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What Muscles Does Swimming Work?

So, what muscles does swimming work? Discover the many different muscles that swimming works in our latest blog post. Read now!

Published: 12/17/18

Have you heard? Swimming is one of the only workouts that works every single major muscle group in your body. The muscles swimming works change based on which stroke you are working on. We will dive into this and more as we look at the core of it all—how swimming can sculpt your body. You will find that if you mix it up, you can tone your entire body with swimming workouts. So, let’s find out, what muscles does swimming work?

Upper Body

Just look at a photo of an Olympic swimmer (eh hem, Michael Phelps), and you will notice that they generally have broad shoulders, sculpted deltoids, and beautifully formed trapezius muscles, creating a sort of “V” shape in their bodies. That is because moves like the breaststroke work the entire upper back and shoulder area. The most popular stroke, the freestyle, also does a lot to sculpt chest muscles and your biceps, triceps, forearms and upper back. The muscles swimming works depends on the stroke you are working on, but for the most part, your body will be heavily relying on your arms to thrust your forward through the water. Especially with moves like the butterfly stroke, the most effective all-around stroke, where you are literally propelled by the force of your arms against the resistance of the water. So, if your upper body is a weak point for you, swimming may be just the way to build up and stretch out your muscles, making them longer, leaner, and stronger.

Core Muscles

Similar to exercises like TRX suspension training, when you are swimming, your body is relying on your core to keep you stabilized. Along with all of the other benefits of swimming, you can count on the fact that every single way you swim will benefit your core. The lack of gravity requires that you try and achieve a specific posture, or, when treading, requires that you use your core to keep you above water so that you can breathe. Buoyancy and its stabilization powers, demands that you consistently try to stabilize yourself even while wading in the deep end of a pool. This is why your core muscles will be working at a higher level than if you were merely standing on land. As we get older, it is essential to have strong core muscles for stabilization when walking and simply getting around the house, and just by floating in the water, your body is utilizing its core to keep you upright. When floating on your back, many swim instructors will tell you to think of a string pulling you up from your belly button, this is so that you engage your core and will help you to build stronger abdominal and surrounding muscles and assist you in floating almost effortlessly above the water. And since everything you do in the water requires you to engage your core, this is a great way to become a more stabilized individual both in and outside of the water.


Lower Body

Don’t worry about your booty anymore! You will get a kick-ass glute workout as you propel yourself through the water using your legs to accelerate you. When you are working on your freestyle, along with your upper body and core, you will also be working on your upper legs, including your glutes, thighs, hamstrings, and quads. As you shift into strokes like the breaststroke, your legs will be moving in more of a wide circular motion (think of how a frog swims) this will be working your inner and outer thighs. And, don’t forget the backstroke which will strengthen your quadriceps and even your hamstrings. The beauty of lap swimming is, if you have a trouble area, more than likely there is a way to work it through perfecting a stroke.

For a full list of muscles used when swimming, this is a great resource.  

How To Learn These Low- Impact Exercises

There are plenty of resources online to show you exactly how to complete any one of these swimming exercises. If you would like a little more of a personal experience, join us in one of our Aqua Fit classes where you will learn how to exercise in the water, or look for a swim instructor who can help you work on your form to assure that you are getting the most out of your time in the pool. Like any other workout, form is incredibly important and could be the difference in you scorching through calories, or feeling like you didn’t even work out.

Chuze Fitness Locations with Swimming Pools

Want to swim at a Chuze near you? Check out our locations with pools below!


Garden Grove, Rancho Cucamonga ,Corona, Anaheim, Cudahy ,San Bernardino


Broomfield, South Monaco, Englewood, Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster,

New Mexico:

Winrock Town Center


Reviewed By:

Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.




  1. “What Muscles Are Used in Swimming?” Elite Sports Clubs. https://eliteclubs.com/what-muscles-are-used-in-swimming/
  2. Baey, Malcom. “What muscle groups does swimming develop and its benefits.” Singapore Sports Council. https://www.myactivesg.com/Sports/Swimming/How-To-Play/Swimming-facts/What-muscle-groups-do-swimming-develop
  3. Groves, Bri. “A Look at Swimmer Muscles by Stroke.” Swimming World Magazine. 10 November, 2021. https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/a-look-at-swimmer-muscles-by-stroke/
  4. McNair, Gabrielle. “What Muscles Are Used In Swimming?” Fit Active Living. https://fitactiveliving.com/what-muscles-are-used-in-swimming/
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