The triceps muscles, located on the dorsal side of the upper arms, are used in tandem with the biceps to straighten and bend the arm at the elbow. When you bend your elbow, your biceps contract and your triceps lengthen. When you straighten your arm, your triceps contract and your biceps lengthen. As a result, any swimming stroke that involves the bending and straightening of the arms will work your triceps.
The front crawl, or freestyle, is among the most efficient swimming strokes for speed. Swimmers use their feet in a flutter kick. The arms move in a cyclical motion, alternately coming out of the water, reaching forward, and pulling back through the water, propelling the swimmer forward. As the arms continuously cycle between a bent and elongated position, the swimmer uses the biceps and triceps in a balanced way. As a result, the muscle pair develops evenly, helpful for overall coordination, as well as a more balanced physique. For the back crawl, the swimmer uses a similar stroke and the same kick, but faces upward.
For a balanced workout, you may wish to combine intensive strokes, such as the crawl, with lower intensity alternatives. The backstroke also uses the triceps and biceps, but it has an extended glide phase, during which the swimmer rests. The kick is slightly different than that used in the crawls, known as the whip kick. The arms extend slightly higher than the shoulders and press toward the hips, extended, in coordination with the kick. The sidestroke also has a resting stroke phase. The swimmer is positioned facing sideways, making it a useful stroke for lifeguards. The front arm pulls through the water as the back arm pushes. To work your left and right arms equally, alternate sides for an even number of laps.
To do the breaststroke, a swimmer begins with the arms bent, in front of the body, with the palms facing one another and the fingertips pointing forward, slightly above the head. As the arms straighten out in front of the swimmer, the hands come apart and the palms face outward. From here, the swimmer pulls them backward in a wide arc, propelling the body forward. Each time the arms straighten, the triceps contract.
It's possible to practice the same movements of the biceps and triceps in a gym, with drills that finely focus your training on the particular muscles. But if you're looking to train your entire body along with your biceps and triceps, swimming offers a balanced means of full-body muscular training alongside cardiovascular exercise. Moving your body through the water requires the muscles to work harder than on land, as the water resistance is roughly 12 times greater than that of air, according to Rice University Recreation & Wellness Center.