How Swimmers Burn Fat and Lose Weight

If you love to swim for exercise, shorten your workouts to burn more fat and lose weight. Swim with speed and power during your workouts. You also should do regular strength training to burn fat and improve your bone density.




Too many long swim training sessions actually inhibit the development of your bulky, shapely fast twitch muscle fibers. In other words, you won't sculpt your body the way you want. The same result happens when you do too many long cardio sessions.

Short burst exercise will give you more fat burn and superior heart health.

And, if you swim for competition, physiologist Dave Costill gives this advice:

“Most competitive swimming events last less than two minutes. How can training for three to four hours a day at speeds that are markedly slower than competitive pace prepare the swimmer for the maximal efforts of competition?”

To optimize strength, power and fat burn:

1. Do full body strength training.

2. Also, do exercises out of the water that closely mimic your actions in the water (sport specific training).

Research has proven that there is no speed and power advantage gained by swimmers continuing to do high-volume swim training (long sessions).

The disadvantages of high-volume swim training are:

1. Depletion of glycogen muscle stores which hampers performance.

2. Fatigue and depletion of fast-twitch muscle fibers which reduces body toning and force production.

Here are some specific strength exercises for swimmers:

Arm pull down exercises:


  • Cable rotational front and back pulls: boosts forward propulsion by training the internal rotator cuff muscles by replicating the arm ‘pull down’ through the water.
  • Rear pulls: promotes balanced strength around the shoulder joint by training the external muscles. This technique avoids shoulder injuries and helps train your core stability skills.
  • Medicine ball single arm overhead throw: develops the power of the latissimus and pectoral muscles to improve the rate of force production in the shoulder by accelerating the arm hard. The focus is on producing the power from the shoulder and pulling across the body as you do in the crawl.
  • Swiss ball body pulls: helps to develop core and shoulder strength. A closed kinetic chain movement where the moving limbs remain in contact with a fixed object, it is regarded as functional for sports performance. Uses the stomach muscles to support the spine, using a strong pull of the shoulder muscles to raise your body back to the parallel position.

Leg kick exercises:


  • Hip extension and flexion kick: each leg is worked independently to increase the specificity for swimming. Mimics the upward and downward phases of the swimmers kick action, where the glutes and hamstrings extend and the hip flexors flex the leg at the hip.
  • Dive start and push-off turn: The dive start and push off turn involves dynamic ankle, knee and hip extension.
  • Barbell squat jumps: improves vertical jump performance by involving dynamic extension of the ankle, knee and hip joints and trains the calf, quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Helps you generate peak power by adding weight to the squat, so when you perform the jump squat with body weight only, the jump will be very fast and high.

Swimmers can also benefit from doing sprint interval cardio sessions of 20 minutes.

Here are some other ways to use swimming as part of your exercise routine:

1. It is a great cross-training routine to mix with your treadmill, running, stepper, bike, etc. routines. You can also avoid or rehabilitate injuries with swimming exercises.

2. Help your flexibility by adding a swimming session after your strength or interval cardio workouts.  The warm water will relax your muscles and make it easier to stretch after your workout. It will also lessen muscle soreness the next day.

3. You can build more endurance by swimming (with proper technique) because you are able to swim for longer periods than you can run or jog.

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES


About Mark

About Mark

Mark Dilworth is a Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist and since 2006 he has owned Your Fitness University, Her Fitness Hut, My Fitness Hut, Sports Fitness Hut.

Mark has helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle changes that lead to better long-term health, which includes acceptable body fat and ideal body weight.He does not recommend fad diets, quick weight loss gimmicks, starvation diets, weight loss pills, fat burner supplements and the like.

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