Let’s take a closer look at swimming and muscle toning.
So how exactly do we tone up our bodies and get that sort after muscle definition we see on our swimming heroes? First we need to understand how our muscles and our bodies work. In order to “tone” a muscle you first need to work against resistance. Resistance makes our muscles work harder and at the same time reduces the fat tissue covering them. This makes our muscles larger, lowers the percentage of body fat and the end result is a leaner and more “toned” appearance. This is great to know but what role does swimming play in achieving better muscle tone and definition.
When you are swimming, the water provides the resistance your muscles have to fight against as they kick and stroke to propel your body across the pool. In fact, water is more resistant that air and land, so your muscles have to work harder to move you through water than they do to move you through air or across land. Doing each stroke properly not only lengthens and stretches the muscles used, but the repeated movement to stay moving through the water helps you develop muscle endurance as well. Even better swimming is completely impact free.
Work those arms!
When you swim, you are engaging your shoulders, biceps, triceps, upper back and chest. The pushing-and-pulling motion engages the arms and chest while the rotation of the arms either forward, as in the breaststroke, or backward, as in the backstroke, engages the shoulders and upper back.
Balance with your core!
Your core muscles, including your abdominals, hips and lower back, are also switched on when you swim. Your abs and lower back help keep your balance and aid in a more fluid movement through the water. They do this by controlling your movements as your body twists side-to-side with each stroke. Over time swimming consistently greatly improve your core strength, making you far more stable in the water which will also translate to better stability in everyday tasks. Butterfly also focuses on the abdominal muscles and is the most difficult of the 4 strokes. This tough stroke can melt away up to 100 calories every 10 minutes!
Kick those legs!
Through your kick your legs and lower body propels you through the water. Over time the continued kicking against the waters resistance will begin to build muscle in your legs. The kicking action works on your glutes, hamstrings and quads. Of course the kicking action of the different strokes works the leg muscles quite differently. Freestyle stroke works more on your glutes, breaststroke places the emphasis on your inner thighs and hamstrings, whereas backstroke focuses on toning your glutes, quadriceps and hip flexors. Using a kickboard will allow you to specifically focus on working the muscles of your lower body.
Focus on the chest and back!
All types of swimming strokes work the chest, but the breaststroke specifically targets this area, especially the pectoral chest muscles. Breaststroke also works the trapezius muscles of the back, which extend from the neck to the mid-back region. Freestyle too, works the shoulder area, including the latissimus dorsi, which runs from the underarm down the side of the back. This is what gives elite swimmers the pronounced “V” shape.
It’s important to note that swimming does not result in massive muscle gains but serves instead as an extremely efficient way to tone and define muscles from nearly every part of the body. Swimming owes its muscle-toning effect to resistance, which is heightened by about 14 percent compared to exercising on land. Unlike other forms of aerobic exercise, such as biking or jogging, swimming has the added benefit of being a low-impact sport. Your body's buoyancy in the water will protect your joints from hard impact, allowing you to increase muscle endurance without damaging any connective tissue. In a nutshell swimming really is an excellent way gain muscle definition and reduce body fat and heart will love you for it.
*As with any sport please consult your family Doctor before beginning any strenuous new exercise program.