Which swimming is the best for burning calories?
Not all strokes are created equal in the pool, and you may be wondering which stroke is best for burning calories? Breaststroke, front crawl, back crawl, and butterfly all have their own unique benefits, working several different muscle groups and creating specific challenges for your body. But the number of calories burned can vary depending on which kick you use, as well as your speed and technique.
While each stroke has a different effect on burning calories, it is important to remember that you will only get the most benefit if you execute the stroke correctly. A well-executed backstroke (which burns the fewest calories) will ultimately be more effective when it comes to weight loss than a poorly executed butterfly (which burns the most calories) that sees you out of the pool earlier.
If you’ve got your swim goggles and aerodynamic swimsuit ready and want to burn some calories, we spoke to the experts to help you decide which stroke to try when you hit the water. And if you want to mix up your workout a little, check out our guide to best exercise machines for weight loss (opens in a new tab).
Does it matter which way I swim?
It’s easy to assume that as long as you’re putting in some effort, the type of swimming you prefer doesn’t matter much when it comes to burning calories. But yes – and it all depends on your technique.
For Michael Phelps and Cathy Ledecky, the world is simple: “For trained swimmers swimming at a steady pace, backstroke is the most economical stroke, followed by backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke,” says Mitch Lomax, Reader in Physiology of pulmonary exercise at the University of Portsmouth. “Thus, a well-trained swimmer will burn fewer calories during the backstroke than the breaststroke, all other parameters being equal (distance, speed, time, etc.).”
Mitch Lomax teaches pulmonary physiology in the School of Sport, Health and Exercise at the University of Portsmouth. Lomax’s research focuses on respiratory limitations during exercise and techniques used to mitigate them, including respiratory muscle training and respiratory muscle warm-up. Lomax has a special interest in swimming physiology and has conducted research for Swim England, the IOC and FINA looking at recovery strategies for pool swimmers and safe lower water limits for open water swimming and triathlon.
What about us mere mortals? “In the example of a recreational swimmer who only swims the breaststroke and keeps his head above water, he may be able to swim in a straight line,” says Lomax. “But if they can’t breathe properly when they’re front crawling, they’re thrashing their head from side to side, and they’re dragging their feet through the water at an angle — they’re going to find front crawling harder and burn more calories in front crawling. crawl than breaststroke because they are less economical.’ That may sound like a good thing, but there’s a good reason to brush up on your technique if you want to burn more calories per swim.
Swimming speed is important for burning calories
Skimming around the pool isn’t much fun, and as you work on improving your swimming, you can pick up some serious speed. “The faster you swim, the more calories you burn,” emphasizes Lomax. “Your metabolism is also likely to stay high longer after you stop swimming, which contributes to the overall calorie-burning effect of swimming.”
It’s best to master a specific stroke (such as a crawl) that you can sustain for a long period of time, as you will be able to comfortably increase the speed and duration of your sessions. If you try something challenging, like the butterfly (which burns the most calories for the average swimmer), you may find that you can’t continue the exercise for long.
The good news is that all swimming is a form of full-body exercise and engages a range of muscles, while also increasing your heart rate and burning calories. Here’s how they differ:
This kick engages the powerful leg muscles, and it can help strengthen and tone the hips, hamstrings, calves, upper back and triceps, as well as engage the muscles of the body.
Good technique and speed are the keys to getting the most out of crawling. It’s great for working your shoulders, biceps, triceps and back.
Crawl on the back
Suffering from back pain? This is the stroke for you – plus you’ll be challenging your hip flexibility, core strength and your glutes. This is a lifesaver for desk workers.
Again, this is a challenging swim that should be perfected for its ability to burn calories. In theory, this is the best calorie-burning stroke, but you’ll need to work on your technique and speed to get the most out of the move. It is also great for strengthening the upper body and improving overall flexibility.
How can I burn more calories while swimming?
If your goal is to burn calories, in addition to speeding up and switching strokes, increasing the resistance can help. “If we increase the resistance, we will have to work harder. One way is to wear drag suits—loose mesh shorts that provide extra stability. There are also special drag socks that block the flow of water, making you work harder, says Lomax.