Popular Swimming Pool Workouts

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Recruits take the Water Survival Basic Qualification Course.
Recruits take the Water Survival Basic Qualification Course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., on Oct. 22, 2019. (Lance Cpl. Samuel C. Fletcher/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

During the winter months, many people who email me are looking for an alternative to running outside. In other words, what can they do inside to still work out? This column's focus on indoor fitness activities is on swimming. Many clubs, community centers and YMCAs have indoor swimming pools for use throughout the year. Here is what I like to do in the pool regardless of climate. This should help answer the following question covering a variety of workouts to keep the cardio high and fat metabolism moving during what many consider to be the toughest time of the year to lose weight -- the holidays.

"My goal now is to be in shape as much as possible with the schedule I have, which is 50-60 minutes during my lunch time in a swimming pool. Which of your books would you suggest I buy? P.S.: I have been through all your 45-day plan trainings before as well as your PFT workouts."

No need to buy any ebook or book, as I do not have any that solely focuses on swimming. So if you just want swim workouts, check out some of these ideas:

Swim workouts for cardio:

Do sprints/fast swims/kickboard/underwater swims first phase (20-30 minutes), then go to easy pace cardio swims to burn fat at a higher rate the second half of the workout. If you can get anaerobic first and then go aerobic in the latter part of the workout, you can focus on fat burning the last 20-30 minutes.

Workout #1

  • 5 x 50-meter sprint freestyle (change strokes as desired)
  • Rest with 20 seconds (hydrate if needed)
  • 5 x 100m sprints -- any stroke
  • Rest 40-60 seconds

The remaining time of your hour, swim at regular pace nonstop for 15-30 minutes.

Organize other workouts by adding kickboard and underwater swims, too.

Workout #2

  • 5 x 50-100m sprint/rest with 50m kickboard, using flutter kicks
  • 5 x 50-100m sprint/rest with 50m kickboard, using breast or dolphin kick

Swim with fins for 15-30 minutes nonstop.

Stretch your legs well as you will feel the burn after kickboarding using flutter kicks.

For more of an upper-body pump, add in some calisthenics or weights between laps.

Workout #3:

Repeat 5 times

  • Swim 100-200m moderate pace
  • Push-ups: 30 seconds' worth of push-ups (10-40 reps, depending on fitness level)
  • Abs of choice -- crunches, sit-ups, flutter kicks, leg levers, one minute of abs

Workout #4

(Bring a medium and a lightweight set of dumbbells to the pool deck)

Repeat 5 times

  • Swim 100-200m moderate pace
  • Pushups 10-20
  • Crunches 20-30
  • Biceps curls 10-20 reps
  • *Military press 10 reps

Now if you are really creative, ask the pool management if you can donate a pull-up/dip bar to the club or community center. I placed a pull-up, dip and vertical knee raise machine on the pool deck, and between several laps, I add in some pull-ups and dips to the above workouts. Now the swim teams use it in their training programs as well.

But I usually do the following workout when I have access to a pool and pull-up bars:

Repeat 5-7 times

  • Swim 200-250m moderate pace (adding some hypoxic swims in there, too)
  • Push-ups 20-30 reps
  • Variety of abs 20-30 reps
  • Pull-ups: max reps or 10-15 reps
  • Dips: try to match pull-ups

The best thing about this type of pull-up/dip machine is that if you cannot do pull-ups or dips, you can do an assisted version: Do pull-ups using the dip bar and keeping your feet on the floor. You also can do bench dips with a chair if you cannot do regular dips, too. See "pull-up tips" for more information.

I hope these ideas will help you with your training in the pool during the colder months of the winter when running and PTing outside is not an option.

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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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