3 Kilojoule-Obliterating Swimming Workouts

by | Feb 28, 2012 | Fitness

Time to pool your assets (get it?)

Usually when you say the word “swimming” your knee-jerk reaction is to imagine all the reasons you typically avoid pool workouts: chlorine-tinted hair, soggy towels in gym bags… However, water provides 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air, so swimming has the potential to blow your current dry-land routine out of the water when it comes to cardio conditioning and total-body toning!

The real key to a strong swimming workout: move past your sea-turtle pace and into a fast, kilojoule-obliterating one.

How? By maximising your strokes for more power and efficiency. Once you get stronger and faster in the pool, you’ll wind up a lot leaner when you get out.


Great for core, glutes and shoulders

Burns 860kJ in 30 minutes at a moderate pace (based on a 60kg woman)

DO IT Think of your arms as a windmill. As you pull your front arm down into the water (the pull phase, in water-rat speak), bring your back arm out of the water behind you, over your body and slice it back into the water (the catch phase). Visualise your body’s “long axis”: a line running from the top of your head to the tips of your pedicure. It remains stable while your body tilts side to side. To flutter kick: “Point your toes and kick from your hips and glutes without bending your knees much,” says swimming coach and Ironman triathlete Desirée Ficker.

HONE IT Freestyle’s power is in the catch phase. To grab the water instead of slicing back in with a straight arm, bend it into an “L” shape, elbow slightly up, hand pointed towards the pool bottom. Hold your hands flat, like paddles, says physiologist Deb Whitney, who’s worked with the American Olympic swimming team.

DRILL IT Practise rolling your shoulders and hips at the same time. Get into a sidestroke position, right arm extended in the water in line with your head, left arm resting along your hip, and do six to 12 slow flutter kicks. Then do one regular freestyle stroke (left arm/right arm). Next, roll onto your left side and repeat the six to 12 kicks. Drill for a couple of laps.

BREATHE EASY Resist the urge to turn and lift your head above the surface to grab air. Instead, rotate it in line with your body, inhaling when your face is halfway out of the water. (When you take a breath, keep one eye in the water, the other above it.)


Great for obliques and lower abs

Burns 860kJ in 30 minutes at a moderate pace

DO IT Think windmill again, but on your back. Bring your right arm out of the water at your waist, arc it over your head (elbow slightly bent) and slice it back into the water, leading with your pinkie (catch phase). Pull it down beneath your body (pull phase) and repeat with your left arm. As you stroke, pivot at the waist. And flutter kick with straight, not rigid, legs.

HONE IT The key to supine floating is tilting your head back so it’s in line with your spine (your impulse is to look at where you’ve been – or who you’re about to smack into – but that makes your hips and butt sink). As you arc your arm back to the water, “point your palms away from your body with your pinkie facing down, so you catch, hold and pull the water as your hand goes back in,” Whitney says.

DRILL IT Improve the side-to-side pivoting motion. Assume the sidestroke position, right arm extended in the water in line with your head, left arm resting along your hip. Do six to 12 flutter kicks, then turn onto your back for one backstroke (left arm/right arm). Flip to the opposite side for six to 12 more kicks. Drill for a lap or two.

BREATHE EASY Keep it rhythmic. Experiment to figure out what you’re comfortable with, such as inhaling on every right arm pull, exhaling on every left arm pull.


Great for glutes, hamstrings and quads

Burns 1200kJ in 30 minutes at a moderate pace

DO IT Pull your knees to your chest and hold your palms together in a prayer position. Kick out and apart with your legs (think frog), then squeeze them together straight behind you. Next, push your arms out in front of you. Glide for a moment, then turn your palms down and push outward (catch phase) and down (pull phase) in a circular motion. Keep your head steady and chin forward, gazing forward as you breathe and slightly down towards the bottom of the pool at the pull phase.

HONE IT Finish each kick with your ankles relaxed and your toes pointing to the bottom of the pool so your insteps can clap together. “Take advantage of the power of each kick by gliding as long as you can, your body in an arrow shape,” Whitney says. Rushing into your next stroke will slow you down by creating drag, compromising your form and making you less efficient in the water.

DRILL IT Exaggerate the glide with two frog kicks, then one arm pull. On the second kick, keep your arms out in front and let yourself glide. Drill for a couple of laps.

BREATHE EASY Exhale underwater; inhale as your face comes out.

Looking for more? Try these swim-ready moves if you want to strengthen and tone all over.

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