List Of Swimming Exercises

List Of Swimming Exercises

Swimming is a great method to stay in shape and build strength. While it can be a strenuous activity, it is an excellent and fun form of exercise. Below are a list of exercises that will help build the muscles that will help you become a better swimmer.

Swimming Strokes to Practice


The backstroke is a good stroke for cardiovascular endurance as it allows swimmers to cover long distances. It is also the best stroke for improving posture. The backstroke helps keep the body straight and strengthens the spine to help improve posture. Improving posture is important for overall health and helps prevent risk of back injury. The backstroke is also great for improving hip flexibility, great for those who spend a lot of time sitting down such as office workers. The backstroke works a variety of muscle groups. It works to tone the stomach, legs, arms, shoulders and buttocks. The backstroke can be a relaxing way to swim, simply floating on the back and rotating the arms over the head like a windmill to pull the body through the water. It is a blissful way to enjoy a workout.


The breaststroke is the one of the best strokes for a cardiovascular workout. It is a full body stroke and engages the core while also improving endurance and speed. The breaststroke is an excellent stroke for beginners. The swimmer is on their stomach, pulling their arms upward and back in a Y-shaped motion. The arms and hands should push out in front of the chest and recover under the surface of the water. While the breaststroke strengthens the upper body, toning the shoulders and chest muscles, it also works the legs by executing a frog kick as well. The breaststroke is the slowest among swimming strokes and burns the least amount of calories, it allows swimmers to cover long distances which is excellent for the heart and lungs.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke is regarded as one of the harder strokes and while it is not necessarily for beginners, it is one of the best calorie-burning strokes. By recruiting muscle groups from the upper body, such as the chest, arms, stomach and back, the butterfly stroke is the best stroke for all around muscular toning and strength building. The butterfly stroke is performed on the stomach. With powerful movements coming from the arms and the legs, it propels the swimmer forward with great speed. Using coordinated movements from the upper and lower body, it builds strength and flexibility in the associated muscle groups. The butterfly stroke is performed by rotating the arms using the shoulders in a windmill motion while the legs are joined together and kick with the motion of a fin.


Freestyle is the most common and fastest stroke swimmers use. Because of its speed, it is the second highest calorie-burning stroke behind the butterfly stroke. Swimmers typically have strong backs from freestyling. Freestyling tones the ab muscles, buttocks, shoulders and back. While the freestyle gives a full body workout and full range of motion, it is important to follow the proper technique when working out using the freestyle stroke. The most important aspect of the freestyle stroke is the head movement. The head will dictate where the rest of the body will go, acting as the steering mechanism during the stroke similar to a boat's rudder. The head should be still and looking downward into the water, similar to looking straight forward when walking.

The freestyle arm movement occurs one arm at a time. When freestyling, use the arms to reach out and then turn the head in the opposite direction of whichever arm is stretched out forward. As the front arm is pulled back in, the other arm will replace it out in front of the body while the head turns the opposite direction. The arms are pulling the body through the water while the legs act as propellers by kicking through the water to gain momentum.

Drills to Practice

Kick Drills

Kick drills use a kickboard to assist in floatation and isolate the legs of the swimmer. Start by holding the kickboard out at arms length and kick yourself across the pool. This will tighten the core muscles as well as strengthen the legs. There are multiple types of kick drills, learn about them here.

Butterfly Kick

The butterfly kick drill is similar to the butterfly stroke. When performing a butterfly kick, think of how a mermaid would swim. Keep the legs closed from the feet all the way up. The legs will act like a fin, as the hips are used to push through the water.

Flutter Kicks

These are performed simply by extending the legs and then kicking them up and down. Flutter kicks are a great way to develop the quadricep muscles as well as increase hip mobility.

Frog Kick

Frog kicks are performed resembling the motion of a frog swimming. Bend the knees and bring them up to the chest, then in a quick motion, straighten them and bring them back in again; frog kicks are great for toning the inner thighs and glutes.

Calisthenic Exercises

Calisthenics are a great way to exercise in the pool. The natural resistance the water offers takes pressure of joints and ligaments while still providing a strenuous workout to the focused muscle groups. Water calisthenics are a great way to rehab after an injury.

High Knees

This exercise can be done in the shallow end of a pool while either gripping the side of the pool for balance or by standing freely. While pumping the arms to simulate a running motion, bring the knees up out of the water synchronously with the arm movement. This exercise is good for hip flexibility and lower body strength. This is an effective cardiovascular exercise for those who have a lower body injury and cannot put enough pressure on their lower body to run. Increase speed of the movement for a more intense workout.

Water Running

Running can be done in the pool as well. Fighting the resistance that the water provides is a good way to develop speed and run faster. While there will not be much speed generated, running in the water will strengthen lower body muscle groups. It is also super easy on the joints and ligaments.


Jumping in the water is an effective exercise for developing explosiveness and power. It develops the hamstrings, quads, calves and surrounding lower body muscle groups such as those located in the hips. Fighting the water to jump into the air can help increase overall vertical leap ability.

Water Crunches

A great way to strengthen core muscles, putting the legs up on the deck of the pool and performing a crunch is a difficult task but provides great results.


Carioca is an effective way to improve agility and hip mobility. In the water, it strengthens the quads, calves and hip abductors. Doing carioca in the water can improve performance in sports by strengthening the muscles that help develop agility and quickness.