Swimming is a great option for general exercise but is it good for building abs too? Well, to answer that question we must break it down into two answers. To achieve ripped six pack abs you will need a low body fat percentage and swimming is one of the best cardio workouts around to burn fat quickly while providing resistance and a low impact on the joints. The next answer is to the question does it actually build your abs? Well, yes, indirectly swimming does work your core muscles but this doesn’t mean that you can simply swim your way to a six pack and neglect your ab workouts on dry land. Swimming is an exercise that requires total body involvement from keeping a taut core to make yourself streamline in the water to the kick power generated by using your hips and working those hip flexors and obliques (hello v-cut).
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Okay now that we have established that swimming can be an essential part of getting cut abs the next question is what is the best swimming stroke to achieve maximum fat loss? Going strictly by how many calories are burned, the top two strokes are butterfly and freestyle. Butterfly is number one because it requires a powerful dolphin kick to help propel yourself out of the water to reach top speeds. The dolphin kick expends lots of energy (calories) so butterfly will be our best bet. However, doing the butterfly can be exhausting especially for beginners without proper technique. Generating power in swimming is very important which is why resistance training can help improve time but without an efficient stroke and kick all that power is being lost instead of propelling you forward. It may be very beneficial for anyone that tries to incorporate butterfly into their workout to watch videos on YouTube about how to do it for the most benefit and do drills with kick boards in order to work on the dolphin kick.
Freestyle is my favorite stroke and is also the fastest but doesn’t burn quite as many calories as butterfly does. Butterfly is really shoulder dominant and so is freestyle to an extent but trust me, your biceps and triceps will be screaming if you swim after an upper body day in the weight room. Freestyle is a stroke that most people ‘know’ how to do intuitively but once again perfecting your technique will help you achieve faster speed and increase your endurance by not wasting so much energy on bad strokes. It is important that you try to decrease your stroke count from one end of the pool to another so that you cover as much distance as possible per stroke. The flutter kick used during freestyle generates its power from the movement of the hips not the thighs like many people tend to do. Flexibility in the ankles also helps develop a better kick which is why you will often see swimmers use fins in their training sessions.
What is the best swimming workout for abs? Training for swimming competitions is a very different pursuit than using swimming to simply achieve fat loss. I think that for fat loss purposes it would be best to utilize a swimming program that features lots of sprints or short distance swims. However, since technique is such an important part of becoming a good swimmer doing super slow strokes that focus on getting down the step by step mechanics of freestyle will be extremely beneficial for continued progression and getting the best results from a swimming workout. It takes lots of work to develop endurance in the water and while having great endurance on land helps it doesn’t translate perfectly to the water. Swimming can be a great tool for ab development and cutting the fat off so that you can actually see those ripped abs. When used in conjunction with other cardio exercises and weight training the body can become a fat burning machine.