If you have ever seen a swimmer’s body then I’m sure you will recall the image of a perfectly v-shaped and sculpted back with no sign of back fat or bra bulge in sight. Swimming is great for your back muscles so today I’m going to share my top four tips to help you maximize your pool time.
First, let’s think about all the marvelous health benefits associated with regular swimming. I must admit that a sculpted and toned back is one of the best advantages in my mind but all these other swimming benefits certainly sweeten the deal:
- Improved overall fitness level
- Superior muscle tone
- Reduced stress
- General fat reduction for a leaner, more toned you
You don’t have to be an aspiring pro swimmer or triathlete to benefit from training in the water, the low impact nature of swimming makes it a great choice for everyone especially severely deconditioned individuals, people with joint problems and the overweight population.
When I was pregnant with my triplets, swimming was the only form of exercise I was allowed to do. I loved being in the pool, moving my body freely and feeling a few pounds lighter and, as an athlete, it was something I felt I had to do at least once a week. Swimming and aqua jogging is a staple part of many pro athletes training regimens. Basketball players, baseball players, track and field athletes, and even golfers appreciate the benefits of aqua based training.
Swimming is a low impact / high result exercise
I am not surprised that swimming is so popular in the athletic world because the benefits of low impact exercise and the natural resistance provided by water, combined with the ability to keep your workouts high in intensity allows athletes to stay in great shape without creating excess stress on their joints.
Learn how to master swimming
Taking swimming lessons is the greatest gift I have given to myself as an adult. I’ve been able to swim since age six and I would have always described myself as an adequate swimmer. I wasn’t graceful but I stayed afloat and that is all swimming is, right? It turns out that I had a long way to go. Now that I understand simple swimming technique, I realize that before my adult lessons I wasn’t actually swimming at all – it was more like drowning prevention!
Safety should always be a priority around water, so if you are not a competent swimmer or if you are not comfortable in the water, it’s best to get at least basic lessons in order to build your confidence and stay safe. Training in the water is also an activity that I advise people to do in a supervised environment or with a friend.
About that swimmer’s back…
If you want to work on getting back muscles that look fabulous in a dress or lats that resemble the batman body suit, you’re in luck because I’ve had fun researching the swimming program at my local university, taking swimming lessons at my local high school pool and chatting with avid swimmers so that I can provide you with four top tips on how to get maximum benefits from your pool time.
I have explained in previous posts that there is no such phenomenon as targeted fat reduction – working your back muscles alone will not rid you of fat in just that area of your body. The good news is that swimming is a full body cardiovascular exercise that is known for being a great slow fat burner. Doing drills that specifically target your back muscles will build and tone your muscles.
1. Time in the pool
Swimming is not something you should rush. That’s not to say you can’t swim fast, I mean that regular, decent-length sessions will deliver the best return. In order to burn fat and tone up you will need to dedicate yourself to swimming – 45-60 minutes of continuous laps keeping your heart rate at a steady working pace will give you the best results.
2. Vary your strokes
Switching your stokes throughout your swim will ensure that you are working all of your back muscles and not just favoring your most comfortable stroke.
- Backstroke is started with the latissimus-dorsi muscles in your back (these are your batman wings) the chest and arm muscles join in as the stroke continues.
- Breaststroke is started primarily by the chest muscles and the back muscles assist.
A varied stroke workout keeps your swim session interesting and ensures that all of your muscles are working hard. Try doing two laps of each stroke and keep alternating for the entire duration of your swim.
3. Don’t kick
Abandoning your kick altogether may alter your upper-body form and not fully engage your back muscles, so start out simply by using a float in between your ankles or kicking every other stroke. Taking your legs out of the equation will make your upper body work twice as hard.
4. Water weights (advanced swimmers only)
To increase resistance in the water, using floats or weights can speed up your muscle building results. Or try wearing webbed swimming gloves as the added resistance will make more work for your upper body and back, and this will make your workout more intense.
A high intensity muscular workout will tone and build muscles faster than normal swimming alone. The added bonus of using gloves is that, as you become efficient using them, you will swim more laps in less time.
Swimming is a great for getting in shape and losing weight. As you lose fat your swimming sessions may seem to be more intense and that’s because fat helps your body float! So, as you reduce fat and build muscle, your body will have to work harder to keep you afloat.
The benefits associated with swimming far outweigh any negatives:
· Yes, the pool may feel cold but you burn extra calories as your body works to stay warm.
· Yes, chemicals may play havoc with your hair. I know all about this one and now I just wear a classic swim cap every time.
· Yes, you do have to wear a swimsuit but it doesn’t have to be revealing and no one is really checking out any wobbly bits. And you’ll be becoming more toned during every session.
My point is that you should make NO excuses. Just jump in and get fit. Regular swimming will help you say goodbye to back fat and hello to super toned dress-worthy or batman-esque back muscles.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.