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Does Swimming Build Muscle?

There are many reasons why people take up swimming – to improve their overall fitness, lose weight, recover from injury, improve cardiovascular function, build and tone muscle, or improve mental health. Whatever your reason, swimming provides an excellent full-body workout, but does swimming build muscle?

 

Moving through the water stimulates and strengthens almost every major muscle group. After a challenging swim, you can expect to feel it in your shoulders, arms, abs, back and legs. 

 

Low-Impact

 

Unlike sports like running or weight training, swimming enables you to tone and build muscle while putting minimal stress on your joints. 

 

Swimming is a low-impact sport. The buoyancy of water counteracts gravity. The water supports your body weight and eliminates the stress on weight-bearing joints. Swimming is often recommended to those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, dealing with the aches and pains of ageing, or suffering from joint pain. 

 

However, low-impact doesn’t have to mean low-intensity. Because the water supports your joints, you can work out at a higher intensity than other sports with less risk of injury. 

 

Does Swimming Build Muscles?

 

Resistance Training 

 

Swimming is a form of resistance training. But instead of using weights in the gym, you are using the natural density of water as resistance. As you pull and push against the water, you will build muscle, and the constant repetition of strokes will increase your endurance, so yes swimming does build muscle.

 

Muscles Used in Swimming

 

Swimming provides a full-body workout. However, specific strokes use some muscles more than others. Knowing which muscles are being engaged in each swim stroke is helpful if you want to target and build particular muscle groups. 

 

Front Crawl and Back Crawl

Powerful arm motion strengthens the shoulders (deltoids), arms (bicep, triceps and wrist flexors)

Core and back (oblique) muscles engage, stabilising your body

Steady flutter kick uses your hip (hip flexors), leg (hamstrings and quadriceps) and foot muscles

 

Breaststroke

Sweeping arm movements target the chest (pectoral), shoulder (deltoid), and back (latimssimus dorsi)

Whip kick used in breaststroke mainly uses the bum (glutes) and leg muscles (quads and calves)

 

Heart Happy 

 

In addition to your visible muscles, swimming strengthens your most important muscle: your heart. Swimming is a form of cardio (aerobic exercise) that can reduce your resting heart rate and blood pressure, improve blood flow throughout your body, and increase lung capacity. 

 

Cross-Training 

 

Swimming is the ideal option for cross-training. Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, or another kind of athlete, adding swimming to your workout routine can improve your performance. Because it is such good cardiovascular exercise, swimming can increase your lung capacity and improve your heart rate. The muscles you build swimming can increase your strength, speed, endurance, balance, agility, and power. 

 

Does Swimming Build Muscles?

 

Muscle Building Tools

You can use equipment to build muscles even more effectively while swimming:

 

Use a kickboard to isolate your leg muscles: do front crawl kick to target your hamstrings and quads, or breaststroke kick to target your glutes and calves.

 

Use swim fins to improve your core and leg strength (note: training fins should not be used for breaststroke)

 

Use a pull buoy between your ankles or thighs to isolate your upper body: do back crawl or front crawl arms to strengthen your arms and shoulders, or breaststroke arms to target your chest and back.  

 

We hope that answered your question of 'does swimming build muscle?' For more than just muscle, why not take on a cardio challenge too. Try swimming for at least 15 minutes without taking a break to maintain a high heart rate.

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