Does Swimming Build Muscle? | A Complete Guide

Does Swimming Build Muscle?

Swimming is a great exercise for cardiovascular fitness and improving overall strength, but does it build muscle? The answer is yes, but the degree to which it builds muscle depends on various factors.

Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can improve muscle tone and help build muscle mass, especially in the upper body. Swimming works for several muscle groups at the same time, which is excellent for toning and building lean muscle mass.

In this article, we will discuss how swimming builds muscle, which muscles are worked during swimming, and how to optimize your swimming workouts for muscle building.

How Does Swimming Build Muscle?

Swimming is an excellent workout for building muscle because it works for several muscle groups simultaneously. The resistance provided by the water helps build muscle mass and improves muscle tone.

Unlike other forms of exercise like weightlifting or running, swimming provides constant resistance, which helps build endurance and strength. The resistance of the water forces your muscles to work harder, which leads to increased muscle growth and strength.

Moreover, swimming also promotes the production of growth hormone, which is crucial for muscle building. Growth hormone is released in response to high-intensity exercise, and swimming is one of the best exercises for producing it.

Which Muscles Are Worked During Swimming?

Swimming is a full-body workout that works for multiple muscle groups at once. The main muscles worked during swimming include:

1. Upper Body Muscles

Swimming engages the muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest, and back. The freestyle stroke, for example, requires a significant amount of upper body strength to pull your body through the water.

The backstroke also works the upper body muscles, particularly the lats, and deltoids. The butterfly stroke is another stroke that works the upper body muscles, particularly the chest, shoulders, and back.

2. Core Muscles

Swimming also engages the core muscles, which include the abdominal muscles, obliques, and lower back muscles. The core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the body during swimming and maintaining proper body position.

3. Leg Muscles

Swimming also works the leg muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. The leg muscles are responsible for kicking during the different swimming strokes.

Does Swimming Build Muscle?

How to Optimize Your Swimming Workouts for Muscle Building?

If you want to build muscle through swimming, here are some tips to help you optimize your workouts:

1. Increase Your Intensity

To build muscle, you need to challenge your muscles beyond their current capacity. Increasing the intensity of your swimming workouts can help you achieve this.

You can increase the intensity of your workouts by increasing your swimming speed, incorporating interval training, or adding resistance training tools like swimming paddles or resistance bands.

2. Incorporate Strength Training

Swimming is an excellent exercise for building muscle, but it is not enough on its own. Incorporating strength training exercises can help you build muscle faster and more efficiently.

Strength training exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and dumbbell curls can help build upper body strength, which is crucial for swimming. Squats and lunges can help build lower body strength, which is also essential for swimming.

3. Vary Your Swimming Strokes

Swimming involves different strokes, including freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Each stroke works for different muscle groups, so varying your swimming strokes can help you work out all your muscle groups evenly.

4. Focus on Technique

Proper swimming technique is crucial for building muscle and preventing injury. Improving your swimming technique can help you engage the right muscle groups and work them more effectively.

Focusing on technique can also help you swim more efficiently, which means you can swim longer and work your muscles more.

5. Take Rest Days

Rest is crucial for muscle building because it gives your muscles time to recover and repair. Swimming is a low-impact exercise, but it still puts stress on the muscles. Taking rest days between workouts can help prevent overuse injuries and promote muscle recovery.

6. Fuel Your Body Properly

Building muscle requires proper nutrition, including adequate protein intake. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and beans can help support muscle growth.

It’s also essential to stay hydrated before, during, and after swimming workouts to prevent muscle cramps and promote muscle recovery.

7. Be Consistent

Consistency is key when it comes to building muscle through swimming. Regular workouts can help you build and maintain muscle mass.

Try to swim at least two to three times per week for optimal muscle-building benefits. As you become more comfortable in the water, you can increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts.


Swimming is a great exercise for building muscle, especially in the upper body. It engages several muscle groups at once, providing constant resistance and promoting the production of growth hormones.

To optimize your swimming workouts for muscle building, you can increase the intensity of your workouts, incorporate strength training exercises, vary your swimming strokes, focus on technique, take rest days, fuel your body properly, and be consistent.

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to prevent injury and achieve optimal muscle-building benefits.

Overall, swimming is an excellent exercise for building muscle and improving overall fitness. Incorporating it into your exercise routine can help you achieve your muscle-building goals while providing a low-impact, full-body workout.

Does Freestyle Swimming Build Muscle?

We asked the experts at Ask Friso and they say: “No, freestyle won’t build your muscles. It’s a cardio workout that can help you lose weight.”

Expert in sports science Rob Herbert also says: “freestyle swimming is great for general fitness but not for building muscle.

The best way to gain muscle is by weight training exercises and push-ups”. We couldn’t agree more. As a swimmer, lifting weights isn’t really an option anyway since it will make your legs heavier, which can be problematic when it comes to kicking.

Freestyling on the other hand works your core muscles (abs) which makes it even less likely for you to gain any kind of bulk whatsoever. Perhaps this explains why female freestyle swimmers are often so slim, while their breaststroke counterparts are… well… less so.

The muscle you gain with swimming is mostly the result of the kicking motion. Even though this doesn’t apply to a whole lot of people (most swimmers just don’t kick that much).

cut in every stroke muscle from your feet up to your waist get into action and if you pay enough attention, it can feel like you’re doing a workout for every single one of them. It’s a great cardiovascular workout, which makes it perfect for weight loss and overall fitness.

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