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Swim Workouts For Beginners And Intermediate Level Swimmers

Everyone loves swimming. It is a low-impact exercise that is suitable for people of all ages and sizes. Swimming is also great for individuals with arthritis or multiple sclerosis. It is a simple way to workout, improve your cardiorespiratory endurance, destress, unwind and have fun.

For many, swimming is a recreational activity. It can, however, be done at a competitive level. In such a case, you will need to adopt a workout and maybe even train with a coach. 

So, how do you select swimming exercises that will help you achieve your intended goal? How long should you workout each day? We have listed several swim workouts for beginners and intermediate level swimmers and give a few tips to help you get the most out of your workout routine.

What Is A Good Swim Workout?

Swimming is a non-contact, light cardio exercise that can be done by almost anyone from teen to elderly. It has a wide variety of benefits to your heart, lungs and increases your heartbeat and breathing rate. Since it doesn’t come naturally to most, you will likely need lessons at first to learn the basics – floating, breathing, kicking, stroking and co-ordination of your body movements.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), swimming for about 2 and a half hours every week reduces the risk of chronic illness (4). Other benefits of swimming include:

  • Works muscles in your whole body – Swimming works both the major and minor muscle groups. This helps tone your muscles and improve strength.
  • Weight loss – swimming burns calories thus aids in weight loss. A 160 pound individual burns about 423 calories while swimming at a moderate pace (3).
  • Appropriate for individuals with MS, arthritis, and other conditions – Swimming is a safe exercise option for people with injuries, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, disability or asthma.
  • Is all inclusive – Swimming is a great activity for anyone. Kids, teens, middle-aged adults and older adults can all engage in this exercise. Swimming is also safe for pregnant women and is a great way to remain active at this time.
  • Boosts mood – Swimming is a fun recreational activity. It brings people together and helps them destress. When you exercise, a hormone known as endorphins, often referred to as natural painkillers is released which improve mood (2).

First, it is imperative to understand that there are many different swim workouts to choose from. The type of workout you go for depends on your goal and your fitness level.

After you have determined your goal and desired fitness level, you can go ahead and choose your workout plan:

Length Of The Workout

If your goal is to get used to the water or improve your technique, begin with a time goal like 20 minutes. You can track your distance over the time you swim to keep a record but your primary focus as you begin shouldn’t be distance. If your goal is to be able to swim for longer distances, start with a manageable distance then increase your mileage as you advance.

Intensity

Novice and advanced-level swimmers have different levels of endurance and swim at different speeds. New swimmers usually swim at the same pace throughout a workout. As they advance they are able to vary speeds and train at both easy and higher intensities.

Time Available For Training

How much time you have to spare to train also determines which kind of swimming workout to go for. You might be juggling swimming with work or school. And if you are training for a competitive swim, it is crucial that you find a balance. So, pick a swim workout routine that enables you to comfortably do your other activities without straining yourself.

Read More: Planning To Visit An Exercise Swimming Pool? Here Are 8 Moves You Should Try

Best Swim Workouts For Beginners

If you are a novice swimmer, you should focus on getting used to the water and perfecting your swim technique. You also need to learn how to breathe properly in water before you can move on to advanced stuff like sprinting and swimming for longer distances.

It is important to start gradually. If you cannot get through a full-workout, get some rest and keep trying. Consistency and effort are key but being patient with yourself is equally important as you need to stay motivated. Most importantly, listen to your body and do distances that your body can handle. 

Below are swim workouts for beginners weight loss, each designed to help you achieve a specific goal:

Workout 1: Basic Workout

Distance: 1400 yards

Warm-up

  • 100 yards freestyle

Main Set

  • 8 x 25 yards flutter kick with board with a 15 seconds rest period
  • 4 x 50 yards alternate laps of freestyle (odds) and backstroke (evens) with 20 seconds rest interval
  • 8 x 25 yards alternate sprint kicks (odds) and easy kicks (evens) with 10 seconds rest in between laps
  • 60 seconds rest
  • 8 x 25 yards freestyle with 15 seconds rest interval in between laps
  • 4 x 50 yards freestyle with 20 seconds rest interval in between laps
  • 8 x 25 yards alternating sprint freestyle (odds) and easy backstroke (evens) with 10 seconds rest interval in between laps

Warm Down

  • 100 yards easy swim

Workout 2: 30-minute Distance Workout

Distance: 1,400 yards

Warm-up

  • 4 x 25 yards at an easy pace

Main Set

  • 4 x 25 yards freestyle with 15 seconds rest in between laps
  • 8 x 50 yards fast kick with 20 seconds rest in between laps
  • 4 x 25 yards freestyle with 15 seconds rest interval in between laps
  • 1 min rest
  • 4 x 25 yards freestyle with 15 seconds rest in between laps
  • 6 x 100 yards alternating easy freestyle (odds) and hard freestyle (evens) with 30 seconds rest
  • 4 x 25 yards freestyle with 15 seconds rest

Warm Down

  • 100 yards recovery swim

Workout 3: Beginner HIIT

Distance: 1,500 yards

Warm-up

  • 4 x 25 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice with a 20 seconds rest period between each interval

Main Set

  • 5 x 100-yard freestyles at your average pace with a 30 seconds rest between each interval
  • 200-yard freestyle at a moderate pace with a pull buoy and/or paddles
  • 8 x 25 yards with a kickboard with a 15 seconds of rest period between intervals
  • 200 yards at a fast pace with your stroke of choice

Warm Down

  • 200 yards easy swim with stroke of your choice

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Workout 4: Breathing

Distance: 2100 yards

Warm-up

  • 400 yards easy swim, mix up drills

Main Set

Take 1–2 minutes between each set

  • 300 easy kicking w/ fins (on your back or front, with or without a kickboard)
  • 4 × 100 easy (breathe every 2, 3, 4, 5), rest 15–20 seconds between each 100
  • 8 × 25 yards swim (max distance per stroke), rest 10 seconds between each 25
  • 4 × 100 yards easy (breathe every 2, 3, 4, 5), rest 15–20 seconds between each 100
  • 8 × 25 yards (Max distance per speed), rest 10 seconds between each 25

Warm Down

  • 200 yards easy swim

Workout 5: Technique-Focused Workout

Distance: 1,400 yards

Warm-up

  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear

Main Set

  • 4 x 25-yard freestyles, building from a slow pace to a sprint with a 25 seconds of rest in between each interval
  • 4 x 25-yard freestyles using fins and/or a snorkel with a 20 seconds of rest between each interval
  • 200-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear
  • 4 x 25-yard freestyles with 6 kicks per stroke using fins and/or a snorkel with a 20 seconds of rest period between each interval.
  • 100-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear
  • 4 x 25-yard freestyles with 6 kicks for every 3 strokes using fins and/or a snorkel with a 20 seconds rest duration in between
  • 200-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear.
  • 8 x 25-yard freestyles with 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.

Warm Down

  • 100-yard freestyle at a fast pace
  • 100 yards of your stroke of choice at an easy pace

Swim Workouts For Intermediate Swimmers

Once you feel comfortable in water and have mastered proper technique you can increase your swimming distance and attempt sprints. The pool workouts below are designed to help you build speed, endurance and stamina.

Workout 1: 60-minute Endurance Swim

Distance: 1,550 yards

Warm-up

  • 200 yards freestyle
  • 150 yards pull with a pull buoy
  • 100 yards kick with a board

Main Set

  • 2 x 500 yards freestyle with a 30 seconds rest interval
    • 25 yards easy, 25 yards build
    • 50 yards easy, 50 yards build
    • 75 yards easy, 75 yards build
    • 100 yards easy, 100 yards build
  • 60 seconds rest
  • 2 x 200 yards kicking with board with a 30 seconds rest interval
    • 25 yards easy; 25 yards fast
    • 50 yards easy; 50 yards fast
    • 25 yards easy; 25 yards fast

Warm Down

  • 200 yards easy swim, freestyle

Read More: Swim Workout For Triathlon: The Ultimate Training Guide

Workout 2: Sprints To Build Muscle

Distance: 1,600 yards

Warm-up

  • 3 x 100 yards freestyle
  • 4 x 50 yards pull with buoy
  • 8 x 25 yards kick with board

Main Set

  • 10 x 50 yards alternating flutter kick with board (odds) and breaststroke kick with board (evens) with a 20 seconds rest duration in between laps
  • 1 min rest
  • 2 x 25 yards fast freestyle with 5 seconds rest
  • 2 x 50 yards fast freestyle with 10 seconds rest
  • 2 x 25 yards fast freestyle with a 5 seconds rest interval

Warm Down

  • 200 yards easy swim, freestyle

Workout 3: Sprint Workout

Distance: 2,200 yards

Warm-up

  • 200 yards easy swim with stroke of your choice

Main Set

  • 6 x 50 yards flutter kick on board with 20 seconds rest in between laps
  • 3 x 100 yards alternating freestyle (odds) and backstroke (evens) with 30 seconds rest period in between
  • 6 x 50 yards alternating sprint kick (odds) and easy kick (odds) with a 15 seconds rest interval in between laps
  • 1 min rest
  • 6 x 50 yards freestyle with 20 seconds rest in between laps
  • 3 x 100 yards freestyle with a 30 seconds rest interval between laps
  • 6 x 50 yards alternating sprint freestyle (odds) and easy backstroke (evens) with 15 seconds rest interval in between laps

Warm Down

  • 200 yards recovery swim

Workout 4: Technique-Focused Workout

Distance: 2200 yards

Warm-up

  • 400 easy swim freestyle and another stroke (breaststroke or backstroke)

Main Set

  • 300 freestyle – pull / kick / swim
  • 10 x 50 first length butterfly / second freestyle with a  20 seconds rest interval in between each set
  • 4 x 100 freestyle – going every 2:00 minutes on the clock
  • 4 x 25 butterfly – going every 40 seconds on the clock
  • 4 x 25 backstroke – going every 40 seconds on the clock
  • 4 x 25 breaststroke – going every 50 seconds on the clock
  • 4 x 25 freestyle – going every 30 seconds on the clock

Warm Down

  • 200 easy swim

Workout 5: Intermediate-Level Cardio

Distance: 1200 yards

Warm-up

  • 50 yards easy swim, freestyle
  • 4 x 25 yards alternating easy swim

Main Set

  • 150 yards freestyle at medium pace
  • 45 seconds rest
  • 4 x 25 yards freestyle at hard pace with 25 seconds rest in between laps
  • 100 yards alternate freestyle and backstroke at medium pace
  • 45 seconds rest
  • 4 x 25 yards kicking hard with 30 seconds rest in between laps
  • 100 yards freestyle easy with pull buoy
  • 45 seconds rest
  • 4 x 25 yards freestyle hard with pull buoy with a 35 seconds rest interval in between laps
  • 100 yards easy swim, alternate freestyle and breaststroke
  • 45 seconds rest
  • 2 x 25 yards freestyle hard with 40 seconds rest in between laps
  • 2 x 25 yards breaststroke hard with 50 seconds rest in between laps
  • 100 yards any stroke easy
  • 60 seconds rest
  • 75 yards walking lunges in pool, with weights starting at your side and lifting up to shoulder height for a forward raise and lateral raise (alternating) at the top of each lunge
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds high knees in place
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 75 yards walk backward and use aqua weights for shoulder press (straight overhead, palms face each other)
  • 45 seconds squat with biceps curl
  • 30 second rest
  • 45 seconds squat with tricep extension
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat from the lunges for 3 rounds

Warm Down

  • 4 x 25 yards easy swim

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Swim Tips

While a workout is essential to your swim training, there are a few things that can help your performance remain exemplary. Below are a few things you should keep in mind:

Start Slow

This is especially important if you are a novice swimmer attempting fun swim workouts for beginners for the first time. Start slowly as you gradually build the intensity. Dont go from doing no swims to doing three hours of intense swim workouts daily. This will wear you out. 

Instead, begin at a comfortable pace and distances then slowly advance to longer distances and higher intensities.

Technique Matters

Proper technique helps prevent injury and helps you move smoothly and swiftly through the water. Here a few pointers:

  • Don’t look up as this causes your hips and the rest of the body to drop therefore increasing drag.
  • Breathe rhythmically. Exhale while under water and inhale when your head is above the water. Avoid holding your breath.
  • Keep your core muscles, abs and lower back muscles tight as you move through the water. Stretch your leading arm as far forward as possible.
  • Keep your body streamlined near the axis of your body to move swiftly.

Hydrate And Fuel Right

Your diet is crucial to your progress. Fuel Your body with healthy foods like complex carbs, protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. Protein helps build muscle and reduce exercise-induced muscle mass loss while complex carbs help replenish your glycogen stores while (1) (6). Fruits and vegetables provide you with micronutrients while fats also provide energy and aid in the absorption of vitamins (5).

Remember to drink plenty of water to allow proper muscle recovery and elimination of waste products (7).

Invest In The Right Swim Gear

The proper swimming gear will help you stay comfortable and help you swim more efficiently. For example, a good pair of swim goggles helps protect your eyes from irritation and that allows you to see properly as you swim. That said, invest in a good pair of swim goggles, swim suit, and swim caps.

Have Fun

You might get easily carried away by training that you forget swimming is a fun activity. Try to have fun and experiment with drills and mix swimming styles. You can even bring a friend with you on some workout sessions to help you stay motivated.

The Bottom Line

Finding a swim workout that fits your goals can be challenging at first. But once you put down your goals and assess your current fitness level, you move one step closer to finding a suitable workout routine. Healthy eating, proper hydration, adequate rest and good form are also fundamental. Always keep in mind that by remaining consistent, putting in some effort and being patient with yourself, you set yourself up for success.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit (2019, mdpi.com)
  2. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety (2013, frontiersin.org)
  3. Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2021, mayoclinic.org)
  4. Health Benefits of Water-based Exercise (2016, cdc.gov)
  5. Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats (2019, nia.nih.gov)
  6. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing (2008, jissn.biomedcentral.com)
  7. Practical Hydration Solutions for Sports (2019, mdpi.com)
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