How to Build Muscle Swimming

With the added resistance of the water, swimming laps of any type is going to help you build muscle faster than the cardio workouts you may currently be doing on dry land. A routine of 30 to 60 minutes of swimming three to five days a week can help you get toned, but to build muscle even faster, use some other targeted tricks.

A man is lap swimming. (Image: EpicStockMedia/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Tread water in the deep end for five minutes to warm up. This is an easy way to warm up without having to worry about keeping your face in the water -- which can cause you to work harder and breathe heavier than you need to for a warm-up. Not only that, treading water will work your muscles in a different way than you'll work them during the bulk of your workout.

Step 2

Swim with a kickboard for five to 10 minutes of each workout. Taking your arms out of the equation helps isolate your leg muscles, which can lead to faster gains.

Step 3

Swim with a pull buoy for five to 10 minutes of each workout. Like the kickboard, the pull buoy helps isolate your arm muscles and intensify the workout.

Step 4

Vary your routine every week to two weeks. You may love the breast stroke, but doing the same routine week in and week out means your muscles are going to become adapted to the workload, and you'll make smaller gains over time. Learn a new stroke or two, such as the butterfly or side stroke, so that you can mix it up and keep your muscles guessing.

Step 5

Consume some protein just after your workout. Whey is a valuable form of protein that provides a quick shot of amino acids for your muscles. As such, it's a good option for a post-workout snack bar or smoothie. Also, be sure you're eating adequate amounts of protein throughout the day. Protein should make up about 15 percent of your total caloric intake.

Things You'll Need

  • Kickboard

  • Pull buoy

  • Whey protein


While swimming will help you build muscle, it's still no substitute for actual strength training, which you should be doing two days a week for good health, recommends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With a set of water dumbbells, you can do some strength training right in the pool, including biceps curls and the butterfly, for example. However, you may also need to use the weight room to do other exercises to work your legs, core and back.

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