Swimming is one of the most underrated forms of exercise out there. While everyone knows that swimming can be very good for you, few people it seems recognize just how many different ways it can improve your health, or just how versatile it is and how capable of meeting different goals and targets.
Many people you see think of swimming purely as a form of exercise that’s useful because it’s low impact. That it is of course, but what this doesn’t take into account is just how useful swimming is as a form of resistance training – in a manner similar to lifting weights. If you want to build toned and strong muscle you see, swimming can be just as useful as all manner of press ups and other similar exercises. Moreover, swimming is a great way to target specific muscle groups and to help yourself build strength in particular areas.
To demonstrate this, read on and we’ll look at which muscle groups are targeted by which strokes and how you can ensure you get a full body workout from your swim.
If you want to train your pecs, then the very best way to do so is with breast stroke. Here the clue is in the name, and the process of pushing outwards will help you to train your outer pecs. Want to train your pecs more? Then stop using your legs and rely entirely on your arm power to pull you along.
The great thing about shoulders is that they’re used in almost every kind of stroke. As the joint that you move your arm around, they are responsible for every kind of movement that you do with your arms to propel you. One of the best strokes though for your shoulders (deltoids) is the backstroke which uses large backwards rotations of your arms to move you along. Front crawl is also useful for this.
The triceps are the muscles at the back of your arms, and are targeted by movements that involve extending the lower portion of your arm. Most strokes will again hit the triceps, but particularly useful is front crawl at the end of each stroke when you swing your arm backwards.
One of the hardest parts of the body to train when swimming is the biceps – which is the same for bodyweight training too. Biceps are trained whenever you use a ‘curling’ motion, and the main time you’ll do this when swimming is during the first portion of front crawl. Doggy paddle is also useful here.
That said, biceps still won’t get much of a workout from a swim, so it’s worth doing traditional curls too. And the best way to do that is by using light dumbbells actually in your pool for added resistance throughout the entire range of movement.
Your traps are the muscles by your shoulders (at either side of your neck) and across your upper back. These are hard to train normally, but come into play quite a lot with swimming – particularly when doing butterfly and backstroke.
You engage your lats every time you ‘pull’ your body in any form – which of course makes them very easy to train while swimming. In fact, if you look at pictures of any swimmers you will see that they have incredibly large lats (located at the sides just under the armpits).
Again your legs are used in every kind of stroke unless you actively choose not to use them. Do make sure however that you mix up your strokes so that you target different parts of the leg muscles – of particularly importance is using breast stroke from time to time so that you hit the thighs. Using flippers meanwhile will help you to train your calves more.
Abs are used in every stroke to keep your body straight, but by doing a backstroke without using your arms you can increase this challenge and target your abs hard. To really see a difference in your stomach though you need to burn fat – which simply means swimming a lot and exerting yourself for long stretches.
About the Author: Rod Tuckers, is the owner of B-Rod Pools, a company that offers swimming pool related services in Greenwich. He is a passionate blogger and likes to share his expertise on swimming and related topics.