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Can Swimming Build Muscle Mass?

Swimming Build Muscle Mass

When you think about building muscle mass, the first thing that probably comes to mind is hitting the gym to do intense workouts. But, swimming on a regular basis has been proven to help build muscle mass without straining your joints or the bones in your body.

Swimming is considered to be a form of resistance training. It helps build strength, endurance, and stamina while increasing your swimming fitness. And the best part is that you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to gain the benefits of building muscle mass through swimming starting today.

Other well-known ways of building muscle mass, such as lifting dumbbells (also a form of strength training) require rigorous practice and training before you can benefit from them. To get to the level where you can use heavy gym equipment successfully, you need to build up your strength first. But when it comes to enjoying the benefits of strength training without requiring prior consistent training using various gym equipment, swimming is the way to go.

How Does Swimming Build Muscle Mass?

When you train your muscles, that isn’t when your muscle actually grows. Through the process of training, whether that be through swimming or in any other way, you develop small tears in your muscles. Once you’re done training, your body begins to repair these minor tears.

It’s through this repair and recovery that your muscle mass is inbuilt. So the more tears your body develops through exercising, the more muscle mass you’ll build.

Swimming, in particular, helps you build muscle mass through the minor tears you develop in your muscle as you move through the water. Since water is a denser medium than air, it’s a more effective way to enhance your resistance training regimen.

Swimmers, however, need to remember one thing. You would target different muscle groups at a gym to build and tone the muscle in that area. Swimming is no different. Different strokes and styles of swimming target different muscle groups. This means that you should mix and match different swimming techniques to gain the most out of your resistance training and build muscle mass uniformly in your body.

How Do Different Strokes and Swimming Styles Target Muscles to Build Muscle Mass?

If you want to build muscle mass in different areas of your body, you should know which stroke and style will build muscle mass in different parts of your body.


Freestyle swimming is the most popular swimming style and is great for beginners. When you’re swimming freestyle, you’re primarily targeting your upper body muscles. Other areas of your body that also develop include your abdomen, your back as well as your trunk.

When you swim using the freestyle technique, your shoulder muscles are stretched as you glide forward with each stroke. The specific muscle groups you can target using freestyle swimming include the pectoralis major, your deltoid, as well as the muscles around your neck and shoulder.

But your swimming technique should also be correct to gain the most out of your exercise. If you aren’t sure how to use the freestyle stroke correctly, consider asking a swimming instructor to show you how.

When done properly, you’ll be on your feet simultaneously to build momentum. This helps you develop your lower body muscles as well. The muscles around your feet and hips can build mass in this way.


Backstroke is the second stroke that most swimmers learn how to use early on. The movement used during backstroke is very similar to that used during freestyle swimming.

The main difference between the freestyle and backstroke techniques is that you don’t have to turn your neck to either side each time you need to catch a fresh breath of air. Indeed, your head stays mostly out of the water, so breathing in isn’t an issue when it comes to backstrokes.

Backstrokes target multiple muscle groups such as your hip flexors, your hamstring, as well as other muscle groups in your lower body. You can also develop the muscles around your torso with a well-executed backstroke technique.


Although less popular than the freestyle and backstroke techniques, breaststroke still has a lot to offer when it comes to building muscle mass.

Less intense than the other previously mentioned styles, breaststroke is great for swimmers with less agility.

You’ll be using your hands to secure forward movement, while the kicking motion of your legs add momentum to your swings. At the same time, you’ll also be lifting your head into the water, and out of it, to inhale air.

Through your arm and head movements, you’ll be targeting muscle groups like your chest muscles (ex: pectoralis major), deltoids, triceps, biceps, as well as your shoulder muscles.

The movement of your legs helps you tone muscles in the lower half of your body, such as your glutes, hamstrings, as well as quadriceps.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke is generally considered to be more difficult than the others, making it less popular among swimmers. However, it’s also the most vigorous style of all four styles mentioned here and makes for great strength and resistance training.

A butterfly stroke generally helps you target the muscles in your shoulders and arms. Alongside these, your back muscles, your abdomen, and even your glutes can experience a rigorous workout thanks to the butterfly stroke.

Tips That Will Help You Make the Most of Training Using Swimming

Swimming provides various health benefits. Besides helping build muscle mass, it also improves your lung capacity, and endurance, and improves your cardiovascular health.

While you can absolutely build muscle mass through swimming alone, you can use various swimming equipment to improve and speed up your results.

Professional swimmers often use this swimming equipment to develop their core and strengthen their muscles. Such equipment includes:

  • Kickboards: Commonly used by professional swimmers, kickboards help build mass in the lower body and legs.
  • Pull Buoy: Used to enhance upper body training through swimming.

Other equipments you can consider using are fins, floaters, and more.

The Role of Diet and Nutrition in Building Muscle Mass

To truly gain muscle mass, working out just isn’t enough. A good diet that’s full of nutritious food will give you the fuel you need to power your body and build muscle mass.

Focus on foods such as complex carbohydrates, fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meat, and other nutritious sources of proteins such as beans, eggs, and milk. At the same time, you also have to limit and avoid unhealthy foodstuffs like sugary foods, processed foods, and alcohol. Smoking is also not compatible with swimming, especially as it affects your lungs. Lung health is necessary for swimming.

A Sample Routine That Can Get You Started

Other than knowing how muscle mass is built through swimming, you’ll also need to consider how often you should go swimming. Ideally, you should hit the swimming pool every alternate day, or at least three times a week to actually build muscle mass.

For beginners, limit your sessions to thirty minutes initially. As you develop your endurance, you can spend more time in the water. Here is a sample routine of what you can do to build muscle mass through swimming:

Warm-Up: No exercise routine can begin without warming up, especially not swimming. To avoid cramps in the pool, do stretches for up to ten minutes before you step into the water. Once you’re in the pool, do a few light laps for another ten minutes.



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