Swimming is often overlooked. It's so much fun it doesn't feel like the kind of activity that could help you build a six pack. And in fact, if you don't do it right, it doesn't.
But if you've been doing more swimming than weight lifting this summer, and you're doing it correctly, then you shouldn't worry too much. Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do. And yes, it does help you build muscle. Here's what you need to know.
Swimming is awesome for flexibility.
In fact, flexibility is one of the most overlooked benefits of the sport.
"When you’re at the gym you’ll tend to use isolation machines that work specific areas of the body, where as swimming allows you to use a lot of the bodies muscles at the same time. The strokes that utilize a wide arc such as front crawl target a lot of the arm muscles that are missed in basic exercises, while the scissoring movement made with your legs forces your body to use more of your leg muscles in a plethora of fluid motions. Swimming is also really helpful as a way to elongate and stretch out your whole body as you keep reaching further out with your strokes." -Coach
Good news if all of those machines are boring the crap out of you.
To get the benefits of swimming, you need to work out longer and increase your intensity.
One of the biggest benefits of swimming is that you can work out a lot longer. As Coach notes, it puts less stress on your body than many other types of exercise. If you want to maximize your benefit, plan on doubling the amount of time you spend working out.
However, you can't expect to drift lazily from one end of the pool to the other if you want to get ripped. Intensity matters too. And when you're swimming, you do tend to feel like you're working harder than you're actually working. If you don't ramp up the intensity, your heart rate won't increase enough to give you a very good cardiovascular workout.
One way to ensure you are getting the proper amount of intensity is to adopt a swimmer's HIIT, or high-intensity interval training workout. Here's one that you can use.
Swimming helps you get toned by working all of your muscle groups at once.
You have to use almost every muscle in your body to pull yourself against the water resistance. Swimming works more muscles than just about any other cardiovascular exercise.
However, some muscles will get a better workout than others, since the water is carrying most of your weight. It's not the same, say, as doing 100 pound reps on any weight machine you care to name. Nor is it the same as lifting an 175 pound barbell. As Breaking Muscle notes:
"The muscles used to power swimming are much smaller and tend to be predominantly upper-body. In normal distance work you use the legs, which have a higher percentage of slow twitch endurance fibers in them."
That's not to say the muscles you work while swimming are unimportant. Your shoulders, legs, abs, and back muscles are all getting some fantastic exercise. You're just not hitting all of your muscle groups to the degree they need to be hit if you want to get ripped.
So while it's okay to ease off your weight-lifting routine a little bit, you'll still want to lift. Alternating days works well: Swim on Monday, lift on Tuesday, rinse, repeat. Make sure you're giving both efforts your all.
If you do, you'll find the combination of swimming and weight lifting provides you with a phenomenal one-two punch that will help you look and feel amazing.
The better your technique the less strain you'll put on your back and your neck. This will allow you to extend your workouts and focus on keeping the intensity high.
Improper technique will make swimming incredibly uncomfortable for all of the wrong reasons. Breaking Muscle notes technique as the number one skill you need to give yourself the power to stay in the water as long and as hard as you need to in order to reap all of the benefits.
"If your goal is to use swimming to gain fitness, I have bad news for you. Swimming is incredibly technical. Think of it as being like watery Brazilian jiu jitsu – sure, you can muscle your way through it for a while, but ultimately technique wins out. That's why when you start swimming, every session will feel like an all-out effort to avoid drowning, even though you won't actually be working that hard. What you’re feeling instead is local muscular fatigue from asking muscles to do something they’re not accustomed to."
Better technique will also simply make you faster, which will make your workout feel a lot more productive and a lot more fun.
Bath bombs will help you recover!
One of the biggest myths about swimming is that you don't really need to recover. Some people think it's because the resistance is so gentle. Some people think it's because you're in water the entire time, so your muscles are getting a nice, cooling bath as you work out.
But if you're doing swimming properly, you'll need to recover from that workout just as you'd need to recover from any other workout.
It's counter-intuitive, but the next thing you might want to do is go home and take a hot bath. While you're there, chuck a bath bomb inside.
ManSalt bath bombs delivers an explosive dose of Epsom salts and all-natural oils that will soak right into your tired muscles, giving them some relief. You recover faster, and then you can get right back to the pool or the weight room the very next day.
After all, if you can't bring yourself to do any workout consistently then you're not going to get the results you want. ManSalt is here to make sure you can do just that.