Swimming is one of the most efficient workouts - Here's how strokes target different parts of your body
- Swimming can simultaneously workout muscles that multiple strength workouts target.
- Additionally, every swim stroke is also an effective cardiovascular workout.
- A swimming instructor broke down which strokes target each area of the body.
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If you're looking to freshen up your workout routine, and even push it to the next level, try swapping your weights and treadmill for the pool.
Swimming is an effective way to build and tone your muscles while improving endurance. It blends a frequent cardiovascular workout with simultaneous strength training due to the resistance of the water, according to Philip Abundo, a private swimming instructor in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
"When it comes to swimming, if you want to go and see how important a workout like the squat is, swimmers squat in every single stroke," Abundo told Insider. "You are striking the water with the upper body at a constant rate and you are kicking the water at a constant rate at full speed and force."
Swimming targets the same muscles that you might work out in the weight room. But rather than dividing your workouts into separate sets for upper body, lower body, core, and cardio, swimming allows you to simultaneously get a full-body workout in a single continuous motion.
Here's a look at which swimming strokes target each respective muscle groups.
Butterfly: Chest, back, core, and shoulders
The butterfly stroke is swum on the chest with both arms moving symmetrically. The arms start off extended above the head and then move backwards in with the palms pushing through the water. The arm motions work out the shoulder muscles known as anterior deltoids, and chest muscles known as pectorals.
"Your arms should be kept straight throughout the entire motion of the entire stroke. You're doing basically the equivalent of a tricep extension, and you're just overreaching, bringing it back behind you, towards your legs, and then making a perfect circle with both arms ending up at the same time," Abundo said.
The arm motions are combined with the dolphin kick, which is when both legs are pressed together and kick up and down like the motion of a dolphin's tail. The motion is comparable to a hanging knee raise, which helps build lower core muscles.
Backstroke: Back muscles and thighs
The backstroke is swum on the back with each arm moving backward one at a time in a paddling motion. These motions work the latissimus dorsi - muscles located on the shoulder.
The arm motions are then combined with a flutter kick, which is when each leg makes a light push one at a time. The resistance of the water works the hamstrings.
"A lot of swimmers, me included, would argue that a lap of backstroke feels the worst compared to the other strokes, just because your legs are really working from that angle," Abundo said. "Your legs are really working from that angle, because if you swim on your back you're using your hamstring muscles."
Freestyle/Front Crawl: Cardio, endurance, and weight loss
All swimming strokes are an effective cardio workout, but freestyle is a unique cardio challenge due to its unique breathing patterns. As a high-intensity cardio workout, the stroke comes with benefits that include weight loss, improved health, and stress reduction.
Freestyle is swum on the chest and requires the head to regularly submerge and re-emerge. The arms alternate to make windmill arc motions while the head is underwater, and the swimmer breathes at their side. It is accompanied by flutter kick.
"The sprint swimmer who swims the 50 meters or 100 meters is probably only going to breath 3-5 times throughout the entire race," Abundo said. "We're training freestyle swimmers for short distances to breathe as little as possible because every single time you breathe, it counts as a second."
"When it comes to freestyle at long distances you are swimming at a certain pace and your breathing has to follow a certain rhythm," he added.
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