Which muscles do you train when swimming?

Can you build muscle by swimming?

The summer season is just around the corner and so is the swimming season. Muscle cannot only be built in the gym. That is why we are investigating the question of whether swimming can be a suitable alternative to classic fitness. The different swimming styles have different effects on the body and muscles. This means that holistic training can be tackled here, which is also very gentle on the joints. Swimming is fun, helps you relax and can be designed as a very intense workout. Being active in the water makes swimming more effective than running and jogging.

The most important things at a glance

  • Swimming enables efficient muscle building with the various techniques and styles.
  • It promotes health, endurance and fitness.
  • Bad posture and pain are eliminated.
  • Regular swimming and muscle training firms and shapes the body.
  • There are suitable swimming styles for beginners and advanced.

Which muscles are targeted in which swimming style?

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

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


The breaststroke requires a technically correct execution in order to allow muscle growth. The arm and leg muscles are particularly challenged. Here the head usually stays above water, while the interaction of the extremities is crucial for correct execution. The legs initiate the forward impulse with a pushing movement, the arms complete the movement with a 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 the breaststroke, the leg work is done by the thigh muscles and the glutes. The core and abdominal muscles are also required to keep the body in a balanced position. When the legs are drawn in, the side and front abdominal muscles come into play. The core muscles enable body tension.


The crawl is a swimming technique in which the arms are alternately lifted out of the water and the legs serve as a drive. This movement is carried out continuously and therefore allows very rapid progress. The face is mostly under water and is only lifted above the surface of the water after a few puffs to breathe. This makes locomotion faster and the body permanently remains in a horizontal position.
As a full body workout, the crawl affects almost all muscle groups, especially the arms and legs. The shoulders and the entire upper body are challenged. The buttocks, abdominal, torso and back muscles are also strengthened, which support a uniform crawl movement.

Dolphin swimming

Dolphin swimming is more difficult than crawling. This represents a major effort and can 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 strength of the entire body movement. Almost all muscle areas are used and the mobility of the spine is strengthened. In order to avoid bad posture, it is necessary to learn and train the correct swimming technique. The calorie consumption is very high here, but persevering over several lanes is also a great effort.


The backstroke has a direct effect on the back and spine for muscle building. There are also different swimming styles here. Some are more for relaxation, but others can really challenge the body. When swimming back, the spine and neck are relieved, but the buttocks and lower back are stabilized. Since a large part of the thrust comes from the arm movement, it is these muscles in particular that are trained. The same goes for the hips and shoulders. However, the overall training effect is less than that of other swimming styles.

Is swimming suitable for building muscle at all?

When swimming, the entire body is strengthened and invigorated, while the stress on bones and joints is less.
Even if swimming is one of the typical endurance sports, muscle building is very comprehensive. In contrast to classic endurance sports such as running, where it is a matter of strengthening the condition and maintaining muscle strength, swimming is a condition training and muscle building training. For muscle building it depends on which swimming technique is used and how intensely breathing, Exercise and training take place.

Every swimmer should make sure to use the technique of the respective swimming style correctly and not neglect to keep the movement as the strength decreases. Swimming requires practice so that breathing, arm, leg and body movements are coordinated. The water temperature also plays a role when it comes to burning fat at the same time, which in turn helps build muscle. The lower the water temperature, the more fat is burned to regulate body temperature. If, on the other hand, the water is warmer, there is no heat exchange because body and water temperatures are in equilibrium and little fat is burned.

However, targeted muscle building cannot be achieved with swimming as is possible with targeted strength training. The decisive factor is that the body's overall performance and stamina are strengthened and, at the same time, the metabolism is boosted by jumping into the cold water.

What needs to be considered for building muscle in general

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

Muscles do not only grow through strenuous and strenuous exercise. Successful training is only possible through the interaction of muscle building and regeneration. The body should therefore not be overstrained but trained holistically.

Many other types of sports and training that can be used in addition to swimming are of course suitable for building muscle. These include strength training, weight lifting and self-weight training. Many martial arts allow muscle building, including kickboxing, boxing, judo and taekwondo. Here, too, all muscle groups are specifically moved and built up, while the stress on the joints and bones is higher.

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FAQ: The most important questions about swimming

W.How often should you swim a week and for how long?

It is advisable to implement the swimming training in a varied, targeted manner with different swimming techniques. It is just as important to approach a regular exercise, done 2 to 3 times a week. The intermediate phases are then used for regeneration and muscle growth.

The extent of the training depends on the athlete himself. Beginners train in 30-minute units. However, swimming can also be tailored to your own fitness and take longer.

What other advantages and disadvantages does swimming have?

Swimming not only allows many varied styles, it is also good for your health, affects your stamina and muscles and is easy on the joints. Compared to other sports, bones and joints are much less stressed by locomotion in water. At the same time, the risk of injury decreases.

Swimming must of course be mastered and should take place in waters that are harmless and have a consistently manageable water surface. It is even better to do the training in the outdoor or indoor pool. Here again, the chlorine in the water is disadvantageous if the training takes place too often.

Should you stretch before or after swimming?

As with many sports, swimming requires a suitable warm-up program and relaxation after training. This is done by doing stretching exercises that activate the body before swimming and prepare for the load and relax 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 exercise program. The whole body stretching and the stretching and circling of the arms and hips are very good. Warming up can take place both outside and inside the water with a relaxed swim.