3 Swim Strokes to Master for a Full-Body Workout

Swimming backstroke
Photo by Ryan Fleischer on Unsplash

Swimming is an awesome way to get a full workout, since moving through the water’s resistance works your muscles naturally and coming up and down for air works your cardiovascular system in tandem with moving against resistance. When it comes to a full-body workout, there are two strokes that work 48 of your muscles—which is a lot! And there’s one more that’s great for a cool-down. Here’s what to learn for a full-body workout in the pool!


Also known as the front crawl, a freestyle stroke involves alternating arm sides to pull you through the water. That means you get a brief rest on one side while the other side works out, and you come up to breathe only every other stroke. Meanwhile, your feet are doing a flutter kick, which is important but in fact, your arms are doing most of the propulsion work in this stroke.


Butterfly has a bit of a reputation as the hardcore swim stroke and there’s good reason for it. Though it works the same number of muscles as freestyle, it’s more strenuous on the body and involves the entire core and legs as well as arms which propel you out of the water on every stroke. You’re moving everything all the time, too, so you don’t get that alternating rest for an intense cardio and muscle workout.


Backstroke is a great stroke to learn to especially strengthen back muscles, which is especially good for those prone to back pain. It also works most of the rest of the body, but if you’re looking for a full-body stroke, it’s particularly good for warmup and cooldown before launching into butterfly. That’s because you keep your face above water at all times, so you’ll have a little more control over your breathing and be able to raise your heart rate more slowly.