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How Many Laps Is A Good Swim Workout?- Lap Swim Guide

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It is widely accepted that swimmers are some of the fittest and most well-rounded athletes out there.

Top swimmers are shaped and toned into athletic perfection by swimming hundreds and hundreds of laps, as well as spending hours in the gym to improve other physical traits such as strength and power.

Many elite swimmers have a resting heart rate of 45 beats per minute or even lower. This is because swimming is such an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. Swimming will tone up your body, increase endurance, fitness, and overall athleticism.

Now, I am totally aware that the average person is only looking to throw in a good swim workout here and there to improve cardiovascular fitness, tone up, and burn some calories.

They are most likely not looking to spend hours and hours grinding out laps like the pro’s are required to do.

In this article, I will do my best to cover all the basics of lap swimming for the average individual, newbie or beginner swimmer.

I will also cover some of the more advanced parts of swimming for those looking to progress further or for those who have already built up a good base of swimming fitness and technique.

How many laps is a good swim workout?

I often hear many first time or even intermediate swimmers discussing how many lengths is a good swim workout. In truth, it really isn’t about the number of laps you dish out or how long the swim workout is in total, but rather the intensity and aim of those laps.

For example, an advanced swimmer could swim either 16 laps (8×50’s) absolutely maxed out, as fast as possible in about 30-40 minutes or they could probably dish out over 100 laps in the pool just by swimming up and down at a decent pace.

So there really isn’t a set amount of laps that you ‘should’ be swimming for a good workout, but when it comes to simply swimming at a moderate pace to get in some distance, build up fitness, and burn some calories there are a few rough guidelines that you can follow.

If you want to get in a good swim workout in about 30 minutes, you should be swimming at least 20 to 30 laps as a beginner, roughly 40 to 50 laps as an intermediate swimmer, and about 60 laps or more as an advanced swimmer.

For those of you who have more time available and are able to fit in longer swim workouts in your schedule, say 1-hour swim workouts, I recommend the following-

Some good guidelines would be about 60 to 80 laps or about 1500m for beginners, 80 to  100 laps for intermediate swimmers, and roughly 120 laps or more for advanced swimmers. Those are the recommended guidelines if you want a good swim workout.

If you follow those guidelines you should be able to get in a good swim workout every time you hit the pool and dish out some lengths. Whether it may be for 30 minutes or for 2 hours it all depends on your goals and where you want to take your swimming.

In terms of whether you are going to be training in yards or meters, it doesn’t matter too much for your average swimmer since there is only a slight difference in distance between the two. But if you do swim in yards and want to make sure that you get the full package, I recommend just adding a few extra laps to the given guidelines.

It is also important to take into account that some swimmers, especially beginners who are new to the sport of swimming, may get bored quickly by only swimming up and down until they have hit their goal number of lengths for that swim workout.

That’s why I definitely recommend that you follow a well-structured swimming program, join a swim club or at the very least just compile a list of some good and challenging swim workouts that you can cycle through.

This will make your swimming much more exciting, enjoyable, and effective. You’ll also most likely be more motivated and pumped to hit the pool and train hard next time you have to go and get in a swim workout.

How many lengths should I swim in 30 minutes?

The number of lengths you should swim in 30 minutes depends on the workout. If you are talking about just swimming freestyle for 30 minutes straight, then a good guideline would be about 20-30 lengths for beginners, around 40-50 lengths for intermediate swimmers and roughly 60 lengths for advanced swimmers.

How many laps should I swim to lose weight?

When it comes to losing weight it isn’t necessarily about the number of laps or lengths you swim, but rather about the amount of energy you consume versus the amount of energy you burn.

In the modern world, this energy can be described as calories or kilojoules. So in short, if you want to lose weight you have to consume less energy than you burn. Swimming laps should only be seen as an aid in achieving this energy deficit.

You can follow the lap swimming guidelines I gave above if you want to lose weight, but you are also going to have to make an active effort to eat healthier, less energy-dense foods like salads and vegetables. Just make sure to also incorporate protein-rich foods like eggs and chicken breast to allow muscle fibers to repair and recover.

How many times a week should I swim?

The number of times you swim in a week goes hand in hand with getting in good swim workouts and swimming enough distance when you do swim. It doesn’t help to crush a good swim workout and then not to swim for the next 2 weeks. You have to stay consistent if you want good results.

Swimmers who are at the beginner levels should aim to swim two to three times a week. More experienced swimmers should make it their goal to swim at least four to five times a week. Many competitive and elite level swimmers train about five to ten times a week.

In terms of how many days a week you should, I would also recommend about two to three days a week for beginners and four to five days per week for more experienced swimmers. Once you reach six days per week you are going to have to start swimming doubles.

Is it OK to swim every day?

If you are a true swim fanatic you might be wondering whether or not you can swim every day and whether it is healthy or not.

In short– the answer is yes. You can swim every day and it is completely okay to do so. Swimming is a low impact sport and it doesn’t place as much stress on joints and muscles as other physical activities like running or lifting weights.

It is, however, important to make sure that your body is getting adequate recovery if you decide to swim every day of the week. You need to be able to recognize when it feels like you are getting over trained or under recovered and to take a day off when you need it.

7 Tips for beginning lap swimmers

7 Tips for beginner lap swimmers-

  1. Focus on mastering the basic swimming technique.
  2. Set goals to point you in the right direction for your swim career.
  3. Stay consistent with your swimming workouts.
  4. Create your own swimming program and schedule.
  5. Incorporate swimming drills into your training.
  6. Swim on timed intervals to enhance speed.
  7. Make sure you have the necessary swimming equipment.

1. Focus on nailing the basic swim technique

The first thing a beginner lap swimmer is going to want to learn is the basic swim technique for all four of the strokes. Namely, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Most of the time lap swimmers are going to be swimming freestyle and backstroke so it is important to get the technique down for those strokes first.

Having good swimming technique is a critical part of being able to swim fast and efficiently. It is going to help you to reduce resistance in the pool, save energy, and to swim with more speed.

If you do not master the basic swimming technique for the swimming strokes you are going to have a very, very hard time getting in a good workout and swimming enough lengths in the water.

2. Set goals for your swimming

Goal setting is very important for any athlete, whether you are a beginner or an elite level Olympic swimmer- you need goals. Goals help you to determine what you should be doing in the water and how to get there.

Goals also play a big role in motivating you to get to the pool on tough days when you don’t feel like training by reminding you of the bigger picture. Your goals can be basic- like being able to swim a mile under 30 minutes or they can be more challenging like swimming a 100 freestyle under a minute.

3. Stay consistent with your swim training

Consistency is probably one of the most important factors when it comes to building up a decent base of swimming fitness and becoming a better swimmer. If you only show up to training here and there when you feel like it, you will never be able to reach your swimming goals.

It is important to stay consistent and to show up for training when you need to. No matter if you feel like it or not.

4. Create your own swimming program and schedule

Having a swimming program and a schedule can be highly beneficial for beginner swimmers. As a matter of fact, I almost want to say that it is absolutely necessary. You need to have a rough training schedule of which days you are going to train and at what time. This will get your body into a routine.

a Swimming program is essential for you to know what you should be doing in the pool that day and to make proper progress. If you come into training without a proper routine that increases in difficulty as you become fitter and stronger, you are probably not going to make much progress, if any at all.

5. Incorporate swimming drills into your workouts

This almost goes hand in hand with learning proper swimming technique for each stroke. Swimming drills are a great way to focus on specific aspects of your stroke and to improve places where you might be lacking- like hand entry or head position in the water.

Try to incorporate a minimum of 10 laps or so of swimming drills into your swim workouts or make them a part of your warmup routine when you jump in.

6. Start to swim on timed intervals

Once you start to get down the basic swimming technique and build up some fitness it might be valuable to you to incorporate some timed interval swimming. Meaning swimming X amount of distance in Y amount of time.

For example, you can do 10x50s freestyle on 1 minute as a start, and then slowly decrease the time you have to swim each 50 as you get more experienced in the water.

7. Stock up on the right swimming equipment

There is a lot of different swimming equipment and gear available out there and for good reason too. Swimming equipment can be a valuable aid in improving certain aspects of your swimming technique, strength or power.

For example, you can use swimming fins to improve power generation using your legs. You can use a kickboard to increase kicking speed and you can use a snorkel to improve your head- and body position while swimming.

If you would like a more extensive list of what swimming equipment you should have in your swim bag, then I highly recommend you check out my article- “The ultimate swimming gear checklist”.

Spicing up your workout schedule with cross-training.

Almost all competitive and elite level swimmers incorporate other forms of training into their schedules, it may be running, lifting weights, cycling or doing various bodyweight workouts. I highly recommend you to do the same, even if you aren’t at the elite level.

For example, if you swim three days a week you may choose to do some running or weight lifting on your off days. Bodyweight workouts, such as calisthenics, can also provide significant benefits in terms of toning up and building some extra muscle and strength.

Personally, I would recommend you to do some form of strength training if you do decide to mix cross-training into your routine. Swimming already works your cardiovascular system a lot, so there really isn’t too much of a need to incorporate other cardio activities.

Strength training can be anything from lifting light to moderate weights, doing medicine ball workouts or like mentioned earlier, hitting the pull-up bar for a good calisthenics workout. This will help to strengthen muscles that can prevent injury in the pool and aid in swimming faster.

Other cross-training activities can include things like stretching or yoga. Flexibility and mobility are also highly important for any athlete and especially swimmers.

4 Awesome swimming workouts

You may be asking- “now what is a good swim workout?” Well, below are a few basic examples of some good swimming workouts that you can incorporate into your swimming program and adjust to make them harder and more challenging.

Swimming Workout 1- beginner swim workout

  • Warmup: 400 easy freestyle and backstroke swim (200 each)
  • Pre-set: 8x50s freestyle drills (10 seconds rest between 50s)
  • Mainset: 6x100s swim alternating freestyle and backstroke
  • Cooldown: 100 easy swim
  • Total: 1500 meters/yards

Swimming Workout 2- intermediate swim workout

  • Warmup: 600 easy swimming (alternate 100 freestyle, 100 drills)
  • Pre-set: 5x50s kicking on 1:00, 5x50s freestyle on 0:50, 5x50s backstroke or breaststroke on 1:00
  • Mainset: 4x200s choice build (increase speed each 50)
  • Cooldown: 300 easy choice swim
  • Total: 2450 meters/ yards

Swimming Workout 3- intermediate/ advanced swim workout

  • Warmup: 800 easy + 200 choice drills
  • Pre-set: 8x50s breakouts on 1:00 (15m blast, 35 easy)
  • Mainset: 4 rounds- 100 best stroke on 1:30 (1:45 for breaststroke), 4x50s sprint on 0:45, 100 easy kick with board.
  • Cooldown: 500 easy choice swim
  • Total: 3500 meters/yards

Swimming Workout 4- 30 minute swim workout for beginners

  • Warmup: 200 easy swim
  • Pre-set: 6x50s choice drills (focusing on technique)
  • Mainset: 5x100s freestyle swimming (20 seconds rest in between each 100)
  • Cooldown: 200 easy backstroke
  • Total: 1200 meters/yards
If you want some more swimming workouts and examples then I recommend you check out my article- 10 Awesome swimming endurance workouts. I highly recommend compiling a list of swim workouts that you can adjust to make them harder as you become a fitter and more experienced swimmer.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, swimming is more than the number of laps or the total distance you swim in each workout. It’s much more complex than that. There are a hundred little details that swimmers should be focusing on to become better and faster.

For example- improving your swim technique, turns, dives, underwaters, your overall strength, and power. Just to name a few of the things.

By following some of the guidelines and workouts I have given in this article, you can gradually begin to build up your overall fitness level and move one step closer to reaching your fitness goals. Make sure to mix in some other physical activities here and there to spice things up and to keep it interesting.

Make sure to work on your flexibility and to ensure that you get adequate amounts of recovery in between each workout.

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About the author

Benjamin Strydom

Benjamin Strydom

I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with over a decade of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing everything I have learned about the sport. I specialize in swimming butterfly and my favorite event is the 100m butterfly with the 50m and 200m fly closely following.

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