9 Swim Tips For A Better Workout
9 Swim Tips For A Better Workout

9 Swim Tips For A Better Workout

A full-body workout that ticks both the cardio and strength training boxes, swimming is the ultimate way to stay in shape over the summer. Whether you plan on making the most of the hotel pool or just want to take your workout outdoors, here’s what the pros recommend to get the most out of your next swim.
By Tor West

Perfect Your Technique

“Swimming is one of the most effective workouts when done properly. When your technique is on point, it works both the cardiovascular system and strengthens muscles and joints – in fact, the water provides the same resistance you’d get using a light pair of dumbbells. Don’t be that person who swims breaststroke with their head craning up out of the water – this will put stress on your neck and lead to injury. If you enjoy doing breaststroke, always put your head under the water and make sure your legs are moving evenly – if they aren’t, you risk knee, hip and lower back pain. When done properly, breaststroke is an effective way to strengthen the core and mobilise the spine – it’s a great stroke when executed properly.” – Steven Shaw, specialist swim coach at Pillar Wellbeing


Keep It Varied

“The body is clever and will adapt to the workouts you do regularly. If you jump in the pool and only ever do 30 minutes of front crawl, your body and muscles will, in time, get used to that. To keep your muscles and cardiovascular system challenged, mix things up. Plus, research shows that for every 100m of front crawl, you should swim 25m on your back to keep the spine and hips in alignment – try this if you’re prone to lower back pain. Swim one length of front crawl – the stroke people tend to find the most challenging – and then one of breaststroke or backstroke, repeating this pattern. If you can do butterfly, it’s worth doing a few lengths. It’s the most effective all-round stroke for toning and burning calories, plus it works the lower and upper body evenly for a sculpted physique. It’s great for your posture, too.” – Steven


Think Quality Not Quantity

“Doing more lengths isn’t necessarily better. A short, focused session is likely to be far more effective than a longer session ploughing up and down. Good form is essential. If you feel your form deteriorating, take a rest for a minute or two and start again.” – Steven


Breathe Properly

“You’ve seen those people who seem to glide effortlessly through the water when doing front crawl – a lot of this comes down to breathing. It’s obvious why you need to breathe when in the water, but when doing front crawl, it’s crucial you do it efficiently and in a way that doesn’t disrupt your stroke. Always inhale through your mouth, not your nose, and rotate your body more than you think, which will give you more space to breathe. Try to breathe every third stroke, which means you’ll be breathing on both sides. If you only breathe every two or four strokes, it’s the equivalent of doing yoga and only using one side of the body. Getting into a rhythm can be a meditative experience. Most people have a natural affinity to water and find it relaxing, so once you nail your breathing, you’ll find you can block out everything else and let your mind be at rest.” – Steven


Structure With Sets

“To level up your swim, get out of the mindset of just swimming ‘lengths’ and instead think of ‘sets’. Playing with different strokes, levels of intensity and distances will keep your workout interesting and the body guessing. If you have 30 minutes, start with four lengths of front crawl and then two lengths of backstroke. For the main set, alternate between two lengths of front crawl and four lengths of breaststroke, repeating twice, and then six lengths of front crawl. For a cooldown, gently swim four lengths of backstroke and four of front crawl. This workout is approximately 34 lengths in a 25m pool. For a more challenging workout, do eight 100m sets (four lengths each) of your chosen stroke, swimming at a challenging pace – try two minutes for every 100m. Try to hold the same pace for each 100m, resting for ten seconds between each set. Warm up and cool down with four lengths of your chosen stroke.” – Muir Cochrane, swimming product development manager at David Lloyd Clubs


Experiment With Intervals

“If you only have 20 minutes, you can still get in a great workout. Spend five to seven minutes warming up, and then use your middle ten minutes to be the focus of your session. Look to short, high-intensity reps with a short recovery time of five seconds per rep. The high effort and short recovery will mean fatigue will quickly build and you’ll struggle to maintain stamina. This could look like two quick lengths of front crawl, followed by a five second rest, repeated for ten minutes. Or use your ten minutes to do a continuous stroke that you find challenging – such as butterfly or a faster-paced front crawl, using an easier stroke for an active recovery.” – Harrison Rolls-King, elite triathlete & content manager at ZONE3


Invest In Some Kit

“Hand paddles are a great way to sculpt the upper body. You slip them on like a glove and they stop the water from flowing through your fingers, allowing you to perform an arm pull with more power. If you’re going on holiday, they’re a lightweight piece of kit to take with you. Use them either at a low to moderate intensity over a prolonged, continuous swim, or as part of higher-intensity reps of one to two lengths, taking a short break in between each length. I rate the ZONE3 Power Stroke Hand Paddles.” – Harrison


Play With Speed

“Varying the speed of your lengths – as well as the stroke – will ensure an efficient workout in just 20 minutes. As a rule, always start your swim with a warm-up (100-200m is a good goal) followed by some drills, a main set, and then a cool-down. For a main set, try a pyramid swim, adding 25m (around one length) per interval. Start with 25m, then work up to 50m, 75m and 100m, with 15 seconds between intervals. This will likely be the equivalent of doing two lengths followed by a rest, and then gradually adding one length before you rest. This is a good way to build stamina. For a speed set, try six lengths with a 30-second recovery, four lengths with a 30-second recovery and then two lengths with a recovery, aiming to get quicker as the intervals reduce.” – Chris Stanton, sport & performance master trainer at Third Space


Incorporate Circuit Training

“Water is around 800 times denser than air, so any form of movement in the water will be 800 times harder than on the land. Aqua aerobics classes may seem corny, but they are an incredibly efficient way to tone and burn calories when you don’t have access to a gym. Running in the pool is a great way to increase resistance and will quickly feel challenging – aim for a 25m sprint. A small kickboard can be used as weights in the water – ensuring your body is submerged in the water, do bicep curls or flys to the side. For a circuit, try one length walking, one length running, 20 bicep curls, and then 20 flys. Add in a few lengths of front crawl or breaststroke as active recovery and then repeat for 20 minutes. You can also try pull-ups on the side of the pool, almost like you are trying to pull yourself out of the water.” – Keri-Anne Payne, former Olympic medallist & dryrobe ambassador

For more from the experts, visit PillarWellbeing.com, Dryrobe.com, ZONE3.com, ThirdSpace.London & DavidLloyd.co.uk. You can also find Chris on Instagram @OptimalEndurance.

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