9 Swim Workouts For Beginners

Swim Workouts For Beginners

If you’re like me, you know the amazing health benefits of swimming on your body, but you just haven’t dedicated yourself to incorporating it into your workout routine. For me, swimming was something I did as a child to escape the midday heat of the summer. I played “Marco Polo” with my friends and would occasionally play this game where you tried to make it across the pool without getting tagged by your friends (who were pretending to be alligators). 

As I went to college, I heard some friends sharing that they were going to go workout. Being the workout fanatic that I was, I was immediately excited to join, but surprised when they shared they were doing a swim workout. It was really the first time that I realized pools weren’t just for playing. They could actually be a great (and exhausting) workout. 

Since then, like I mentioned above, I’ve learned of all the health benefits of swimming as a workout. I’ve learned how many different muscle groups you use and how it can transform your workout routine. But, that feeling of associating swimming with fun hasn’t changed, and I would have a hard time knowing exactly how to construct a good swim workout on my own. I would definitely consider myself a “beginner”.

So, if you’re like me and you want some good swim workouts, but aren’t exactly sure what to do, you’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find 10 different swim workouts for beginners that you can try out and change to make them your own. 

Distance Swim Workouts For Beginners

Swim Workouts For Beginners

There are different swim workouts for beginners, depending on what your health and fitness goals are. One of the easiest workouts you can do is to work on your distance. Like running, swimming endurance takes a lot of hard work and can be built up over periods of time. So, if you know the basics of swimming and you want to do a workout, simply get in the pool and see how far you can go. Here are some suggested workouts you could do if you want to work on your swimming distance as a beginner.

1. Timed Swim

If you’re new to swimming or working out altogether, you may not have much endurance built up. One great way to start working out in the pool is by simply making small timed goals for yourself. Start by swimming for 2-3 minutes without stopping. Then, once you can do that, try swimming for 5 minutes without stopping. 

The more you practice and the more your endurance builds up, you can easily move your time up to 15 minutes or more. To add modifications, you don’t even have to make it a “without stopping” rule. You can add in breaks every so often. You can simply say to yourself, I’m going to spend 30 minutes in the pool today. Then, you can dedicate that time to moving and listening to your body when you need to rest. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from swimming workouts, it’s that they can be exhausting! Just listen to your body, have fun, and build your endurance! 

2. Swim x Laps

Another distance-focused workout could be where you set a certain amount of laps you want to achieve each session. It’s suggested that 20-30 laps would get you a solid 30 minute swim workout. But as a beginner, you may not be there yet, and that is perfectly okay! 

If you want to build your endurance, start with an amount of laps that challenge you without completely exhausting yourself. For some, that may be just 5 laps. For others, they may be good with 20 laps. Within your goal of your certain amount of laps, you can work in rest breaks along the way. For example, you could rest every two laps you swim. Find what works best for you and then try to push yourself as your endurance builds! 

Stroke Swim Workouts For Beginners

If distance isn’t your thing or you want something a little different, you could always change up your swimming workouts by working on the different strokes. If you like the workouts above, but want to do something different, you can alternate swimming styles. It’s a great way to focus on different muscle groups while giving other muscle groups a rest. Below are the most common swimming styles. 

3. Freestyle

This is the most traditional style of swimming where a swimmer is on his/her stomach, fluttering legs and alternating arms in a circular motion. When most swimmers are working out, this is a typical go-to stroke. It works your arms, legs, core, and more while constantly moving and floating. 

4. Breaststroke

Breaststroke is another forward facing swimming stroke that uses your whole body. You will be facedown, but instead of simply fluttering your legs, you will bend your legs, then kick backwards. With your arms, you’ll be doing a circular motion, keeping them underwater the entire time. 

5. Butterfly

The butterfly is the most complex swim stroke to perform. Whenever I think of the butterfly stroke, I think of Michael Phelps and his immaculate form in the Olympics. With the butterfly, you’re bringing your arms up and over your head in a circular motion that propels you forward. Typically, you will bob up and down as your arms move up around your shoulders and back.

6. Backstroke

Like the name suggests, the backstroke is essentially swimming backwards. I love using the backstroke when I am out of breath and need a resting recovery. With the backstroke, you lay on your back, kicking your legs like a freestyle stroke and circling your arms in a backward motion. 

As for the workout suggestions in this section, you can spend a whole swim session solely focusing on one of the above mentioned strokes. For example, you could dedicate your workout to completing 10 laps of the butterfly and then, in the next workout, dedicate 10 laps to the breaststroke. Or alternate between each one. Do 5 laps of freestyle, take a break, then do 5 laps of the butterfly, and so on. 

Interval Swim Workouts For Beginners

Swim Workouts For Beginners

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of work out where you exert short bursts of energy alternated with short periods of rest. These workouts are supposed to be quick and incredibly effective, increasing your heart rate and getting an amazing workout in. Interval workouts can take anywhere between 10-30 minutes and the whole point is to go hard and push yourself to make it worth your time. 

You can incorporate interval workouts with swimming as well! Instead of focusing on a set amount of distance or the specific type of stroke, you can focus on speed and expelling as much energy as possible within a short time frame. Here are some HIIT swim workouts for beginners that you can personalize…

7. Down and Back Sprints

Also known as a lap, sprinting down and back as quickly as you can is a great burst of energy. In the “5 Best Swim Workouts for Runners”, we suggest a workout where you try to complete one lap in one minute. So, let’s say it only takes you 45 seconds to go down and back. You can spend the remaining 15 seconds resting before repeating the process again. Besides a 4-5 minute slow swim warmup and another 4-5 minute cool down, try this “down and back” 4-6 times and you’ll be gassed! 

Of course, with any workout, you can customize it. Maybe one minute just isn’t something you’re quite ready for. That’s totally fine! You could start by doing a 90 second down and back. That way, if you take one minute, you’ll have a 30 second rest before repeating the process again. As your stamina improves, you can always decrease the time you give yourself or increase the number of reps you’re completing! 

8. 30 Seconds On, 30 Seconds Off

While the first interval workout above incorporated time, it was more focused on achieving a lap each round. For this workout, we will focus on the clock with a 1:1 work and rest ratio!

This exercise is also going to be intense, so make sure you do a proper warm up! Take 3-5 minutes to get acquainted with the water, swimming a couple of laps at a slow to moderate pace.

Once your warm up is complete, you can begin your rounds of 30 seconds of swimming as hard as you can and 30 seconds of rest. To keep things interesting, you can alternate different strokes each round and you can even adjust the time based on your level of fitness. For some, they may need 15 seconds going as hard as they can with 45 seconds of a rest while others could do the opposite.

Nevertheless, you could do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 4-5 rounds, take a 3-5 minute break (maybe doing a backstroke and slow swimming) and repeat. 

9. Alternating Intensities

The last suggestion for an interval workout is where you alternate the intensity with which you swim. If you think of a 10 scale with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest you’ve ever gone, you can create a custom workout where you operate at different intensities. Here’s an example below…

  • 3-5 minute warm up, freestyle stroke with an intensity of 3 out of 10
  • 1 minute swim with an intensity of 5 out of 10
  • 1 minute swim with an intensity of 8 out of 10
  • 1 minute swim with an intensity of 3 out of 10

Repeat this 3-minute interval 3-5 times and add a cool down at the end for a solid swim workout for a beginner! As always, you can customize this based on your doctor’s recommendations and your own understanding of your endurance and health!

Photo of author

Jessica Meacham

I’m a former college athlete turned marathon-running and outdoor exploring mom of two little ones. From hiking through Iceland to paddle boarding in Lake Tahoe, our family is always up for a fun adventure that incorporates fun and fitness!

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