Want to achieve a sexy, sculpted silhouette? Go wear your swimsuit, swim cap, and goggles, and hit the pool.
Swimming is the perfect workout for folks who’ve been wanting to lose weight yet don’t like the idea of hitting the gym and do jarring exercises. The water sport is a great way to work your body and burn em calories without feeling like you’re melting in the heat. Aside from torching calories, the workout also helps boost your metabolism and firm every muscle in your body. Plus, it’s a full-body workout that goes easy on your joints and bones. It’s foolproof for everyone, including kids, elderly, expecting moms, and injured folks.
An easy, recreational swim torches around 500 calories an hour, while a vigorous routine can burn around 700. Science tells us that water is nearly 800 times denser than air and water neutralize gravity, so you turn virtually weightless when immersed. This means each kick, push, and pull, is a mini resistance workout for your whole body, and these movements impact your core, hips, arms, shoulders, and glutes.
Not all swimming strokes and techniques, however, are made equal. Some swimming workouts burn more calories than the other, and we’re here to list them down. Even beginners and recreational swimmers can reap the body-shaping benefits of swimming.
Freestyle stroke, also called “front crawl” is the fastest and most efficient competitive swimming stroke. It’s often the most preferred stroke of experienced swimmers and triathletes.
You assume a prone position in the water and you cut through the water, not push against it. Your arms move in alternating motion, with one arm moving backward in the water from an overhead position towards the hip and one arm recovering above the water from the hip towards the overhead position.
Freestyle uses mostly your upper body for propulsion. You propel yourself using your shoulders and upper back. It also helps tone the core, glutes, and shoulders, and strengthens the back.
Average calorie-burning ability: 300 calories for 30 minutes of swimming.
As its name suggests, backstroke (also called “back crawl”) is the only competitive swimming stroke that is swum on the back. At first, backstroke looks easy for it allows you to breathe out while facing upward. However, it takes strong abdominal and shoulder muscles to pull it off.
You assume a supine position in the water and look straight up the sky (or ceiling), not at your toes. This will prevent your hips from sinking and keep your head in line with your spine. Form a “Y” and then reach back with each arm at a 45° angle to the body to place less strain on your shoulders.
Backstroke is perfect for conserving energy. Yes, you can only torch fewer calories compared to strokes like freestyle and butterfly, but the conserved energy allows you to endure a long swim. Aside from burning calories, the stroke also helps tone your arms, shoulders, stomach, and buttocks, and elongate the hip flexors. It’s perfect for office-bound workers who tend to sit all day.
Average calorie-burning ability: around 250 calories for 30 minutes of swimming.
Breaststroke is a style in which you are on your chest and the torso does not rotate. This swimming style might be the slowest of all competitive strokes but it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to burning calories. It can torch as many calories per hour as fast freestyle stroke. This technique requires your body to power through the water and not to cut through it.
Breaststroke is executed in a prone position. Both arms should move synchronously and do short, half-circular movements underwater. Your legs should move synchronously as well and execute a whip kick. The leg kick works your core and abdomen muscles more than freestyle so it’s important to keep your legs behind you rather than below you and to not let your hips drop in the water.
You rely on your lower body and kick for propulsion. It’s a much better cardiovascular workout than other competitive strokes, strengthening the heart and lungs while toning the legs, inner thighs, hamstrings, and triceps. It helps to work and tone the shoulder, chest muscles, and upper back as well.
Average calorie-burning ability: 200 calories for 30 minutes of swimming.
4. Mixed strokes
Freestyle is a clear favorite because it’s easy to learn, it burns major calories, and it has the greatest impact on toning the back muscles. Joel Shinofield, head swim coach at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, however, suggests using a variety of strokes to make your workout more effective. It can balance the muscles and beat boredom.
“The key to an effective swim routine is splitting it into shorter segments, mixing in a variety of work and rest intervals, and using different strokes, drills, and intensities,” says Shinofield.
He recommends combining freestyle with backstroke, which improves the posture by working your shoulder and back muscles, and breaststroke, which works the hip and inner thigh muscles.
Tips before getting started:
- Don’t forget to warm up on dry land before immersing.
- Always keep a water bottle handy. You might not feel sweaty but you’re still losing fluids when you swim.
- If you’re swimming during the day, try to invest in dark-lens or reflective goggles to help block the sun and see effectively in the water.
- Wear a swim cap to reduce drag in the water and to protect your hair from drying due to sun and chlorinated water.
- If you’re planning to take your exercise in open water, bring a companion with you.