How does swimming tone the body?

Scan the poolside line-up at any pro swim race and you’ll see the effects swimming can have on the human physique. In short, it tones and strengthens almost every single muscle in the body. Here’s the where and how…

Credit: Remy Whiting

Does swimming tone the arms and shoulders?

Unsurprisingly, your arm and shoulder muscles benefit the most from swimming – just look at Michael Phelps, a human inverted triangle! All swimming strokes work to target your upper arms, forearms and shoulders thanks to the resistance against the water as you pull through.


Does swimming tone your abdominals (belly)?

As your body tries to stabilise itself in the water as you swim, your core is constantly tightening, which means that you’re constricting and working your abs (stomach muscles) without having to do a single crunch. Flat stomach anyone?

Does swimming tone your back?

Swimming is often recommended if you have back pain or other joint issues, because it allows you to both strengthen and tone while being gentle on the problem area. Strengthening your back and the muscles along your spine can help correct several postural problems – breast stroke and butterfly are especially good for this.

Does swimming tone your bum (glutes)?

All forms of swimming engage all the major glute muscles, as well as several minor ones. Every time you kick, your glutes power your legs. For more, try holding on to a kick board, and utilise just your legs in breast-stroke style. You’ll find it’s a lot harder when you don’t have your arms to help.


Does swimming tone your legs?

Even thought you might not think all that kicking is doing that much, it’s actually building up the muscles in your thighs and calves. Tread water for several minutes or kick vigorously in the pool as you hold on to the sides. To increase the intensity, throw in a kick board again: grip it firmly with your hands and travel as many lengths as you can comfortably handle, kicking vigorously throughout, and look forward to toned shapely legs!