What are the Different Types of Swimming Exercises?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 January 2020
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Many swimming exercises work out all the main muscle groups since both the arms and the legs are usually used. Most swim strokes strengthen the arms, legs and torso while providing good cardiovascular exercise. Swimming should be done at a moderate to fast pace in order to gain the most benefits for heart health. In addition to actual swimming exercises, water aerobics and pool stretches can round out a swim exercise routine.

Standing in shallower water near the side of a swimming pool is ideal for leg strengthening exercises. The exerciser faces either the deep or shallow end with one hand on the pool's edge. The other arm and one leg can then be lifted up and down to create the exercise; the same movements should be repeated on the other side of the body. One exercise that works out mainly the legs involves kicking in deeper water while using both hands to grasp onto the pool's edge or an inflatable pool toy to help stay afloat.


Many deep water aerobics classes incorporate swimming exercises that use swim stroke hand movements while the legs are treading water. Treading water is a survival technique that basically involves making jogging motions with the legs in deep water to keep the body upright. Shallow water aerobics typically use varying feet and leg movements. Whether deep or shallow, the muscle "burn” of doing the exercises in the water, as opposed to traditional aerobics done on land, may not be noticed by the swimmer until he or she leaves the pool.

To avoid muscle pain, it's best to gradually increase the time spent doing swimming exercises, poolside stretches or water aerobics. If the end result is aching muscles, the exerciser is less likely to stick with a regular swimming exercise routine. If additional time or laps are added gradually, it can add challenge and further exercise benefits to a routine.

The crawl stroke is considered the most basic swimming exercise. The swimmer uses crawling motions with the arms while kicking with the legs to propel his or her body through the water. In the sidestroke, the swimmer is on one side with the body straight while the top arm reaches upward and then downward to meet the other hand that pushes the person forward. Sidestroke swimming exercises should be done in equal amounts on each side of the body.

The backstroke is one of the swimming exercises in which alternate arm movements may be used. The arms and legs are both moved to propel the swimmer who lies on his or her back. Each arm may be moved separately while the legs are kicking or both arms may be used together to create a more powerful propelling motion. Moving two arms at once is the more challenging type of swimming exercise.


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