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I heard that swimming is the best option for a whole body workout, but I don't really know what effects that swimming has on my body.

Does swimming burn fat and help me building muscles (my first priority is: abs and back muscles)?

Is swimming short and intensive or slow and over a long time better for building muscle and burning fat?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular workout. You can give a very strong effort, and since there is minimal body impact, you can give a pretty intense workout just about every day. It most definitely will help with fat burning, assuming that you are eating an appropriate, healthy diet.

It will assist in muscle building, but only so much as it takes to overcome the resistance of the water. Obviously, the faster that you swim, the more resistance you will have (Even though with a good stroke you will be more on top of the water than a poor stroke), but you won't get hulking muscles.

If you can, I would recommend swimming all four strokes (back/breast/free/fly) in various amounts, as each stresses the body in different ways.

As user3750 so cryptically points out, there is a significant emphasis on the anterior portion of the deltoids (shoulder muscles) and the pecs (chest), which can overpower the rear deltoids and give you the "round shouldered" look. If you do primarily freestyle, I would make sure that you add some supplemental exercises to balance out your deltoids.

Although many swimmers that you see on TV are fairly well muscled, remember that they are at the pointy end of the stick, and use dryland exercises and weight routines to maximize their potential, and they have all day to swim and work out. You will need to balance fitness and weights in combination if you want the same physique that they have.

As far as your short & intense vs. long and slow, the answer is yes. You want a combination of both, to stress both types of fibers in your muscles. Lats will be a primary motivator in a proper freestyle stroke, and your abs and lower back muscles will get good workouts as stabilization muscles.

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thanks for this good explained answer. i'll start with swimming this week and i hope that i can get good results. just one more additional question: if i can't swimm anymore and i take a short break of 10 minutes is the effect still the same when i continue my training after the break? –  Aytac Aug 27 '12 at 7:04
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For the most part, yes. If you aren't swim fit, I would recommend a program such as the 0 to 1 mile program by Ruth Kazez: ruthkazez.com/ZeroTo1mile.html –  JohnP Aug 27 '12 at 14:47
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Good for fat burn and fitness. It will not get you 'big' as such but will certainly help with your upper body and defined. Just watch your posture because swimming is not good for it. Maybe do some resistance band work for posture after you swim? Hope it helps :)

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In my youth I was a good regional/state swimmer at 6' and 185lb, and extremely lean. While cross training with weights helps, much of it has to do with avoiding overtraining and focusing on power and sprinting. –  Peter DeWeese Aug 24 '12 at 12:56
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Swimming uses so many muscles in your body all at once that it's an excellent way to increase cardiovascular and muscular fitness. If done long enough and often enough each week, it will help with weight loss by burning calories and fat. A 45-minute swim will burn approximately 450 calories

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/19452-swim-burn-fat/#ixzz24OdUmY5K

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Hi Sneha and welcome to the site. Please have a look at our faq to see what this site is about and how it works. It is great to see your participation here, but take note that you should formulate your answers and reference them properly by paraphrasing or quoting. –  Matt Chan Aug 24 '12 at 0:03
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-1 For merely quoting and linking a generic article, it would be better if you could summarize the article here. Additionally, some of the claims in the linked article are quite generic and based on known flawed concepts. –  JohnP Aug 24 '12 at 18:52
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