Your guide to swimming strokes: which muscles will get a workout?

DEC 09 2019

Two kids are learning hand movements with their swim instructor in front of the swimming pool.

Whether you’re just getting started with adult swimming lessons a bit later in life, or you’re taking your little ones for their first set of kids swimming lessons, you’ll probably be aware of the main swimming strokes out there. Breaststroke, freestyle, and butterfly are the three big swimming strokes we’re going to concentrate on today.

Why do certain swimmers pick certain strokes to workout different parts of their body and with different intensities? What are the pros and cons of each swimming style and which areas do they target? And which are the easiest to pick up in your swimming lessons?

What muscles does freestyle swimming work?

The fastest of the strokes, freestyle also represents an excellent workout in the pool. It’s seriously demanding and will hit your deltoids, latissimus dorsi (the muscles down the sides of your back), trapezius, triceps and biceps in a big way.

You may notice your abs starting to tone up as well – they’re being used to stabilise you overall in the water.

And on top of this, the freestyle will develop a heap of your lower body muscles. After consistent sessions you’ll see a difference in your quads, hamstrings, glutes calves and hip flexors. Not a bad haul, eh?!

Our Kingswim swim coaches are experts at instructing the freestyle and the careful balance of movement, breathing and coordination it demands. You’ll see a big focus on it in both our adult swimming lessons and kids swimming lessons here.

Naturally, and as with all of the other strokes, the benefits of freestyle you see will be directly related to the speed, intensity and length of your session in the pool.

What muscles does breaststroke swimming work?

A slower and gentler stroke than freestyle, breaststroke is a great option if you want a slightly less intense workout. Or you may just not want to get your hair wet!

Breaststroke is a relatively easy stroke to learn and master, and it can be swam without your head going under water. Because of this, it is generally the first stroke we teach the youngsters in our kids swimmings lessons, as well as the older students in our adult swimming lessons.

Despite swimmers often finding it easier than freestyle, don’t get the wrong impression – breaststroke can give you a great all round workout. Especially if you swim it with full intensity.

Breaststroke will work out your chest muscles (pectoralis major), latissimus dorsi in your back; biceps, triceps, brachialis and brachioradialis in your arms, and deltoids in your shoulders. A pretty solid start!

On your lower half it will tackle your glutes, hamstrings and lower legs in style.

What muscles does butterfly swimming work?

Renowned as the most difficult of the swimming strokes, butterfly take a serious prowess in the pool, heaps of power and a seriously advanced technique to master.

It involves the use of both of your arms simultaneously, while your legs make a movement that looks similar to a dolphin for extra power and propulsion.

Unsurprisingly, butterfly will give you an incredible workout in the pool, and all but the most athletic and accomplished swimmers find it a hard stroke to sustain a sprint in for more than 100m or 200m.

Your arms and shoulders will benefit massively from swimming butterfly, with your deltoids and trapezius working hard in particular. Your biceps and triceps will also see some action when swimming butterfly.

Further down, your core muscles and latissimus dorsi will get a nice workout as their strength is essential to maintaining a good butterfly technique.

And let’s not forget your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves, which will all work super hard as you have to push your legs backwards in the butterfly.

Feeling inspired to learn the swimming styles we talked about and more? Why not give swimming lessons a try with Kingswim?

We’ve taught over 14 million swimming lessons and offer fun-filled and super-productive swimming lessons to learners of all ages and abilities! For more information or to sign up to our classes, get in touch today!

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