Published On: February 20, 2014
By: Paul Miller, Virginia
SHAPE UP FOR SUMMER WITH THIS GREAT FITNESS ADVICE
shape up for summer with this great fitness advice
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for torching fat and toning up – and you don’t need to train like an Olympian to see results
A pool might not be the first place you think of going when you’re looking to shape up and slim down– but maybe it should be. Few other workouts burn kilojoules, boost metabolism and firm every muscle in your body (without putting stress on your joints) better than swimming.
Look no further than Stephanie Rice to see how water can whittle a sculpted silhouette. But you don’t have to be an Olympic gold medallist to get those results.
When researchers at Indiana University, US, compared recreational fitness swimmers with non-swimmers, they found that swimmers of all ages had more lean muscle and trimmer waists and hips.
And while swimming may not offer the lace-up-your-shoes-and-go convenience of running, all you need are three key items: swimsuit, cap and goggles – and you’re set to hit the water.
WHY WATER WORKS
The body-shaping benefits of swimming are the result of a perfect storm of kilojoule burn and muscle recruitment. An easy swim burns around 2100kJ an hour, while a vigorous effort can torch almost 2900kJ.
And because water is nearly 800 times denser than air, each kick, push and pull is like a mini resistance workout for your entire body – especially your core, hips, arms, shoulders and glutes. So in addition to blasting kilojoules as you swim, you build lean muscle, which ignites your metabolism so that you burn more kilojoules once you’ve showered and dried off.
The twist is that while swimming makes you lean and mean, it’s also kind to your body.
Water basically neutralises gravity, so you become virtually weightless when immersed, giving your joints a much-needed break.
“You can swim almost every day without risking injury,” says Dr Joel Stager, a professor of kinesiology who has studied the effects of swimming for years.
And that makes swimming something you can do for your entire life – a major bonus because it can literally help you stay younger.
“Our research shows that habitual swimmers are biologically up to 20 years younger than their actual age,” Dr Stager says.
The research revealed that a swimmer’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular performance, central nervous system and cognitive functioning are all comparable to someone far younger.
THE STARTING BLOCK
Most newbies hit the pool with high expectations. They jump into the water all gung-ho and plan to swim for a solid half hour.
“Four minutes later, they’re inevitably hanging onto the edge, feeling completely defeated,” says swimming coach Joel Shinofield.
That’s because training in water requires your cardiovascular system and muscles to work far differently than they do on land.
Your lungs have to adjust to a new way of breathing (you can’t suck in air anytime you want like with dry-land workouts), and unlike any other form of exercise, swimming requires every muscle in your body to work together as a team to keep you moving forward and staying afloat.
“The key to an effective swimming routine is splitting it into shorter segments, mixing in a variety of work and rest intervals, and using different strokes, drills and intensities,” says Shinofield.
“It’s not only more interesting but also a better workout.”
Don’t worry that you’re wasting time by taking rest breaks. “Swimming isn’t like walking, during which your heart rate drops quickly. It stays raised for at least 30 seconds after a few laps,” he says.
Try this starter swim workout:
Swim four lengths of the pool at an easy effort (catch your breath at the wall between lengths if you need to). Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat five to 10 times.
Try that two or three times a week for the first two weeks. If you haven’t swum for a while, use a kickboard for the first four lengths. It will help you get used to swimming without having to coordinate your arms and legs.
Once you master this workout, try our bikini-body workout.
Freestyle is a favourite because it’s easy to learn and it burns major kilojoules. But it pays to mix things up a bit.
“Using various strokes balances your muscles and helps beat boredom,” says Shinofield.
Backstroke improves your posture by working your back and shoulder muscles and breaststroke uses the hip and inner-thigh muscles, which are often missed in other workouts.
Get the most from each stroke by following Shinofield’s advice:
Backstroke Look straight up at the sky or ceiling – not at your toes, which causes your hips to sink – so your head is in line with your spine. Make a Y – reach back with each arm at a 45-degree angle to your body; it places less stress on your shoulders and makes your stroke stronger.
Breaststroke Reach your arms overhead, palms together. Rotating your palms outwards, pull down until your hands are nearly level with your chin. Bring your hands inwards by your chest, then reach again. Bend knees and bring heels towards your bum. Turn toes outwards and kick legs back and together (like a frog) as you extend your arms forward.
The swimmer’s body
Runners have the legs, yoga chicks have the abs. Swimmers, well, they’ve got the whole package
The muscles in a swimmer’s upper back and shoulders – traps, lats and deltoids – do most of the work, creating that sculpted look.
They get toned every time an arm is extended at the completion of a stroke
Swimmers have narrower waists because they use their deepest core muscles to stabilise and rotate as they slice through the water.
Muscles in the hips and glutes propel a swimmer through the water, making her sleeker and slimmer with every kick.
A swimmer pulls power from her quads and hamstrings during each kick, giving her legs a great resistance and cardio workout without stressing the joints like dry-land workouts can.