If you’ve ever watched a professional swimming competition, one of the first things you’ll likely notice is the incredible physique of the athletes. Take the world’s winningest swimmer Michael Phelps, for example. Not only did he top Men’s Health Magazine’s Top 100 Fittest Men Ever, but with just one look at his stats, you recognize immediately how fit he truly is—at 6-feet 4-inches tall and 194 pounds, Phelps’ chest size measures in at 46-inches around. His waist, on the other hand, is a slender 34-inches. And while he’s undoubtedly an incredible athlete with incredible fitness, he wouldn’t be the person he is today if it was wasn’t for the sport that got him there in the first place: swimming.
Phelps’ abdomen is one of his most famous features and a lot of that can be attributed to the sport of swimming. If you are someone who perpetually struggles with achieving the ab structure you want, this article will give you helpful insight into why and how swimming can be the key to helping you achieve the muscle structure and tone you’ve always wanted.
Why Abs Are So Hard to Get
For decades, six-pack abs have been the ‘defining factor’ in being physically fit. And while having abs is often a common attribute of athletes, visible abdominal muscles don’t always come easily to a majority of people. There are several reasons that some people struggle to develop the chiseled, quintessential abs. Along with easily controllable things like dehydration, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol intake, and stress, abdominal development can also be hindered by factors like genetics, minimal carb consumption, and binge eating.
How Swimming Can Diminish These Obstacles
Swimming is unique because it works muscles throughout the entire body. Along with strengthening your hips, legs, and glutes through kicking, swimming is also a great way to build significant upper body strength in the arms, back, chest, and major muscle groups. More than anything, however, swimming consistently exercises the core muscles and enables your abs to aid in overall stability and body control.
Simply put, core muscles like abs, hips, and lower back are completely engaged when you’re swimming. Not only do these muscles help you balance and stay on the water’s surface, but when kicking, they have chief control over your speed and agility through the water. In correlation with your core’s rotation as you stroke, the repetitive up-and-down movement of your legs directly engages each muscle group in your abdomen. And while this rotating movement is only used in two strokes—backstroke and freestyle—other strokes like butterfly and breaststroke require your body to use a leverage-like movement that also directly targets your abs.
Regardless of which swimming stroke you favor the most, you can rest assured that not only are you getting a great workout that builds total body strength and increases endurance, but you’re also getting one of the best, most effective abdominal exercises possible.
3 Additional Water Exercises to Pair With Swimming
Along with practicing the traditional swimming strokes, consider the following pool exercises to help you get the chiseled abs you want.
- Kicking sets: Grab a kickboard and practice various types of kicks including the flutter kick, like in freestyle and backstroke where you alternate legs; dolphin kick, where your legs pulse together like a mermaid; and breaststroke kick where you imitate frog kicks by pulling your heels up toward your glutes and sweep them out, back, and around. Focus on engaging your abs during each kick.
- Treading water: In deep water, spend 30-second intervals switching between treading as hard and aggressively as you can and floating on your back for 30 seconds. This high-intensity exercise helps you firm up muscles all over and is a big-time calorie killer.
- Water jogs: Similar to treading water, this exercise is done in short-burst intervals and can greatly work your core. In waist-deep water, spend 30 seconds jogging aggressively making sure to engage arms, raise knees, and rotate through the core. Between intervals, spend 30 seconds lightly walking in a large circle.
If you think you’ve tried everything to get rock-hard abs with no results, consider hitting the pool for regular swimming workouts that strengthen the whole body, target the abs, and increase endurance. For more information on how you can find your fittest self, check out the services and other blog posts offered by the swimming experts at SwimJim, today.