Can You Build Muscle Mass Through Swimming?

Can You Build Muscle Mass Through Swimming?

When we think of building muscle mass, lifting weights is typically the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you want all the benefits of strength training without the impact and strain on your joints and bones, swimming is the perfect solution. Gliding through the water increases flexibility and strengths all the muscles in the body. Swimming is a great way to reduce body fat and gain muscle mass.

How do you build muscle mass through swimming?

Unlike lifting weights and other types of muscle-building exercises, swimming can be done by anyone. Your body works against the resistance of the water to build muscle, improve stamina, and increase cardiovascular health.

Resistance training of any kind will increase muscle strength it works by forcing the muscles to contract against a force or weight. Your muscles tear and repair which causes them to grow. Water is much denser than air which results in your bodybuilding muscle mass faster than other conventional types of exercise that are done on land, such as cardio.

It is a good idea to mix up your training techniques to ensure you are using various muscle groups to train different areas of the body. Mastering your stroke technique will give you the best results, a swimming instructor can give you tips and advice on how to do your movements correctly. If you want to target certain muscle groups, it is good to know which swimming styles are best for building muscle mass in that area of the body.

Here are the main swimming techniques used for fitness and the areas of the body they target for building muscle mass:


Freestyle works the upper body muscle groups as well as the truck, back and abdomen. The motion of freestyle allows the shoulder muscles to stretch forward with each stroke. This swimming style builds muscle mass in the pectoralis major, deltoid, neck, and shoulder region. To do this swimming style correctly you need to be kicking at the same to time to gain momentum in the water. This will work the muscle groups in your lower body such as foot muscles and hip flexors.


The movement and technique involved in backstroke is like that of freestyle except you don’t need to turn your neck to take a breath. It targets many muscle groups including the inner and outer muscles of the torso. Backstroke is great for building muscle mass in the hamstrings, hip flexors as well as other lower body muscle groups.


Breaststroke isn’t as vigorous as freestyle or backstroke and it is a popular swimming style for those who aren’t as agile as competitive swimmers. The kicking motion works the lower extremities and muscles such as the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. The action of gliding the arms through the water combined with lifting your head in and out the water will target many muscles such as the pectoralis major in the chest as well as shoulder and arm muscles including the biceps, triceps and deltoids.


Butterfly tends to be the least popular swimming stroke. However, it is the most intense swimming style and is sure to give you a killer workout. The shoulder and arm muscles are predominately used as well as the back, glutes, and abdomen.

Tips for gaining maximum muscle mass from the pool

If you work out at the gym, swimming can help you to train better. It increases lung capacity and regulates your breathing patterns which can help you to work out harder and more efficiently. Swimming on its own will build muscle, although, if you want to take it to the next level you can add equipment into your swimming regime to enhance your muscle growth.

Professional swimmers use kickboards to increase the muscle mass in their lower body and legs. Using a kickboard allows you to focus on your lower body movements rather than working your arms primarily to get you through the water. Another piece of swimming training equipment that will help with muscle strength, is fins. Alternatively, to train the upper body more intensely you can use a pull buoy or leg float between your thighs or ankles when swimming.

A vitally important component to building muscle, is what you eat. Incorporating a nutritious diet with strength and swimming training will help you to gain maximum muscle mass. Your diet should include foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates, fresh fruit and vegetables and lean proteins. Processed foods, sugar, and alcohol should be limited. Fueling your body with the right nutrition will help you reach your goals and give you the energy you need to get through your workouts.

Where do I start?

To get the most out of your swimming routine it is best to swim every second day or three times a week. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together this simple guide to give you some ideas of how to build muscle mass from swimming.

Step 1- Warm up time

Before jumping into the water, you should do some stretches first. Aim for 5 to 10 mins. Once you have done this you can warm up by doing a couple of steady laps of the pool. Again, aim for 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 2- Freestyle and breaststroke

Swim for 5 minutes straight without stopping, alternate between freestyle and breaststroke for each lap. Once you have been swimming for 5 minutes, stop until your breathing settles to normal.

Step 3- Use your float 

Place a float between your thighs or ankles, do 8 to 10 laps doing your favorite style, using only your arms to get you through the water. You can rest for up to 15 seconds between each lap if you must.

Step 4- Swim using your preferred stroke

Next, swim for another 8 to 10 laps, this time without the float. You can do any swimming style you like. Rest for up to 15 seconds between laps if need be.

Step 5- Choose two strokes

Swim for 10 to 12 laps, swapping between your two chosen styles without rest.

Step 6- Cooldown

Once you have completed your swimming sets you can cool down by swimming some laps at a steady pace. 5 to 10 minutes should be sufficient.

Please note: This is a guide only; we are not swimming professionals. You should always consult your doctor or health care provider before starting any new exercise routine.

Some other benefits of swimming

Regardless of how fit you are, swimming for just 30 minutes a day in conjunction with a healthy diet can help to improve cardiovascular fitness, stamina, and endurance. It also helps to lower stress levels and burn calories. It can also reduce the risk of diseases such as stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

There is no denying that swimming is a great way to build muscle mass and what better way to that than with a pool of your very own in the backyard. Here at Newcastle Swimming Pools we specialize in creating stunning fibreglass pools that are ideal for working on your fitness goals and relaxing. For further information, give our friendly team a call.

This content is brought to you by Brad Hilbert.

Photo: Shutterstock

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