Is swimming a balanced workout?

November 7, 2012

The question: If all I do is swim, am I getting a balanced workout? I want to make sure that I am strengthening my bones and muscles.

The answer: So much of my life is spent encouraging people to be active that, when I get a question from someone like you who is already active, I have a hard time dispensing constructive criticism. I would never want to say anything that would discourage you from maintaining your current routine.

So, my below advice begins with this disclaimer: You should be proud of the fact that you swim regularly. Keep up the good work!

Ideally, add in two strength workouts a week and substitute one swim workout for a cardio workout that involves impact.

Swimming does not involve any impact. Activities like walking involve impact and therefore will help to maintain or increase your bone density, which is important in preventing osteoporosis.

Strength training is worthwhile because it produces lean muscle mass which increases your metabolism; bolsters your strength and athletic performance; and helps to build bone density as well.

Make sure to include rows and rotator-cuff exercises. They will strengthen the shoulder girdle, helping to prevent swimming-related shoulder injuries.

Try these two strength exercises:

Trainer's Tip: Vary the swimming stroke you use, and include intervals. Try this pyramid set: After your warm-up, swim 25 metres hard, 50 m recovery, 50 m hard, 100 m recovery, 100 m hard, 200 m recovery, 200 m hard, 400 m recovery. If you are a strong swimmer, make your recovery intervals the same distance as your work intervals and do the entire set twice.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is

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