Can you build muscle by swimming?

The summer season is just around the corner and so is the swimming season. Muscles can be built up not only in the gym. That is why we are investigating the question of whether swimming can be a suitable alternative to traditional fitness. The different swimming styles have different effects on the body and the muscles. In this way, a holistic training can be approached, which is also very easy on the joints. Swimming is fun, helps to relax and can be designed as a very intense workout. Due to the activity in the water, swimming is more effective than running and jogging.

The most important at a glance

  • Swimming, with its various techniques and styles, allows for efficient muscle development.
  • It promotes health, endurance and fitness.
  • Posture problems and pain are eliminated.
  • Regular swimming and muscle training tones and shapes the body.
  • There are suitable swimming styles for beginners and advanced swimmers.

Which muscles are targeted in which swimming style?

Every movement that takes place in the water is more strenuous and therefore more effective. This is given by the resistance of the water, so swimming is considered one of the most efficient training methods to improve endurance, burn a lot of calories and at the same time promote muscle building. This already begins with the jump into the water and continues through the swimming movement. Different techniques influence how quickly muscles can be built up while swimming. At the same time, the regeneration phases afterwards play an important role, as it is in this phase that the renewal and building up of the musculature takes place.

Swimming does not have to be monotonous and boring, but can be designed as a varied training program or a complement to other sports. The lightness that is felt in the water should not be underestimated. Each movement and the tense position of the body simultaneously demand a variety of muscle groups, while the water resistance causes an additional effect. The swimming style determines how fast muscle growth is possible with swimming.


Breaststroke requires a technically correct execution to allow muscle growth. The arm and leg muscles are especially challenged in this exercise. Here, the head remains mostly above water, while the interaction of the extremities is crucial for correct execution. The legs initiate the forward impulse through a pushing movement, the arms complete the movement through the pulling movement. This has a holistic effect on the body, which is then also strengthened in the neck and back. The arm movement continues over the shoulder area. This trains the upper and lower arm muscles and the shoulders.
In breaststroke, leg work is done by the thigh muscles and the large gluteal muscle. The trunk and abdominal muscles are also required to keep the body in a balanced position. When the legs are pulled up, the lateral and front abdominal muscles come into play. The torso muscles allow the body tension.


The crawl is a swimming technique in which the arms are lifted alternately out of the water and the legs serve as propulsion. This movement is performed continuously and therefore also allows a very fast progress. The face is mostly under water and is only lifted above the water surface after a few strokes to breathe. This makes the movement faster and the body remains permanently in a horizontal position.
As a whole body workout, crawl has an effect on almost all muscle groups, especially the arms and legs. The shoulders and the entire upper part of the body are required for this purpose. The buttocks, abdominal, trunk and back muscles are also strengthened, which support a unified crawl movement.

Dolphin swimming

More difficult than the crawl is the dolphin swim. This represents a greater feat of strength and can also only be performed by experienced athletes. Arms and legs are moved simultaneously and both arms are lifted forward out of the water and stretched out at the same time. The swimmer uses the power from the whole body movement for this purpose. Almost all muscle areas are used and the mobility of the spine is strengthened. To avoid posture problems, it is necessary to learn and train the correct swimming technique. The calorie consumption here is very high, however, keeping up for several lanes is also a high feat of strength.


Backstroke has direct effects on the back and spine for muscle building. Here, too, there are different styles of swimming. Some serve rather the relaxation others however can demand the body properly. Backstroke relieves pressure on the spine and neck, but stabilizes the glutes and lower back. Since a large part of the thrust is done by the arm movement, it is mainly this musculature that is trained. The same applies to hips and shoulders. However, the overall training effect is less than with other swimming styles.

Is swimming suitable for muscle building at all??

Swimming strengthens and invigorates the entire body, while reducing the stress on bones and joints. Even though swimming is a typical endurance sport, it is possible to build up muscles in a very comprehensive way. In contrast to classic endurance sports like e.g. Running, where the goal is to strengthen the condition and maintain muscle strength, swimming is a conditioning and muscle building workout. For muscle building, it depends on which swimming technique is used and how intensive breathing, movement and training are done.

Every swimmer should take care to correctly apply the technique of the respective swimming style and not to neglect the adherence to the movement with decreasing strength. Swimming requires practice so that breathing, arm, leg and body movements are coordinated with each other. The water temperature also plays a role when it comes to burning fat at the same time, which in turn helps to build muscle. The lower the water temperature, the more fat is burned to regulate body temperature. If the water is warmer, there is no heat exchange, because body and water temperature are in balance and little fat is burned.

However, a targeted muscle build-up cannot be achieved with swimming as it is possible with targeted strength training. The decisive factor is that the body’s overall performance and condition are strengthened and at the same time the metabolism is boosted by the jump into cold water.

What to consider for muscle building in general

Sport and fitness always go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition. To build muscle through swimming, it is therefore also important to adapt the diet and adjust the diet to the workout. Muscles need a lot of protein. It is therefore very good to eat eggs, fish and meat, nuts, legumes and other protein-rich foods. Care should also be taken to always drink plenty of water and to supply the body with sufficient amounts of minerals, vitamins and trace elements.

Muscles grow not only through sweaty and strenuous exercise. Only the interaction of muscle building and regeneration enables training success. The body should be trained accordingly also not overstrained but holistically.

For muscle building, of course, many other types of sports and training that can be used in addition to swimming. This includes strength training, weightlifting and self-weight training. Many martial arts enable muscle building, including kickboxing, boxing, judo and taekwondo. Here, too, all muscle groups are specifically moved and built up, while the load on the joints and bones is higher.

Muscle building made easy – a DNA analysis can help

Every body can react differently to training stimuli and not every training plan promises the same success for every trainee. The MetaCheck POWER® analyzes your DNA for specific characteristics from which concrete recommendations for your muscle build-up can be derived. Through an individual gene and blood analysis you will receive, among other things, a training plan tailored to you incl. recommended repetition ranges as well as regeneration breaks. Because only a recovered muscle, which has previously compensated the appropriate training stimulus, offers optimal conditions for your training success and muscle building.

FAQ: The most important questions about swimming

It is recommended to implement swimming training in a varied, targeted way with different swimming techniques. It is equally important to approach a regular training, which is done 2 to 3 times a week. The intermediate phases then serve the regeneration and the muscle growth.

The extent of the training depends on the athlete himself/herself. Beginners train in 30-minute units. However, swimming can also be adapted to one’s own fitness and last longer accordingly.

Swimming not only allows many varied styles, but is also beneficial to health, has an effect on fitness and muscles, and is easy on the joints. Compared to other sports, bones and joints are subjected to far less stress when moving in water. At the same time reduces the risk of injury.

Swimming must be naturally mastered and should take place in waters that are not dangerous and have a consistently clear water surface. It is even better to do the training in an outdoor or indoor swimming pool. Here again the chlorine in the water is disadvantageous, if the training takes place too often.

As with many sports, swimming also requires a suitable warm-up program and loosening up after training. Stretching exercises are used to activate the body before swimming and prepare it for the load, and to relax it after training.

Even if swimming doesn’t seem too strenuous at first, it is one of the most demanding sports. Stretching is therefore an important aspect of the overall training program. Very good is the whole body stretching and the stretching and circling of the arms and hips. Warming up can take place outside as well as inside the water with a relaxed swim in.

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