10 Swimming Workouts That Build Strength


Unlike any other activity or workout, a swim workout makes your whole body active and uses every muscle you have to move through the water. This is why swimming exercises are not great only for your heart and at increasing lung capacity, but for your whole body. Even in cold water.

Combined with the fact that the spring is just around the corner and the summer is not so far away either, making a list of 10 swim workout drills that will help you build your strength seems like a natural fit. So, let this article be the first step of a swimming workout plan. Remember, every kick and each stroke make a difference and help you develop, not to mention other swimming exercise benefits and swimming health benefits, so don’t wait any longer and start writing down! No matter if you’re a beginner or not, this article about a swimming exercise plan will fit your needs.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 1

The best results are achieved when cardio exercise is mixed up with bodyweight drills. This way you’ll do all the needed stuff, while also keeping things interesting. Repeating all the same things can make workouts boring, this way you’ll break the monotony.

Backstroke As The Opening Act

Start your swimming exercise with a backstroke. It is great for your back and will warm up your muscles for the upcoming drills. If you don’t know how to perform a backstroke well enough, you can use the kickboard for additional buoyancy. It will allow you to concentrate on your legs and kick while keeping you up. Just hug it and go. One lap is enough.

Jump Squats

Find the place where the water is deep to your waist. Stand there with your feet a bit wider than your shoulders.  As you keep the weight on your heels, move your hips back and squat so your shoulders go under the water. Then, when your shoulders are submerged, force your body to jump as high as possible in the air using your feet. When you land, just continue this drill. Repeat it 20 times.

Seal Jacks

Now it is time to go a bit deeper. Stop when the water reaches your shoulders and join your feet. Place your arms in the extension directly in front of your chests keeping them at the height of your shoulders, with your palms pointing in. Jump using both feet sideways, while you open your arms wide out to the sides at the same time. It will get you into a position that resembles the star. Then, reverse it by jumping back to the center while bringing your arms back in front of your chests. Try to speed it up as you do it. The goal is to complete the move as fast as possible. Repeat it 20 times.

Wall Push-ups

While staying in water that is somewhere between your waist and shoulder deep, go to the pool wall and face it. Place your hands on the wall or the edge of the pool, whichever suits you better. Keep your palms in line with your shoulders and your elbows extended. While your body remains straight, bend the elbows while lowering your chest in the direction of the wall. When your elbows reach a 90 degrees angle, stop and reverse the motion until your elbows are again extended. Repeat 20 times.

Fake Ropes

While you’re in water that is between your waist and your shoulders deep, place your feet at hip-distance from each other. Bend your elbows; put your hands to your sides like you’re holding a jumping rope. Then mimic that exact movement, like you’re jumping the rope. Repeat it 20 times.

But Kicks

You’ll need water deep up to your hips or shoulders for this drill. It is not complicated, you’ll just jog in place, but the goal is to bring your heel as close to your butt as possible. Repeat it 20 times.

Water Jogging

Same as with the workout described above, it is fairly simple, yet quite effective. The goal is to jog across the pool, back and forth. If it is not possible to jog across the whole pool because one end is deep, you may dog-paddle across that part, swim across it, or simply cut the distance but double the laps. For instance, if you want to jog for 100 meters/yards but the pool becomes deep after 25, then the solution is to jog two times to the middle and back, instead of one whole lap.

Jump Lunges

While standing in hip-deep water, move your right foot one big step ahead of your left foot. Try to keep your upper body upright, and then bend both your knees while lowering your left knee to the ground. Once the water reaches your chests, jump and change legs while up in the air, so your left foot comes in front when you land. Once you’re down, repeat it instantly, and do both legs 10 times.

Flutter Kicks

While on the edge of the pool, hold it, keep your arms straight up, and lock your elbows. Lift your legs and do the flutter kicks 100 times, as hard as you can.

How Long Does It Take?

For this workout, it will take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete, if you repeat the sets three or five times. As you progress, you’ll become faster and faster.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 2

The next drill can be a bit boring, but you could make it interesting by keeping track of your time. It is called a pyramid. Start by swimming the crawl/freestyle technique for 50 meters/yards, then rest for 15 seconds. Then swim 100 meters/yards (or two lengths of the Olympics pool), take a break. Then go 200 (four lengths), 400, 800, then 1500 with 30 seconds break after each distance is over. When you’re done with 1500, take a one minute break, and start going backward – 1000, 800, 400, 200 meters/yards, 100, and finish with a 50 meter of slow and relaxing freestyle.

This is not recommended for beginners, but you could start with smaller distances, like 50, 100, 200, and then reverse it. As you go, you can increase the distance until you manage to swim the whole pyramid without a problem. For this, you’ll need a good and comfortable swimsuit, and it is recommended to have swimming goggles. Also, swimming headphones won’t hurt, in case you become bored.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 3

If you’re looking for something more dynamic but would like to stick to the swimming part without any other drills, then you could try this one:

  • Start with 100 meters/yards crawl/freestyle, but pay attention to the form of each stroke and kick, try to be as precise as you can.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Do 50 meters/yards kicking only. If you have a kickboard with you, great. If not, you could do it with your hands extended in front of you, but if you’re a beginner, it is recommended to use a kickboard, because it will help you float so you could concentrate on your kicks.
  • Return to your starting side with 50 meters/yards breaststroke, while being focused on form.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • 100 meters/yards arm strokes using paddles are next. Pay special attention to the upper body. It could help to place a pull buoy between your legs to keep hips up.
  • 50 meters/yards freestyle with special focus on form, not the pace.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Another 100 meters/yards freestyle with paddles, but this time you’ll focus on big pulls.
  • 50 meters/yards breaststroke.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Then comes the next 100 meters/yards with paddles, but this time the goal is to push the water backward as efficiently as you can during your strokes.
  • Get on your back and do 50 meters/yards backstroke.
  • Rest for 60 seconds.
  • Put the paddles on and do 100 meters/yards while giving it all you’ve got and trying to be as fast as possible.
  • Finish with easy and relaxing 50 meters/yards.

The overall distance of this workout is 850 meters/yards, and it should last between 30 minutes and 45, if you’re not so fast or if you’re just a beginner.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 4

Recommended for beginners, this workout is quite dynamic, it is made of basic styles – crawl/freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly, and it is great to improve endurance while also helping you improve your all-around swimming technique.

  • Start with a 200-meter crawl/freestyle (freestyle) warm-up, without resting.
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • Start 4 x 50 meters/yards crawl/freestyle with rests of 15 seconds, with sprinting for the first 25 meters/yards, then swimming slowly the second part of the pool.
  • Rest for 30 seconds
  • Do 4 x 100 meters/yards IM (Individual medley – 25 butterfly, 25 backstrokes, 25 breaststrokes, 25 freestyle) with 30 seconds rest between every finished 100 meters/yards.
  • Wrap it up with a relaxing and slow-paced 200 meters/yards crawl/freestyle.

The total length of this workout is 1000 meters/yards. It is great because you’ll work out while your muscles will get the chance to rest when doing a different swimming style.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 5


Now the things are getting a bit more difficult. If you want to take a step forward and raise the bar a bit, this 1600 meters/yards drill that will develop all of your four strokes is great.

  • Start with 200 easy crawl/freestyle as a warm-up.
  • Do 4×100 IM, but in reversed order – first freestyle, then breaststroke, backstroke and finish with butterfly, with 30 seconds rest after every 100.
  • 4×50 butterfly with 15 seconds rest
  • 4×50 backstroke
  • 4×50 breaststroke
  • 2×100 regular IM, but with sprints – on first 100 sprint butterfly and breaststroke, on second sprint freestyle and backstroke with 30 second rests after each 100
  • 200 slow-paced each stile cool off to relax your muscles

This drill will not only improve your swimming techniques, it will also improve your overall strength and fitness level along the way.

You might also like: When Is The Best Time To Go Swimming

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 6

This 2700 meter long workout is recommended for intermediate swimmers who want to master their strokes.

  • Start with a 300-meter mix of strokes as a warm-up (3×25 of each)
  • Follow with 4×100 IM at your own pace with 30 seconds resting
  • Take the kickboard and start 4×100 kick only. If you don’t have it, you can do it without it.
  • 4×100 IM pull only – use a pull buoy or cross the ankles
  • 2×100 sprints with 40-second rest
  • 4×50 butterfly, 30 seconds rest
  • 4×50 breaststroke
  • Finish with 400 meters/yards slow and relaxing crawl/freestyle.

With drills that focus solely on kick or stroke, it will improve both your technique and strength. Also, if you’re confident enough, you may use swim paddles.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 7

Lots of sprints, 2000 total distance, this is an up-tempo workout.

  • Begin with 400 meters warm-up with changing strokes every 25.
  • 200 crawl/freestyle – pull only 25, kick only 25 without a kickboard, repeat until 200
  • 4×200 IM
  • 4×25 butterfly sprints
  • 4×25 backstroke sprints
  • 4×25 breaststroke sprints
  • 4×25 crawl/freestyle wind sprints – without breathing the whole length
  • Rest for 30 seconds in between, then one minute after you’re done
  • 200 slow-paced crawl/freestyle to cool off

When it comes to resting time, feel free to adjust it according to your condition. If you feel like you’re exhausted, take a one-minute break before starting wind sprints.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 8 and 8.1

This 1800-long workout is made to help you get the most out of backstroke and butterfly.

Workout 8

  • Open with 200m mixed strokes (alternating crawl/freestyle pulls and kicks, backstroke and butterfly).
  • 2×100 backstroke pulling and kicks. Do not use the kickboard, instead of cross your ankles while pulling and stretch your hands while kicking.
  • 8×50 backstroke with counting three kicks per stroke and 15 seconds rest between.
  • 2×100 butterfly, also alternating kicks and pulls.
  • 8×50 butterfly
  • 200 alternating lengths of butterfly and backstroke
  • 200 warm downmix stroke – butterfly, backstroke, and easy crawl/freestyle

Workout 8.1

All the same, just do the breaststroke and crawl/freestyle instead of backstroke and butterfly.

With special attention to pulls and kicks, this workout is great for developing your chests and back muscles. And they’ll only get better as you develop your technique.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 9

With all strokes included, this workout is made for advanced swimmers who want to take their condition to the next level. The total distance is 3400 meters/yards.

  • Start with 300 mixes of all four strokes
  • 2×100 butterfly sprints, rest 30 seconds between each
  • 2×100 backstroke sprints, rest 30 seconds
  • 2×100 breaststroke sprints, rest 30 seconds
  • 2×200 IM, kick only, with or without a kickboard
  • 2×200 IM, pull only, with or without a pull buoy
  • 4×100 butterfly, rest 30 seconds
  • 4×100 backstroke, rest 30 seconds
  • 4×100 breaststroke, rest 30 seconds
  • 200 IM with all four strokes
  • 300 slow-paced crawl/freestyle to call off

By raising the bar by challenging the bigger distance, you’ll not only practice all four strokes and improve them by a kick and pull only drills, but you’ll also make your muscles work out even stronger than before. Just make sure you’ve used all strokes during the warm-up so you prevent shoulder injury.

Swimming Strength-Building Workout 10

Another monster workout for advanced swimmers, lots of sprints and quite challenging, with the length of 3400 represents one of the best workouts that will not only make you a better swimmer, but it will also transform you into an absolute swimming beast.

  • 500 meters/yards of changing strokes every 25 meters/yards as a warm-up
  • 4×50 butterfly sprints, trying to sprint at the same pace, resting 30 seconds between two
  • 4×50 backstroke sprints, trying to keep up the pace, resting 30 seconds
  • 4×50 breaststroke sprints, resting 30 seconds
  • Rest for one minute if you have to
  • 4×50 wind sprints crawl/freestyle, rest 30
  • 200 crawl/freestyle pulls and kicks without the kickboard – 25 pull first, 25 kick second, repeat the cycle
  • 4×200 Individual medley at the comfortable pace
  • 4×25 butterfly sprints
  • 4×25 backstroke sprints
  • 4×25 breaststroke sprints
  • 4×25 crawl/freestyle wind sprints
  • 200 IM at a relaxing pace
  • 500 crawl/freestyle to cool off and relax

Lots of sprints will help your speed and breathing technique. Other drills are there to improve your technique. The combination of sprints with pulls and kicks will force you to use that improved technique during those sprints, so you could see the difference instantly.

Globo Surf Overview

These 10 swim workout suggestions should be more than enough to help you gain strength and condition, while also further developing your swimming technique. In case you wonder why we’ve used meters/yards, many public pools around the world are made by the Olympic measurements – 50 meters long and 25 meters wide, so it is useful to know what to do if you end up practicing in one of those. Get the doctor’s approval before, learn how to quickly recover from swimming, and also it is good to get one of those foam rollers for swimmers to help you relax and fight the soreness. And yeah, make sure you’ve learned the swimming pool etiquette before starting your swim workout!

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