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TOPIC: Swimming: Does it burn more fat or build more muscle?

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July 10, 2012 3:45 PM
Hey guys, Just wondering if anyone know what swimming does more, building muscle or burning fat or both?
I've been swimming for a while now because I sprained my ankle really bad and its the only thing I've been able to do lately. I've been pushing myself to do more laps and really get a good workout, but have noticed I'm not losing as much weight as I was when I was running, but I feel like my muscles seem stronger and a bit more toned.
ust curious!!
July 10, 2012 3:48 PM
It's cardio but will build up your back and is good for core. Problem is you appetite often goes up from being in water colder than your body temp.
July 10, 2012 3:49 PM
it's cardio, so basically it will burn glycogen first, then a combination of fat & muscle
July 10, 2012 3:50 PM
Burns fat.

ETA: Your muscles will naturally appear more "toned" as you shed the fat. It's not an actual increase in muscle, it was there before, it's just been uncovered :)
Edited by HeidiMightyRawr On July 10, 2012 4:05 PM
July 10, 2012 3:51 PM
I swim for both - not so much muscle "building" but for muscle development and endurance.
And the cardio benefits are obvious.
I believe swimming is one of the best exercises a person can perform.
Edited by Bobby_Clerici On July 10, 2012 3:51 PM
July 10, 2012 3:53 PM
Well I really like it, I just don't know a lot about swimming laps and what sort of exercise it is for your body.
Its a better overall body workout, in my opinion because I feel like I am doing more.
July 11, 2012 2:02 AM
Recently I've been trying to mix up the way I swim. Obviously doing different strokes hits different muscle groups. But I have also been doing 50 laps continuously at a moderate pace, and then throwing in an extra 10 laps at the end at full throttle, with rests between every 2. Think it's a combination of both really.
Also, if you're feeling up for it, try doing a few laps with just upper body, as this is weaker, it's sure to work them just as well as really light free weights.
July 11, 2012 2:07 AM
That is mainly cardio but the resistance in water makes our body work more especially when you do freestyle (my all time favorite) where it also work your core, obliques shoulders & back. So far I can only manage to do 20 laps since I don't swim often as I have no access to a pool & have to travel an hour just to get to the nearest public pool.
July 11, 2012 2:19 AM
Swimming just tends to not be a good way (for average people) to lose weight. You really have to be a talented swimmer to get a good consistent burn going. (3000-5000 yard workouts). You also have to be sure you are pushing yourself... one of the problems with swimming is that for your calorie burns you have to be quite subjective. Running 6 miles per hour is pretty consistent in calorie burns for all people of a similar gender and weight. with swimming we end up having to go with terms like "vigorous" or "moderate". A lot of people have a different concept of vigorous swimming than say a competitive swimmer. On top of all of this... add in... for a lot of people the cold water can actually serve to increase your appetite.

Chances are that you might just be recording too much of a calorie burn for swimming. Unfortunately, swimming gets a reputation for burning a crazy number of calories, and if you're Michael Phelps, it does. However, If you are not a strong swimmer... chances are a LOT lower.
July 11, 2012 12:38 PM
Thanks for some more input guys! I've started to see more definition in my upper body, especially my arms. I think I will try and rotate different styles to workout different muscles. I'm not a GREAT swimmer, but I think I have the technique down pretty well. And I usually feel the burn in my muscles. Its all I can do right now, so I want to make the most of it!
July 11, 2012 2:21 PM
As the other respondents have said, swimming is great cardio and also helps tone and shape as you do get resistance from the water which also supports you so it's great if you are prone to impact injuries.

I disagree entirely with anyone who says it's not a good way to lose weight, although I would say that like anything you do need to put in the effort. Swimming is the backbone of my exercise routine and it's certainly helped me lose 60 lbs. I've also gone from swimming 500m in 30mins to regularly swimming 2000m in 60mins and I even completed a 5km swim in 2h 45min earlier this year.

MFP's exercise database values for swimming are woefully inaccurate, I'm afraid; it will give you a calorie burn that's about 40-50% inaccurate. I did some research and found a formula that provides a better guestimate based on your weight and lap times. I've created a spreadsheet with both metric and imperial options which you can access here:

Most of all, enjoy your swimming as it's fantastic fun and so good for you bigsmile
July 11, 2012 2:43 PM
Oh dear! and I've been using MFP guesstimates! Even the "leisurely" swim and water treading give me muscle aches/burns as I am not at all a strong swimmer. More of an enjoyment than an exercise!ohwell
July 11, 2012 3:01 PM
LOL! From looking at my 13 year old daughter, both. She has a very strong and defined upper body (still very feminine) and low fat.

Of course, she does this competitively year round and swimming 1-2 miles each practice is the norm.


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