusing on an up and down crunch type movement, this exercise focuses more on a rotational crunch type movement.

The cycle sit up can easily be performed at home. It targets the entire core and also the oblique muscles, making it a great exercise for swimmers.

Quick Tips

  • Perform a controlled movement.
  • When kicking out with the legs try to keep them a couple of inches above the ground at all times.
  • 7.) Jack Knifes

Jackknifes is an awesome core exercise. They are more on the side of advanced core exercises and can be quite challenging for beginners. Neither the less this is a great core exercise for all swimmers and it’s definitely one of the best core exercises for swimmers at home.

I highly recommend swimmers to do this movement, if you are not strong enough try some of the other movements until you are able to introduce jack knives into your core training.

Quick tips

  • Perform a controlled movement.
  • When lowering your legs try to keep them an inch or two above the ground.
  • Keep your core tight whilst performing.
  • 8.) Hanging Knee Raises

Hanging knee raises are another crunch type of core movement that you can perform. This is a great exercise to build some basic core strength.

Although the hanging knee raises itself might not be the most exciting core exercise out there, it opens the doors to many other awesome, advanced and effective core exercises. Like straight leg raises and the famous hanging L-sit.

For this movement, you will require a pull-up bar, as a swimmer you should have one. If you don’t you can check out this awesome wall mounted pull up bar on Amazon HERE. I highly recommend all swimmers to invest into a proper pull-up bar, it can help you a lot.

  • 9.) Toe touches

Toe touches are similar to jack knifes. But they are more basic and are easier to perform.

This exercise is another great burn out exercise in my opinion. Just dish out 100 or 200 reps in a single set and you will feel the extreme core burn and activation.

Overall this is a great and basic core strengthening exercise.

Quick Tips

  • Perform fast and controlled movements
  • Try to keep your legs as vertical as you can while performing this exercise.
  • 10.) Medicine ball side throw

The medicine ball side throw is a really awesome and fun core exercise. This movement is great for strengthening the obliques and core muscles. The medicine ball side throw is one of the best core exercises for swimmers at home.

You can perform the medicine ball side throw on your own or with a partner. When you perform it on your own, simply throw the medicine ball against a wall and catch it as it comes back.

Overall this is an awesome core exercise and if you are looking to bring your teammates into it, you can. Simply throw the medicine ball side to side for each other. If you need a medicine ball check out this nice one HERE.

Quick Tips

  • Make sure to squeeze your core whilst performing this movement.
  • Focus on throwing the ball from both sides, not just one, otherwise, you could cause muscle imbalances.


I highly recommend all swimmers to select a few of these core movements and train them on a regular basis. Core training can have significantly positive effects on your swimming, so make sure to train it.

Remember to gradually increase the intensity and resistance of these exercises to get stronger, you can do this by adding reps, sets, and weight or trying more advanced and harder versions of the exercises.

Here is a quick list of the 10 best core exercises for swimmers again-

  1. Sit Ups
  2. Plank
  3. Russian twist
  4. Wheel rollout
  5. Flutter Kicks
  6. Cycle sit-ups
  7. Jack Knives
  8. Hanging knee raises
  9. Toe touches
  10. Medicine ball side throw

Swimming workout for ABS

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