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Can swimming add muscle and cut down fat?


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I am planning on swimming three days a week, maybe half hour to one. It's more fun than lifting. Since swimming works all muscles in your body, will it build muscle and help one lose fat? Instead of doing boring cardio and wt, one might as well enjoy swimming and accomplish both fat loss and muscle gain. Is it a good idea? If someone has tried and succeeded, mind sharing it with me?

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Actually, there have been studies showing that swimmer retain more body fat than other athletes. Probably due to needing an extra layer of fat to retain body in heat in lower-than-body-temperature water. I wouldn't use it as my only cardio for that reason.

 

Swimmers can develop very nice shoulder muscles. But it definitely won't give you the same overall body musculature than weight training would (remember that professional swimmers don't just swim, they workout in the weight room as well!)

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As an ex-competitive swimmer (yikes, it really has been a long time), I can vouch that swimming will give you great shoulder definition and can help with overall "leanness". I would recommend continuing to weight train. That said, take note that there are plenty of resistance exercises you can do in the water that provide a more intense workout than swimming in and of itself. I used to teach a high-intensity deep water exercise class (again, yike!, years ago) and it was more exhausting than anything I've done since. Think, 60 minutes of treading water, topped with resistance training. Kickboards, fins, webbed gloves are all ways to increase your general swimming routine. Add in other "bouyant" tools and water treading, and you could create some decent muscle definition. I've never seen "incredible" definition from water workouts alone but, it is possible to get a decent resistance/weight training session in the water.

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OK, I'll chime in here as a competitive swimmer/triathlete for 15 years.

 

Fat Loss - your can get VERY lean through swimming. While research has shown that swimmers tend to retain more bodyfat than other competitive atheletes (runners or cyclists for example), most of the good swimmers I know have quite low bodyfat percentages.

 

However, you need to train instensly. Just going out for a relaxing 30 minute doggypaddle won't cut it . Either get long-slow yards in, or do intense intervals. The other dangerous thing about swimming, is that since your body is kept cool during exercise, you tend to be ravenous after even a mild/moderate workout. Make sure you do not overeat. It may help to take a meal replacement drink (like Vega!) after swimming to stabilize blood sugar and prevent overating.

 

Muscle Building - you will not build muscles in the same manner swimming as you would weight lifting. After an entire season of swimming in high school, I would notice significant size gains in my shoulders, triceps and lats, but not much else. While you will get stronger through swimming (especially if you use pull buoys or paddles for added resistance) you will not necessarily get more mass.

 

Also, most male swimmers tend to ignore their kick. Therefore, you should plan on lifting with the lower body, and/or doing some cross-training on the bike or running to give your legs a workout. Similarly, many swimmers do dry-land training to build abdmonial and chest strength to balance out their back strength. You should plan on doing the same.

 

Ravi

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