In the last few blog posts we’ve focused on aqua aerobics and how you can use specific exercise routines to work on particular areas of your body such as your arms, legs and abdominal muscles. If there’s not a class available for you to join or you’d rather just use a pool for traditional swimming, there are still ways you can adapt your session to tone certain muscles and lose weight simply by swimming laps or lengths.
Swimming is a fantastic all-round form of exercise: it boosts your mood, helps you to keep your heart and lungs working well, can be used to control weight and fitness, and is gentle on joints. The variety of strokes to choose from means that you can choose how to swim, if you want to work on particular muscle groups.
This is the most popular stroke for recreational swimming, and involves almost all the body’s muscle groups. The focus is mainly on the lower limbs and abdomen. Breast stroke is great for beginners or those who are less confident in the water, because the pace is easily controlled, and you can still get a good workout by swimming slowly. The face also remains out of the water at all times. If you have knee problems, you should avoid doing the breast stroke leg action, as it can put a strain on the joints: you can still do the arm motion, and change to a dolphin style kick, keeping your legs together.
Doing the front crawl will tone your core abdominal muscles and shoulders, along with strengthening your back. It’s essential to get a good pace and breathing pattern established. Keep your torso straight and your face down, turning to the side to breathe. This is the fastest stroke, and you could burn up to 100 calories in ten minutes of swimming front crawl.
The butterfly is the hardest and most intense of all the swimming strokes. Doing this stroke helps to build on your upper body strength, tone your chest, arms and back, as well as increasing your body’s flexibility. The butterfly is a stroke for experienced swimmers with good technique, so get some help from an instructor if you’re thinking of trying this for the first time.
You’ll tone your stomach, buttocks, arms, legs and shoulders doing the backstroke, and have an easier time breathing than front crawl! Keep your body straight and don’t let your hips drop: try to feel as though you are travelling along the top of the water rather than underneath. Stretch out in the water to lengthen your spine and relax your hips.
Any or all of these strokes will provide a fantastic general exercise session, so work on developing a routine and varying your stroke to eliminate boredom and ensure every muscle group gets a workout. Use floats to isolate the upper or lower body, and concentrate on your technique as well as speed and distance covered.