How to Swim Laps for Exercise

If you aren't used to submerging yourself in water for exercise, you might just feel like — well, a fish out of water — when you are in the water. But with a bit of practice, you can learn to successfully swim laps for exercise. Swimming provides an excellent cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening exercise, allowing you to work vigorously without placing stress on your bones and joints. If you are looking to add a swimming workout to your regular exercise routine, a few simple techniques can help you transition from swimming novice to enthusiast.

Step 1

Balance yourself in the pool by pressing your upper chest into the water, which should elevate your hips closer to the surface of the water. Attempt to keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in a horizontal position throughout your entire swimming workout.

Step 2

Propel yourself forward through the water using your preferred swimming stroke. The crawl, or freestyle, is the most efficient and strenuous strike, while the sidestroke and breaststroke are less strenuous. You might need to practice each stroke a few times before making your choice.

Step 3

Push your hands through the water each time you perform a stroke. Avoid lifting your hands out of the water, because this increases resistance. The Georgia State University Department of Kinesiology and Health suggests that it should feel as though you are "climbing a water ladder with your hands and forearms resting against solid rungs of water."

Step 4

Roll your body from side to side with each stroke. Rather than turning your head from side to side to breathe, your entire body should rotate with each stroke. When your left hand is extended in front of you, your left side should be much deeper in the water than your right side. This swimming technique allows you to cover more distance with each stroke.

Step 5

Inhale while your body is rolled to the side. In this position, your face should be out of the water, allowing you to inhale. Exhale while your face is submerged in the water during body rolls.

Step 6

Tuck your legs into your belly as your hands reach the pool wall. Place both feet against the wall with your knees pointing toward the surface of the water. As your feet swing toward the wall, push one of your elbows back behind you.

Step 7

Straighten the elbow you shoved back and extend the arm toward the opposite side of the pool. Just before you kick off the wall, slice your other arm through the air over your head, extending it to the opposite side of the pool.

Step 8

Push off the side of the pool with your feet, tilting your body slightly to one side as you do so. Once your feet leave the wall, continue rolling your body toward that side until you are positioned on your stomach. Perform this step every time you reach a wall.

Things You'll Need

  • Swimsuit

  • Swim goggles

  • Nose plug (optional)

  • Ear plugs (optional)

  • Hair cap (optional)


Although many people think that kicking is an essential part of swimming laps, it can actually hinder your ability to complete your workout. If you are able to keep your legs floating on a horizontal plane without kicking, you might not need to kick at all. The power of your swimming stroke should come from your arms, not your legs. When you do kick, perform the action from the hip without bending the leg at the knee or lifting the feet out of the water.


If you are not comfortable in the water or plan to swim unsupervised, consider wearing a simple flotation device to prevent injury or drowning. If possible, always swim under the supervision of a trained lifeguard.

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