Swimming is the perfect workout if you want to quickly burn a ton of calories. Need proof? Ask athletes from other sports who become exhausted after only a few lengths of the pool.
There are many reasons swimming is a great workout for the mind and body. For example, it’s the only cardiovascular exercise that works your entire body while putting little to no pressure on your joints.
Don’t worry if you can’t swim much yet. Beginners can still do a good pool workout that provides a lot of health benefits. You can build endurance and lose weight while giving your body the best workout it’s ever had in as little as 30 minutes a day.
Pro Tip: Before you start swimming for exercise, have a qualified coach look at your stroke to ensure proper technique, which prevents overuse injuries. As with all sports: If something is painful, stop.
WARMUP (5–10 MINUTES)
Start your workout slowly to give your muscles an opportunity to warm up. Focus on your technique: long, powerful strokes move you through the water at a steady pace. Depending on your swimming experience, you can either do a longer swim (400–500 yards) or break it up into shorter distances, with rest every few lengths. But make sure to start slow and build your pace throughout, which raises your heart rate and prepares you to swim fast.
KICK (5–7 MINUTES)
A good kick set helps you continue to warm up while also getting your heart rate up. Some swimmers use kickboards, but you can just extend your arms in a streamlined position or kick on your back.
Your kick should start at the hip, not the knees, which means you’re using your entire leg to provide propulsion. Keep your kick narrow and steady. A large up-and-down motion slows you down as it creates drag and reduces the power you generate.
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MAIN SET (10–15 MINUTES)
This is the focus of your workout. The set should allow you to maintain a high heart rate over an extended time, which allows you to burn maximum calories. (Compare it to the fat-burning qualities of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT)
Here’s a possible structure to follow:
- Swim two lengths of the pool at a quick pace
- Rest for 5–10 seconds
Let’s say you can do a 50 (two lengths of a standard, 25-yard pool) in 45 seconds. Your interval would be 50–55 seconds, meaning you should get about 10–15 repeats in.
Once you build endurance, you can increase the distance or decrease the interval.
READ MORE > STRETCHES FOR SWIMMERS | 5-POSE YOGA FIX
COOL-DOWN (5 MINUTES)
Swim an easy 300 yards, broken up by 50s or 100s. This step is important because your body needs a chance to recover from the main set. Your pace should be like what you did in the warmup, and you should focus on good technique so your body can repeat it more easily when it’s tired.
Want more workouts? U.S. Masters Swimming members have access to daily workouts designed especially for a range of swimmers by a USMS-certified coach.
Want to learn more? Check out USMS’ Masters Swimming 101 article series.