Does Swimming Tone Your Body?

Blond woman relaxing in a swimming pool
A toned woman smiling at the side of the pool after a swim. (Image: Goodluz/iStock/Getty Images)

Going for a dip in the pool will cool you off on a hot day, but it can also help you develop muscle strength and endurance. Swimming is a full body exercise that tones every major muscle group in your body. Each of the various strokes focuses on different muscles, so using a combination of strokes when swimming will allow you to feel the burn -- and get the tone you want -- faster than many land-based exercises.

Stroke Your Way to Stronger Muscles

In order to tone muscle, you have to work against resistance. When you are swimming, the water provides the resistance your muscles have to fight against as they kick and stroke to propel your body across the pool. In fact, water is more resistant that air and land, so your muscles have to work harder to move you through water than they do to move you through air or across land. Doing each stroke properly not only lengthens and stretches the muscles used, but the repeated movement to stay moving through the water helps you develop muscle endurance as well. The result is more toned muscles throughout your body.

Pull With Your Arms

When you swim, every stroke engages your shoulders, biceps, triceps, upper back and chest. Your arms are responsible for reaching forward during the upstroke phase of the each stroke, and for pulling you forward by pushing through the water on the down stroke phase of each stroke. This pushing-and-pulling motion engages the arms and chest while the rotation of the arms either forward, as in the breaststroke, or backward, as in the backstroke, engages the shoulders and upper back for a toned upper body.

Balance With Your Core

Your core muscles, including your abs, hips and lower back, are fully engaged when you swim. Your abs and lower back help you balance and move more efficiently through the water. They do this by controlling your movements as your body twists side-to-side with each stroke. Your hips help you kick to propel through the water by controlling your legs as they move up and down. Swimming consistently helps tone your core muscles, making you more stable in the water and when doing everyday tasks.

Kick Those Legs

Your lower body aids your arms in propelling you through the water by providing a push force. Many of the muscle groups in your lower body, including the glutes, quads and hamstrings, are toned with swimming; however, different strokes engage these muscles differently. The freestyle stroke helps tone the glutes, the breaststroke works the inner thighs and hamstrings, and the backstroke tones your glutes, quadriceps and hip flexors. Regardless of your preferred stroke, your legs will get stronger with each kick.

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