It’s quite hard to build significant amounts of muscle. But by incorporating fairly high levels of progressive resistance training along with the right nutrition you can use swimming to build up strength and lean muscle mass.
For muscle development the swimming ‘pull’ action not only works the arms and shoulders but also engages the upper back, chest and the core muscles that are exercised by the trunk rotation as your legs and arms alternate through the water.
The combination of distance work in the pool has an impact on muscle that’s akin to being both an endurance athlete and a sprinter. You can be doing aerobic and anaerobic challenges – with the overall effect of building all-over muscle mass.
To build muscle and burn fat aim to:
1 Focus swim sessions so that they are high intensity but short in duration – so try to swim all sets at a faster pace, and include time trials over shorter distances too e.g. 25m.
2 In order to burn more fat and build muscle, include High Intensity Interval Swim sessions, where you carry out 8-10 maximal effort 25m swims and recover for 10 seconds in between each one.
3 When you feel you’ve reached your ‘ceiling’ you will need to progress further either by increasing the time, distance or intensity of your training sessions. If you find a particular session challenging, repeat it until you adapt to it.
4 Include some easier sessions and when you get to the main set increase the pace a little. The key to fat loss is to warm up gradually then perform higher intensity intervals followed by a good cool down.
5 Higher intensity interval swimming efforts also create an ‘after burn’ effect. You’ll not only burn calories during the session, your metabolic rate will also be raised long after you finish (perhaps up to 24 hours and beyond) and this also burns more body fat when relaxing.