3 Challenging Swimming Workouts For Every Level Swimmer

If you haven’t spent much time swimming laps, or doing water-specific workouts, you’ll be shocked at how exhausted you are when you exit the the water. Not only does swimming facilitate calorie burning and weight loss, you can also enjoy the post-workout endorphin rush, with the added bonus of full muscle and joint support. Unlike running, weight lifting or biking, where the musculoskeletal system is working as a free-agent in terms of gravity and impact, the water in a pool helps to support muscles and joints, making it a good way to break-up the regular routine, give muscles and joints a break, or to get a good workout even if you’re recovering from an injury. In this post, you’ll find three challenging swimming workouts – one for each level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Regardless of which level you fall into, your body will benefit from:
  • Increased muscle definition and strength
  • Bone mass (water resistance, like weight resistance, increases bone mass)
  • Flexibility (swimming requires that you reach, stretch, twist and extend, often without realizing it)
  • Serious calorie burn (high-intensity swim workouts often burn equal or more calories than the treadmill or street running – without getting sweat in your eyes)
  • Reduced stress-induced asthma (the moist air of the pool environment facilitates healthy respiration)
With those things in mind, here are examples of beginner, intermediate and advanced swimming workouts. We’ve also included cardio tips to increase aerobic benefits once the workout series is more comfortable.

Beginning Swimming Workout

If you’re a beginner, give yourself a good eight weeks to gear up. Remember, we said these are challenging workouts. It will take you a while to feel in sync and adept. Ideally, you would swim at least 3-times a week. These workouts are designed for a 25-meter pool, so 25-meters is one lap, or one length of the pool. Thus a 50 is two laps (one length up, push off the wall and one length back), 75 is three laps, 100 is four laps, and so on. For this workout, you will use the front-crawl (freestyle), in order to build endurance. After that, feel free to intersperse other strokes or kicks in its place. For this series, we’re using breaths rather than seconds, to count your rests between certain sets. If you need more, take more. If you need less, move right along through the series. If you need to break up a sequence, break it up. The goal is to increase your swimming endurance over the course of 8-weeks, and be able to complete all 16 steps of the following sequence. After that, you can continue improving your swimming technique, or move on to the intermediate workout.
  1. 4 x 25 with 20-breath rest
  2. 4 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  3. 6 x 25 with 20-breath rest
  4. 6 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  5. 8 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  6. 1 x 50 with 20-breath rest 6 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  7. 1 x 50 with 20-breath rest 8 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  8. 2 x 50 with 20-breath rest 8 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  9. 2 x 50 with 10-breath rest 10 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  10. 1 x 75 with 20-breath rest 1 x 25 with 15-breath rest 2 x 50 with 15-breath rest 6 x 25 with  15-breath rest
  11. 1 x 75 with 20-breath rest 1 x 25 with 15-breath rest 3 x 50 with 15-breath rest 6 x 25 with 15-breath rest
  12. 1 x 75 with 20-breath rest 1 x 25 with 15-breath rest 3 x 50 with 15-breath rest 6 x 25 with 10-breath rest
  13. 2 x 75 with 20-breath rest 2 x 25 with 15-breath rest 3 x 50 with 15-breath rest 4 x 25 with 10-breath rest
  14. 2 x 75 with 15-breath rest 2 x 25 with 15-breath rest 4 x 50 with 15-breath rest 2 x 25 with 5-breath rest
  15. 2 x 75 with 15-breaths rest 2 x 25 with 15-breath rest 4 x 50 with 10-breath rest 4 x 25 with 5-breath rest
  16. 1 x 100 with 20-breath rest 2 x 75 with -breath rest 2 x 25 with 15-breath rest 4 x 50 with 10-breath rest
This may seem overwhelming at first, but remember that you can take longer breaks if necessary, and can simply continue building on these steps or series each week. If you are only able to swim once or twice a week, it may take you closer to 12-weeks or longer to complete the series in its entirety. Cardio Tip: At this stage in the game, cardio is easily increased with reducing the number of rest breaths. Even eliminating a few breaths will make a difference.

Intermediate Swimming Workout

With this workout, you begin adding kickboard work as well as a second swimming stroke for added cardio and muscle development. Use the pool’s timer to time rests.
  1. Freestyle – 4 x 25, easy pace for warm-up
  2. Kick board – 4 x 25, slow, fast, slow, fast (no more than 15-seconds between for rest)
  3. Freestyle – 10 x 25, take no longer than 1-minute rest at end
  4. 10 x 25, breaststroke, 15-second rest between lengths 10 x 25, freestyle, 15-second rest between lengths
  5. 8 x 25, freestyle, 45-second rest after 4-lengths 4 x 50, freestyle, 30-second rest every 2-lengths 8 x 25, freestyle, 15-second rest every length 4 x 50, freestyle, 30-second rest every 2-lengths 2 x 100, freestyle, 45-second rest every 4-lengths
  6. 6 x 25, your stroke choice, no rest
Cardio Tip: Minimizing rests according to endurance will increase cardio. You can also eliminate the 1-minute rest at #3.

Advanced Swimming Workout

Now you’re ready for the harder-core stuff. This workout will get you swimming 100 laps, or 2500 meters per workout.
  1. 10 x 25 – Freestyle, no longer than 1-minute rest
  2. 2 x 250 (5-lengths),  breaststroke, 15-second rest 2 x 250, backstroke, 15-second rest 2 x 250, freestyle, 15-second rest
  3. 2 x 250, freestyle, 30-second rest after each 5-lengths 5 x 50, freestyle, 15-second rest after each 2-lengths 10 x 25, freestyle, 10 second rest after each length 5 x 50, freestyle, 15-second rest after each 2-lengths 2 x 250, freestyle, 30-second rest after each 5-lengths
  4. 10 x 25, your choice of strokes, no rest
Unless you’re already a very adept swimmer, this workout will take a while to nail down and continue without more rest time than already provided. Cardio Tip: Again, eliminating any rests you don’t need will boost cardio. You can also add kickboard and pull buoy work between #1 and #2.

Don’t Forget Kickboard and Pull Buoy Workouts

To increase the workout in either your arms or your legs, and to hone technique, try using kickboard and/or pull buoy drills in addition to or in place of your typical swimming workout. Also, check with any American Family Fitness personnel to learn more about high-intensity water aerobics classes, which can be used in between or in place of swim days to provide more isolated resistance exercises in addition to aerobic fitness. For more health and fitness tips, visit Amfamfit.com or contact American Family Fitness to get advice from a certified fitness professional.