Swimming Stroke: Which Provides the Best Muscle Workout?

If you've ever taken a swimming class you know that there are several styles. Each swimming stroke has its own characteristics, which is why some contribute more to muscular development than others.
Swimming Stroke: Which Provides the Best Muscle Workout?

Last update: 14 November, 2019

Swimming is one of the most comprehensive forms of exercise there is. This is due to multiple factors, but the most important is the number of muscles exerted by the swimming stroke in question. With just a single athletic activity, you can enjoy a full-body workout. In addition, swimming also strengthens the cardiovascular system, improves strength, and increases endurance.

There are different varieties of swimming stroke to choose from, depending on the muscle groups you want to work out. Beyond that, the development of proper technique is vital to optimal performance. As we’ll see, the stroke that works out the most muscles is the front crawl.

Swimming stroke: the front crawl

The front crawl is one of the best-known and most popular swimming strokes. It consists of the swimmer facing down and moving through the water with each arm alternating the stroke.

The arms come out of the water, going up and over the head before submerging again. Meanwhile, the legs accompany this movement with kicks to create greater propulsion.

Woman swimming underwater

With all swimming strokes, it’s important to remain aware of your breathing. In a front crawl, the swimmer inhales through the mouth while turning the head to one side, and exhales when the face is back underwater.

Muscles worked out by the front crawl

The front crawl is the stroke that works out the muscles the most. In particular, it works out the triceps, biceps, and deltoids, as well as the abs, the glutes, the intercostals, and the hip stabilizers. With respect to the legs, the quadriceps also play a fundamental role in this swimming style.

Characteristics and advantages

The front crawl is known as a very simple and easy-to-learn stroke, both comfortable and economical in terms of endurance. In order to use this style, it’s a good idea to learn how to breathe on both sides so as to avoid an imbalance in the spine.

The front crawl is highly beneficial to our bodies. On the one hand, it’s great for toning the aforementioned muscles. On the other, it’s a low-impact activity, meaning that the joints used aren’t overworked.


When it comes to swimming strokes, it’s very important to keep certain health-related considerations in mind. In terms of the front crawl, you should make note of the following recommendations in order to avoid improper movements and discomfort.

Swim in a straight line and mind your position in the water

Swimming in a straight line is one factor to consider to avoid drifting to one side and making any unnecessary effort. In addition, it’s important to pay attention to your position in the water; you need to stay as horizontal as possible. The parts of the body that stray from this horizontal position will hinder your forward progress.

Breath control

This is a fundamental aspect of this swimming stroke, one that will improve your performance while swimming. It’s important to exhale under the water and then inhale when your mouth emerges from the water. Training yourself to breathe on both sides will make your technique more efficient.

Man doing front crawl
Swimming is one of the best sports for people suffering from back issues.

Moving your arms and legs

We recommend avoiding the center of the arm being extended. This way, you won’t lose speed or force the exercise. Meanwhile, moving your legs will help you maintain a horizontal position and a straight-line course. In addition, you’ll generate propulsion horizontally and laterally.

Coordinate your movements and stretch

It’s very important to coordinate the movements of your arms. These should work in an alternating fashion, which is to say that one arm is used to propel you, while the other prepares for the same movement. In terms of the stroke, it’s best to extend the motion as far as possible, stretching yourself out in the water.

Finally, you should keep in mind that your technique will improve the more you practice. It’s also essential to swim mindfully and to know that it will help you work out multiple muscle groups. Without a doubt, swimming is one of the most complete forms of exercise and it offers a variety of physical benefits.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.