Swimming is an effective overall workout. Not only does it provide a cardiovascular workout, but the effort to move through the water also works out your core, arm, shoulder and leg muscles. Swimming also requires only a bit of gear: a suit, goggles, kickboard and sunscreen. If you want more gear, consider adding swim paddles and a pull buoy to increase your arm workout and flippers to help your kick. To make the workout effective, determine your goals and build a swimming exercise plan that best suits your needs.
If you're new to the sport, focus on basic conditioning. While technique is important, getting used to the water is more critical at the start. Most workouts are focused on sets, or a number of yards or meters repeated for a specific number of times. For example, a 5 by 100 is 100 yards, or four laps in a standard pool, done five times.
Start your workout with a warm-up of six laps of freestyle and six laps of kick. Speed is unimportant. Instead, focus on your body position and breathing. Choose the kick routine, either freestyle or breaststroke, that you prefer.
Focus the core of your workout on a variety of strokes. While you may prefer to swim only freestyle or breaststroke, a variety avoids overuse of one muscle group and also allows you to try new things. A good basic workout includes basic sets such as 3 by 100 freestyle, 3 by 100 kick, 3 by 75 backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Rest for 30 seconds between each set.
A workout for the swimmer with more familiarity with the strokes and good conditioning allows you to break the strokes down into their components to continue to perfect your technique.
To try a more advanced workout, make sure you have a pull buoy and paddles. Warm up with six laps of freestyle and six laps of freestyle kick. You can focus on all strokes during this workout.
Begin by using your pull buoy to isolate your freestyle pull. Complete 400 yards of pull, focusing on your breathing and the effectiveness of your pull. If you have pull paddles, use them at this time.
Next, focus on your breaststroke. You need to switch strokes to avoid overusing your shoulders. Complete a set of 100 yards focusing on your glide, and then sprint every other lap for 200 yards. Next, kick for 100 yards. Then focus on backstroke by swimming 200 yards of backstroke. Next, use your backstroke kick for 100 yards. Last, kick using your butterfly dolphin kick for 50 yards, swim butterfly with a freestyle kick for 50 yards, kick butterfly again for 50 yards, and then finish with full butterfly for 100 yards.
The advanced workout focuses less on conditioning and more on technique. Typically, advanced workouts include a coach on the pool deck advising you on the placement of your limbs to ensure the most efficient stroke.
However, if you do not have access to a coach, a number of drills can help you assess your stroke improvement. For freestyle, try a stroke count and time workout. Called a SCAT workout, the goal is to maintain or improve the combination of the number of strokes you take in 50 yards added to the time it takes to get that far. Next, try a breathing count workout. Swim one lap, breathing every third stroke, then another lap breathing every fifth stroke. This drill helps you remember to breathe on both sides and also to control when you breathe.
For breaststroke, focus on your body glide. Complete one stroke and see how far you can glide before beginning the next. Continue and see how few strokes you can use to complete a lap.
For butterfly, body roll is key. Grab a kickboard and focus on your kick and body roll, without using your arms for one lap. For the return, use a freestyle kick so that you can focus on your arms and breathing. Alternate the laps to improve your stroke.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.