You probably don’t need telling that swimming provides an incredibly effective total body workout that burns fat, increases your cardiovascular fitness and helps you to develop a lean physique. And by firing up all the major muscle groups, swimming maximises caloric burn both in the water and also long after you’ve dried off. So yep, we’re big fans of the pool.
Swimming: the numbers speak for themselves
Swimming burns approximately 600-700 calories per hour at a medium to fast pace. Then add to that the research from Speedo that shows swimming for 30 minutes is as effective as an hour’s workout on land – in terms of cardiovascular output, muscular development and calorie burn. And while water reduces the body’s weight by up to 90%, it is also 800 times denser than air. Which means the swimming pool provides around 15 times more resistance than performing the same movements on land – making it perfect for strengthening and toning.
Resistance isn’t futile
Every kick and pull is like a mini-resistance, cross-training, all-in-one workout. So you definitely get your money’s worth. Then there’s a whole series of other health-related benefits on offer, from busting stress to eliminating the impact on joints that causes injury.
The HIIT crowd
Which leads us onto high-intensity interval training. HIIT workouts are becoming increasingly popular, incinerating bucket loads of calories in the time it takes you to gasp ‘please…make…it…stop’. Sessions comprise of brief bursts of high-intensity work (fancy that), followed by short recovery intervals that allow you to rest just long enough to regain the strength to max out once again.
Brace for impact
The trouble with interval training, however, is the unforgiving impact it has on your joints. You need to run faster. Jump higher. Squat lower. Lunge longer. And over time that all takes a toll. If only there was a way to enjoy all the advantages of HIIT without the stress and strain. You can guess what’s coming next, can’t you?
The best of both worlds
Yes, we’re back to the pool. For most people, swimming means consistent, continuous cardio. Ploughing to and fro, length after length. But without any knocks, bangs or blows to your body, water also makes the perfect setting to make the most of HIIT. The buoyancy makes it easy to move with ease. At the same time, it also creates the 360° resistance and the cardiovascular overload that are perfect for high-intensity training.
Full on, full body workout
So you get that high-intensity blast in a shorter time for maximum cardio effect. But without the need for a hip replacement or plastic knees at some point in the near future. And let’s reiterate the fact that you get a full body workout unlike, say, a spinning class where you’re only focusing on your lower body.
Choose your own style
Needless to say, you can find all sorts of HIIT swimming routines and workouts on the web. Unlike your gym-based version, most will use an active recovery between work intervals. In other words, instead of a complete rest you’ll swim an easy length while still allowing your body to recover and your heart rate to lower. You can also use any of the major strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke or even butterfly if that’s your bag.
A simple HIIT swimming to get you started
- 100m warm up – freestyle at a slow pace
- 50m sprint – freestyle sprint followed by 50m slow – breast stroke or slow freestyle
Repeat x 6
- 100m cooldown – freestyle at a very slow pace