For many, swimming is purely recreational. What they do not realize is that swimming can be a great cardio workout that can help with weight loss. It also can be a full-body workout that can help tone your body. Swimming also improves your cardiorespiratory endurance. The best part is that you can tailor your workout plan according to your fitness goals and endurance. Since swimming is an activity many people enjoy, turning it into a workout shouldn’t seem like a challenge. That said, if you are new to swimming you might need to build core strength before you dive in, so to speak. Today we’ll explore a swimming workout plan for beginners and give a few tips to maximize swimming for weight loss.
Beginner Swimming Workout Plan
Whether or not you enjoy swimming, it might be a great way for you to help shed those extra pounds alongside other forms of exercise. Swimming is a cardio activity that increases your heart and respiratory rates. Note that research shows that swimming or exercising for 30 minutes every day reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes (5).
How many calories can you burn swimming? A 125-pound individual burns about 300 calories swimming vigorously for about half an hour (4). Compared to running at 5 miles per hour or walking, swimming is a better calorie burner.
Besides weight loss, there are other benefits of swimming, including:
- Works your whole body, activating most major muscle groups in the body.
- Is great for people with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, injuries, and disability.
- Boosts your mood and is a great stress reliever.
- Helps you sleep better.
Most pools are about 25 yards (one length). Make sure you can swim for about 100 yards without stopping to be able to comfortably navigate these workout plans. If you are completely new to swimming, you should take lessons with a coach. You can also do planks and hollow holds to build upper body strength as well as lifts and squats to help you build leg strength.
You will need a comfortable swimsuit, watch, fins, and a kickboard. Start gradually and slowly increase the intensities of your workout. And as your body gets used to vigorous swimming, you can mix things up by doing sprints for longer distances and HIIT.
Below are sample workout plans you can try out:
Beginner Swim Workout Plan 1
Goal: Build endurance
Distance: 600 yards
- 2 x 50 yards crawl warm-up. You can rest in between the laps if you wish to.
- 4 x 25 yards crawl counting strokes per length.
- 4 x 50 crawl with 30 seconds of rest between each lap.
- 4 x 25 yards crawl counting strokes per length. If possible, keep an even number of strokes.
- 2 x 50 crawl cool-down. Swim slowly and allow your body to relax.
Beginner Swim Workout Plan 2
Goal: Build endurance, get used to pushing yourself through the water
Distance: 1,000 yards
- 8 x 25 yards flutter kick with a board with 15 seconds rest period in between.
- 4 x 50 yards alternate laps of freestyle (odds) and backstroke (evens) with 20 seconds rest.
- 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 of rest in between laps.
- 8 x 25 yards alternating sprint freestyle (odds) and easy backstroke (evens) with 10 seconds rest in between laps.
Beginner Swim Workout Plan 3
Goal: Improve endurance, breathing control, and turning control
Distance: 1,200 yards
- 300 yards crawl warm-up. Don’t rest during the swim.
- 4 x 50 yards crawl alternating breathing each length with a 15 second rest period in between laps. Breathe every 4th stroke on the first 25 yards, and breathe every 2nd stroke on the second 25 yards. You will need to count your strokes as you swim to know on which stroke you breathe.
- 200 yards crawl, no breath approaching the wall. You can breathe in any pattern during the swim but don’t breathe during the 4 strokes of approaching the end of the pool.
- 10 x flip turns. Practice taking 2 strokes and doing a flip turn then another 2 strokes.
- 4 x 50 yards choice of strokes with a 15 seconds rest between laps. You can choose one type of stroke and stick with it or mix it up.
- 300 crawl cool-down. Swim slowly and let your body relax.
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Swimming Workout Plan For Intermediate
After you build endurance and have mastered proper breathing techniques you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Remember the more intense your swimming workout is, the more calories you burn.
As the intensity increases so does the distance. That said, make sure you are ready to move on to a more intense workout regime before you press forward. Do not be in a hurry to up your intensity only do so if you feel your body can handle the stress. Over time, you can try out a running and swimming workout plan or an advanced sprinting swimming workout plan.
Below are intermediate swimming workout plans for weight loss:
Intermediate Swim Workout Plan 1
Goal: Master breath control, gain consistency
Distance: 1600 yards
- 200 yards crawl warm-up with a 30 seconds rest period in between.
- 8 x 25 yards wind sprints resting: 30 between lengths. Swim each length without taking a breath.
- 2 x 200 yards crawl counting strokes per length. Try to keep all lengths at an equal number of strokes.
- 8 x 25 yards wind sprints resting: 30 between lengths. Complete each length without taking a breath.
- 2 x 200 yards crawl counting kick timing. Count 3 kicks for every arm stroke.
- 200 freestyle cool-down. Swim slowly and relax your body.
Intermediate Swim Workout Plan 2
Distance: 1800 yards
- 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 in between.
- 6 x 50 yards alternating sprint kick (odds) and easy kick (odds) with a 15 seconds rest period in between laps.
- 60 seconds rest.
- 6 x 50 yards freestyle with a 20 seconds rest period in between laps.
- 3 x 100 yards freestyle with 30 seconds rest in between laps.
- 6 x 50 yards alternating sprint freestyle (odds) and easy backstroke (evens) with 15 seconds rest in between laps.
Intermediate Swim Workout Plan 3
Goal: Develop all the 4 strokes
Distance: 2000 yards
- 400 yards warm-up alternating lengths of crawl and other strokes. Make every other length crawl and the other lengths a mix of the other 3 strokes.
- 4 x 100 yards Individual medley (IM) alternating sprints with a 30 second rest duration in between. On the first IM sprint fly and breaststroke, on the second IM sprint freestyle and backstroke.
- 2 x 100 butterfly. Rest for 30 seconds in between. Make the 2nd 100-yard faster than the first.
- 2 x 100 backstroke with a 30 second rest period in between. Make the 2nd 100-yard faster than the first.
- 2 x 100 breaststroke with 30 seconds rest in between. Make the 2nd 100-yard faster than the first.
- 4 x 100 yards IM with 30 seconds rest in between. Keep the timing consistent on each 100.
- 200 yards cool-down. Use all 4 strokes. Swim slowly.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Swimming Workout Routine
To get the most out of your routine, there are additional things you might need to do. As much as you may be consistently following your workout plan, it wouldn’t add up if you are also eating fries and pizza for dinner every night. Here are a few ways to maximize your swimming workout plan for weight loss.
Warming up remains fundamental when it comes to any form of exercise, swimming included. A warm-up prepares your body for intense activity by elevating your heart rate, body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. It also reduces your risk of injury and muscle soreness (3).
You can warm up by doing forward bends, lunges, stretches, arm swings, leg swings, and quad rocking. You can also jog, do squats, jumps, or press-ups. 5 to 10 minutes should be enough. Also, do another 5 to 10 minutes of cool down and stretching exercises.
Watch Your Technique
Your technique in swimming determines how your body moves through the water. Proper form means you swim faster, stay streamlined and move more efficiently through the water. Consider trying swim drills if you haven’t properly mastered your form.
Here are 4 things you need to remember:
- Avoid lifting your head or looking up.
- Engage your major muscle groups (including your back, shoulders, quads, abs, and glutes) and pull your ribs in towards the center as you swim.
- Ensure your head, neck and navel are aligned in a horizontal plane with your knees, hips, and feet.
- Fully extend your hands, straighten your wrists and close your fingers.
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Focus On Your Breathing
With running or cycling, breathing is easy but for swimming, this isn’t the case. Most beginners try to hold their breath underwater instead of exhaling. Others breathe while their faces are underwater.
First, you need to be able to keep your face in the water as you swim as it reduces resistance. After you master this, you need to work out when and how to inhale and exhale. You should exhale with your face in the water. Do not exhale then inhale very quickly as it causes a buildup of carbon IV oxide in your lungs.
When you turn to breathe, your lungs should be empty and ready for fresh air. You should forcefully breathe out after a complete breath. Remember, there are no pauses. Swim classes and practice will help you master your breathing.
If you are incorporating swimming into your workout plan to lose weight, you also need to eat right. The general principle of weight loss is that you have to burn more calories than you consume to create a calorie deficit (6).
This means you have to cut back on fast foods like fries, refined carbs like white bread, salty snacks, added sugars, and carbonated drinks. Instead of those eat lots of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and complex carbs like whole-grain wheat, brown rice. Also, drink lots of water. Besides keeping your weight in check, a proper diet also helps with recovery (7).
Incorporate Lifting In Your Swimming Workout
Lifting is a great way to increase the intensity of your workouts and burn more calories. It also helps you break the monotony of your swimming workout. Strength training helps build strength and improve endurance (8). What’s more, it reduces the risk of swimming-related injuries as you are increasing your muscle mass and strength.
Most swimming and lifting workout plans involve weight lifting two to three times a week combined with your swimming workout routine. Because of the intensity of such a workout plan, you have to make sure to get enough rest to allow your muscles to recover fully (2). Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep and don’t push yourself too hard.
Get A Swimming Buddy
When working out, you might easily feel demotivated. A great way to deal with this is to get a workout buddy. They help you stay motivated, consistent and keep you accountable (1).
Don’t Forget To Have Fun
It is easy to get caught up and forget to enjoy yourself. Swimming can be fun, so let go and do exactly that – enjoy yourself. In this way you don’t fall into the pattern of stressing over weight loss and being too hard on yourself. All you have to do to see progress is to stay consistent and appreciate the small wins you have along the way.
The Bottom Line
Swimming is a great cardio activity that has a great burning power and offers several health benefits. While most think of it as recreational and not as a workout, it offers the best of both worlds. So, if you have been looking to find a fun, adventurous workout, select which of the swimming workout plans above works for you. And while at it remember to eat healthy meals, drink plenty of water and get enough rest.
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!
- 3 Reasons to Work Out With a Friend (2021, cdc.gov)
- 8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day (2018, acefitness.org)
- Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes of leisure and routine activities (n.d., health.harvard.edu)
- Exercise and Cardiovascular Health (2003, ahajournals.org)
- Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations – Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2018, jissn.biomedcentral.com)
- Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength… : Current Sports Medicine Reports (2012, journals.lww.com)