T Nation

Is Swimming a good complement to Weight training

Hi all,

I am ccurrently training 4 days a week Mon/Thur lower body, Tues/Fri Upper body and need to add some cardio to get my BF down from it massive 20%+.

The only issue is that I find running and all it’s derivatives boring as batshit and painful - I get bad shin splints.

What are your opinions on swimming as a method to burn off some extra calories and pump up the fitness level.

I enjoy it so that’s a plus and generally swim about 1 km over a period of 40 mins with varying intensity and a few short rest breaks.

Am I on the right track here?

Hey, there, TheBow. You know, cardio is cardio, but swimming is a particularly AWESOME form of cardio that’s easy on the body. No wear and tear on the joints! It does a great job of building upper body strength and size. I just love the lines that swimmers have.

If it works for you and you like it, tear it up!!!

You won’t find a better all around exercise. Low impact, uses all muscles, burns tons of calories. Last one in the pool is a rotten egg. Sorry, got carried away there.

Swimming is an awesome way to build up cardiovascular strength and stamina, and can really help work out the pain, stiffness, or soreness in various parts of the body. It really loosens up my shoulders, in particular.

One possible downside: the American Journal of Sports Medicine, among others, have claimed that swimming does not promote fat loss as well as other cardio activities. Sounds like BS, I know, but the evidence is out there.

I actually swam for three weeks on saturdays before my last fight and boy was it tough. Spending a half hour inside a pool swimming as much as you possibly can drives your heart rate up the roof. Im in pretty good shape also but swimming made me feel as if I was couch potato. Funny and weird how it is know or proven that it’s not effective at burning BF.

da Boxer


It’s great to know that I actually am on the right track for once.

The only drawback I can see that sometimes swimming makes me absolutely ravenous as opposed to other running style activities. And it’s bad stuff like hash browns and other super carbs, I don’t eat them but it makes me want stuff like that. I guess that’s probably due to the amount of calories burnt.

Should I be putting any limits on this though? Would 3 days a week be too much assuming I get enough sleep and eat well?

Agree with above, swimming’s good, IF YOU CAN SWIM!!

What I mean is that if the extent of your swimming capabilities is staying afloat, or a leisurely breaststroke, then you would do much better on a cardio variation where you could actually push yourself more.

For you, The Bow, 1k in 40 mins you sound average, so I guess you’ll probably be ok with this activity. SRS

Not a bad option. You can potentially burn a good amount of calories with this activity.

Also, since there is no eccentric component, it will aid with your recovery between workouts.

Of course, you won’t build any muscle with this particular exercise, that’s not really the point, and you’re lifting anyway.

Don’t know about studies but I can tell you anecdotally that every friend I have who has swum regularly (twice a week for 40 min) has developed a good physique.

Switch between laps of aggressive breast-stroke and crawl (freestyle) and you’ll find your joints loosen up, your body becomes ripped and you’ll get the cardio you want.



that makes sense, it’s only my second session in the pool and I expect my speed/fitness to improve fairly rapidly.

Was a fairly good swimmer in high school so all that stuff should come back after a few weeks I think.

I can see one more advantage to swimming. The cold water! It’s known that running in the cold can be hard on your lungs and possibly your joints but think about thermogenics! Especially in water. Cold water should be able to absorb energy output in the form of heat. This could theoretically cause much greater fat loss! I’m going to try it too!!! Great idea! Live like a bear- eat big and bulk in the fall, eat often and cut in the spring.

Swimming is a good change of pace from weight bearing activity and it enables you to take stress off the legs while still getting a good cardiovascular or energy system workout. For people such as athletes who need maximal speed and power in the lower extremeties but also need to do extra cardio for bf% maintenance or conditioning I recommend it and other whole body or upper body conditioning such as heavy bag training or sledgehammer training. Doing strictly lower body cardio will tend to cause unwanted fiber type changes in the muscle. Having said that, the negatives of swimming are:

  1. swimming has been proven to stimulate the appetite and unless you swim in very warm water the body seems to adapt to high volume/longer duration swimming by laying down a protective layer of fat.
  2. If you swim at a slow steady pace all the time the upper body musculature will quickly adapt (much faster than the lower body would) and this may cause a loss of size/strength/explosiveness. This is something I experienced firsthand back when I used to swim frequently but it can be remedied by incorporating sprint intervals for example. Sprint one lap/go slow and steady one lap/treadwater 30 seconds and repeat etc.

Underwater swimming may also increase intelligence. Staying underwater for progressively longer periods induces the blood-carotid response. Swimming for an hour a day every day, for a period of three weeks, is enough to permanently expand the carotid artery and thus increase blood/oxygen supply to the brain. Just something to think about.