Why Swimming Has A Place In Every Workout Routine


With world athletics championships, Olympic games and commonwealth games all including swimming as a core sport in their events, you might feel inclined to pick up some swimming shorts and goggles and head down to your nearest swimming pool.

If you’re still unsure if swimming is right for you, we can assure you that it has a place in any workout routine. It can be done as a high or low-intensity workout, is great for shoulder mobility and health and can be added as a low-impact option to almost any plan.

Read the benefits that swimming can have, get your swimming gear including men’s swim shorts or swimming costumes for women and add a trip to the nearest swimming pool into your week.

A swimmer performing the butterfly stroke in a swimming pool.

Swimming's Place In Any Workout Plan

Building Muscle

If you’re a regular gym go-er and looking to build muscle, swimming is a great addition to your weekly plan. Thinking about it, your shoulders, regardless of whichever stroke you choose, are always moving.

The shoulder is an incredibly complex group of muscles and ligaments that should be trained at all angles to achieve the best results. Doing lateral raises and front raises in the gym can improve your shoulder strength on those specific movements. However, the 360-degree motion that the shoulders go through while swimming will increase your shoulder mobility and overall health (which might actually help to increase your form and range of motion in the gym). This works your shoulders at all kinds of angles that are harder to hit with dumbbells alone.

So, does swimming build muscle? It can help and studies have shown that high-intensity training can develop certain muscle fibres. But try it out as both a high-intensity option, low-intensity option or a mix of both and see what gets you the best results.

Low-intensity swimming is also a great recovery activity for a de-load week or as part of a mid-week rest day when you still want to move in some way. Just make sure you have another rest day planned in your week to allow your body to fully repair.

Increasing Cardio Fitness

If you’re looking to increase cardiovascular fitness, swimming can be done as both a low-intensity or a high-intensity option, meaning that it can provide very similar benefits to running.

Cardio workouts can be split into either improving your aerobic or anaerobic fitness. What are these? Aerobic sessions are those where you can supply enough oxygen to the muscles and are usually longer in nature (e.g. a 5k slow swim). Anaerobic sessions are those where you can’t provide enough oxygen to the working muscles (e.g. 100m swimming sprints).

A good test of whether you are working aerobically or anaerobically is whether you can talk in full sentences once you are resting or have finished your lengths (or if you can talk in complete sentences while running). If you can, you are working aerobically, if not and you need to take a breath mid-sentence, this is a good indication that you were working anaerobically.

While working aerobically can improve your aerobic fitness, it doesn’t help to improve your anaerobic fitness (e.g. being able to sprint for longer distances, or complete more sprinting sets). A study conducted by the International Journal of Anatolia Sport Sciences found that working anaerobically and completing swimming sprints can improve both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

Try some swimming sprints. For example, swim front crawl as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds, then rest for 30-40 seconds. Repeat this for your desired workout time.

Burning Fat

Is swimming good for weight loss? In a nutshell, it can be! Any exercise that burns calories is good for losing fat. All that matters is that you are burning more calories than you are consuming through food.

For example, if you do a very low-intensity 5-minute, slow swim but are eating a lot of 'less-than-ideal' food afterwards, you might not be burning as many calories as you consumed to compensate for the amount going in. If you work at a high intensity you will likely be burning more calories and have a better chance of burning fat/losing weight.

As an added bonus, not a lot of people might know that with high-intensity training, you actually continue to burn calories even after your workout as your body works to get back to its normal balanced state after working so hard.

To sum up, work at an intensity level that is aerobic for you and eat the right post-workout food, to give yourself the best chance of burning fat.

How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?

The amount of calories burnt during swimming or running completely depends on your own weight and the intensity of your swim. If you were a man or woman weighing 58kg and you were swimming at the same intensity as your friend who weighed 68kg, despite swimming at the same intensity and the same duration, you and your friend will burn completely different amounts of calories. Many modern apple watches can be worn while swimming as long as you turn on the waterproof function that protects the technology inside before you get in the water.

A 2021 study by Harvard medical school estimated that in 30 minutes of swimming, women of different weights burned different amounts of calories.

Swimming certainly has a place in any workout. Whether you are building muscle, working to increase your cardio fitness or looking to burn fat, anyone can swim. As long as you understand what your goals are and what intensity you can swim at, there are endless possibilities.

Grab a pair of goggles, swim shorts or a swimming costume from our sports shop or online store and try adding a 10-20 minute swim into your week. We also stock a range of kid's swimwear such as armbands and floats to help get kids started as early as possible.

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Sözen, Hasan & Akyıldız, Can. (2018). The Effects of Aerobic and Anaerobic Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. International Journal of Anatolia Sport Sciences. 3. 331-337.

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