Swim Strokes to Sculpt Your Body

Every summer I take my kids to swimming lessons and while they’re swimming, I sit and read and drink cafe lattes. I kind of like this time to myself, but I’ve also realized that I could put this hour to better use by swimming in one of the lanes. What are the best strokes I can do to tone my body and burn calories?

Answered by Dr. Sarah

Although a personal hour of solitude is very important, it’s a wise choice to ditch the latte for exercise. Swimming uses all your major muscle groups, challenges your cardiovascular system and helps to build endurance. Plus, did you know that lattes can have up to 200 calories? Swimming at a moderate effort can burn up to 500 calories per hour.

Here are some swimming strokes I recommend:

Breast Stroke: Breast stroke is an excellent stroke for beginners. It can be relaxing or you can make it quick and intense. Its strong pulling motion in the upper body targets your delts, lats, traps, triceps, biceps and pecs while the whip kick (or frog like motion) in the lower body uses your quads, hamstrings and glutes, plus both your adductor and abductor (inner and outer thigh) muscles. One of the best thing about breast stroke is its ability to improve lung function, since the glide between strokes challenges your body to control its oxygen intake. Check out the full animation of breast stroke

Front crawl: Front crawl is a more continuous stroke than breast stroke and therefore requires more energy. It uses your delts, lats, traps, triceps and biceps for the upper body work and the fluttering motion of your legs works the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Your deep core muscles are also hard at work keeping body stable as you move through the water. Front crawl is an excellent stroke for training the heart as it must beat strongly (rather than rapidly) to supply the muscles with the blood and nutrients they require to move your body through water. Check out the full animation of front crawl.

Recommended equipment:

  • A swim suit that’s actually designed for swimming — so no frilly, bejeweled beach bikinis, ok?
  • Goggles (they must be anti-fog)
  • A swim cap — it protects hair, and keeps it away from your face

Swimming is strenuous work for your body, so it’s normal to be exhausted after just 10 minutes. Try this interval training workout to get you started:

  • Swim 2-3 lengths of easy swimming (warm up)
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Swim 2-3 lengths of breast stroke
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Swim 2-3 lengths of front crawl
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Swim 2-3 lengths of breast stroke
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Swim 2-3 lengths of front crawl
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Swim 2-3 lengths of easy swimming (cool down)

After two to three weeks decrease your rest time gradually to approximately 30 seconds, and increase your lengths to three or four. And always remember to take your time and enjoy 10 minutes in the sauna as your ‘solitude’ reward.

Answered by Sarah Brown, she is not only a fitness instructor at Goodlife where she teaches Body Pump, Body Flow, yoga, boot-camp and spinning but she is also a registered holistic nutritionist.