A Cheat Sheet for Creating the Perfect Swimming Workout and Routine

Download this FREE cheat sheet to create the perfect swimming workout and routine. Learn how to structure your swim workout and enjoy 9 example workouts, ranging from beginner to advanced.

Swim Workout Cheat Sheet

9 Effective Swim Workouts for Weight Loss (Lose it Easily)

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Imagine the moment when you reunite with friends or family after not seeing them for a few months, and they can’t help but notice the radiant glow of health and fitness you emit. While achieving this is far from impossible, it will require you to make some transformative lifestyle changes. 

So, if you want to lose weight, swimming is an excellent place to start. Not only does it burn many calories, but it’s also a great full-body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness and physical strength. 

And that’s not to mention all of the other benefits of swimming. 

In this article, I won’t only provide you with a list of actionable swim workouts for weight loss, but I’ll also go into the science of swimming for weight loss, provide actionable tips to speed up your progress, and answer common questions you might have. 

How Can Swimming Help You Lose Weight?

Swimming is a great tool to help you lose weight since it provides a full-body workout, is low impact, and burns many calories. Additionally, swimming can build muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness. If you want to lose weight by swimming, combining it with healthy lifestyle choices is essential.

  • Calorie Inferno: Swimming is one of the best cardio activities for burning calories, which is a crucial aspect of losing weight. Swimming burns a similar amount of calories compared to other popular activities like running or cycling. 
  • Low Impact: One of the main benefits of swimming for weight loss is its low-impact nature. This means you can exercise for longer without creating any excessive stress on your joints compared to activities like running.
  • Full Body Workout: Swimming engages every large muscle group in your body, ensuring a great workout. It also has the advantage that, unlike running or cycling, you use both your upper and lower body when swimming.  
  • More muscle mass: Due to the resistance of the water, swimming can help build lean muscle mass. More muscle increases metabolism, so you burn more calories naturally throughout the day.
  • Easy to switch intensity: It’s easy to transition between various intensity levels while you swim, allowing you to take advantage of things like excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, resulting in more calories burned. 
  • Enjoyable: Swimming is a very engaging and enjoyable workout. You can be focused on things like technique during your workout or allow your mind to relax. The more you enjoy the activity, the more likely you are to stick to it and reach your weight loss goals. 

How to Lose Weight Swimming: Fundamentals to Understand

Before we get to the swim workouts for weight loss, it’s essential to understand what allows you to lose weight– and it’s not the particular activity.

While some physical activities, like swimming, burn more calories than others, the activity is only a tool for helping you lose weight. 

The real weight loss comes from consuming fewer calories than you burn. Also known as a calorie deficit. 

calorie deficit formula for weight loss

This means if you start swimming for an hour a day but simultaneously eat more than usual, you won’t lose weight.

Ideally, you’d want to eat the same amount or slightly less and switch the foods in your diet to healthy options that aren’t as calorie dense as processed foods.

To be highly accurate, calculate your BMR. This is the number of calories you burn naturally throughout the day. You can do this with a free online calculator

Once you have that number, deduct about 500 calories. Remember to take your physical activity into account when doing this as well. The calculator I linked to will also display your calorie needs based on your activity level. 

You can then use a calorie tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, to ensure you eat the correct number of calories daily. Do this for a long enough period, and you’ll start losing weight. If you aren’t losing weight, reduce the number of calories by another 100 until you start seeing results. 

calorie tracking for weight loss

That said, remember to stay patient. Don’t reduce the number if you don’t see results within a few days. Ideally, you should wait at least 2-3 weeks. 

For more depth on this, read my article: how to create a meal plan for swimmers. 

9 Swim Workouts for Weight Loss

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of swimming to lose weight, here are the swim workouts. 

Workout 1: Easy Beginner Swim Workout for Weight Loss 

  • Warmup: 100 swim, 100 kick.
  • Mainset: 16x25s, alternating breaststroke and freestyle swimming, 20 seconds rest.
  • Cooldown: 3x50s easy choice swim. 
  • Total: 750 yards/ meters.

Workout 2: Aerobic Beginner Swim Workout for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 8x25s, alternating swimming and kicking, 10 seconds rest.
  • Mainset: 10x50s swimming with fins, 30 seconds rest. Optional to use a snorkel. 
  • Post-set: 4x25s kicking at 100% intensity with a kickboard, 30 seconds rest. 
  • Cooldown: 200 easy choice swim.
  • Total: 1000 yards/ meters. 

Workout 3: Beginner Swim Workout for Weight Loss with Stroke Focus

  • Warmup: 4x75s (1×25 swim, 1×25 kick, 1×25 drill), 45 seconds rest. 
  • Mainset: 2 Rounds: 100 swim, 75 kick, 50 pull, 25 drill, 30 seconds rest between each, 2 minutes rest between rounds. 
  • Cooldown: 200 easy swim. 
  • Total: 1000 yards/ meters.

Workout 4: Beginner/Intermediate IM Swim Workout for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 4x25s freestyle, 50 choice kick, 4x25s backstroke, 50 choice drill, 4x25s breaststroke, 50 choice kick, 15 seconds rest between each. 
  • Mainset 1: 8x75s: backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle by 25 on 2:15. 
  • Mainset 2: 4x25s butterfly with fins, 30 seconds rest. 
  • Cooldown: 150 easy backstroke.
  • Total: 1300 yards/meters.

Workout 5: Beginner/Intermediate Aerobic and Anaerobic Set for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 4x75s reverse IM, no butterfly (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke), 45 seconds rest. 
  • Pre-set: 8x25s stroke drills, 20 seconds rest. 
  • Mainset 1: 5x100s freestyle, 1 minute rest. 
  • Mainset 2: 2 Rounds, 1 minute extra rest between rounds. 
    • Round 1: 4x25s max kick with a kickboard and fins, 30 seconds rest.
    • Round 2: 4x25s max choice swim with fins, 45 seconds rest. 
  • Cooldown: 200 easy backstroke.
  • Total: 1400 yards/meters. 

Workout 6: Intermediate HIIT Swim Workout for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 200 easy swim.
  • Pre-set: 4x25s breakout swims, 30 seconds rest. 
  • Mainset: Alternate between swimming and kicking by 50 for each round.
    • 8x50s at 70% effort on 1:00.
    • 6x50s at 80% effort on 1:15.
    • 4x50s at 90% effort on 1:30.
    • 2x50s at 100% effort on 2:00. 
  • Cooldown: 200 easy backstroke swim.
  • Total: 1500 yards/meters. 

Terminology: Breakout swim = push off, clean transition into sprint, 15y/m sprint, 10 easy. 

Workout 7: Intermediate Aerobic Set for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 500 choice swim.
  • Pre-set: 8x50s kicking with snorkel and kickboard on 1:15.
  • Mainset: 8x200s on 3:15, 2 no equipment, 2 with fins, 2 with paddles, 2 with snorkel. 
  • Cooldown: 200 easy backstroke swim. 
  • Total: 2700 yards/meters. 

Workout 8: Advanced Interval Set for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 800 easy backstroke.
  • Pre-set: 12x50s choice drill on 1:00. 
  • Mainset: 30 seconds extra rest after each round. 
    • 8x100s freestyle on 1:30.
    • 2x50s max from a push choice stroke on 2:30.
    • 6x100s freestyle on 1:25 with snorkel and paddles.
    • 2x50s max from a push choice stroke on 2:30.
    • 4x100s freestyle on 1:20 with fins.
    • 2x50s max from a push choice stroke on 2:30.
    • 2x100s freestyle on 1:15 with paddles and fins (snorkel optional). 
  • Post-set: 12x25s max kick on 0:45 with a kickboard. 
  • Cooldown: 500 easy choice swim. 
  • Total: 4500 yards/meters. 

Workout 9: Advanced Aerobic 200s Set for Weight Loss

  • Warmup: 8x75s choice on 1:30 (25 swim, 25 kick, 25 drill).
  • Mainset: 20x200s broken down into 4 rounds. 
    • Round 1: 5x200s with snorkel on 2:55.
    • Round 2: 5x200s with paddles on 2:50.
    • Round 3: 5x200s with fins on 2:45.
    • Round 4: 5x200s with fins, paddles, and snorkel on 2:35.
  • Cooldown: 20x50s, 15 seconds rest alternating 1×50: 25 kick, 25 easy backstroke and 1×50: 25 drill, 25 easy backstroke. 
  • Total: 5600 yards/ meters. 

2 Awesome Swimming Gadgets to Help On Your Weight Loss Journey

Spice up your swim workouts and stay on track with these swimming gadgets.

Zygo Solo Swimming Headphones

To keep your workouts exciting and ensure you stay motivated, consider using some swimming headphones.

Personally, I love the Zygo Solos since they allow me to stream directly from my smartphone and favorite apps. They also have an app with guided swim workouts if that’s something you want to try. 

Top Overall Swimming Headphones
Zygo Solo Swimming Headphones

Stream music, podcasts, audiobooks, and more from any device directly to the innovative Zygo swimming headphones. Download the Zygo App for guided audio workouts, music, and more. The transmitter also enables live coaching.

Buy Now On ShopZygo.Com Our Review

FINIS Smart Goggles

If you’d like to get an accurate reflection of your progress in the pool and how many calories you burn, consider the FINIS Smart Goggles. This Smart Goggle displays metrics directly inside your goggle while you swim, which also helps with keeping track of laps. 

Our Smart Goggle Pick
FINIS Smart Goggles

The FINIS Smart Goggle is the most innovative smart swimming goggle available.

Directly display and track your laps, splits, set time, rest time, stroke rate, and more in your goggles with the non-intrusive heads-up display while swimming.

Buy Now On SwimOutlet Our Review

Do You Want to Make Every Lap Count?

Stop wasting your time in the pool feeling lost and doing directionless swim workouts, and start training effectively! Our ebook contains 97 structured and goal-orientated swim workouts to help you become a better, faster, and fitter swimmer. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro, there are a multitude of workouts for every type of swimmer.


Additional Tips to Lose Weight Swimming

Now that you understand the fundamentals of losing weight with swimming and have the workouts to get you there, here are some additional tips you can incorporate into your swimming plan to lose weight. 

Start Slow and Focus on Marginal Gains

If you’re new to swimming, start slow and be patient. 15-20 Minute swim workouts in the beginning are a solid place to start. Even if you do only half of the beginner workouts, that’s okay because doing something is better than doing nothing.

Focus on slowly improving your technique and increasing distance as you get better and fitter. Don’t aim for big jumps. Slow, consistent, marginal gains yield the best results long term. Self-reflect after each workout and celebrate the small wins. 

Marginal Gains for Swimmers

Learn Proper Swimming Technique

By improving your swimming technique, you’ll be able to swim faster for longer, with less effort. This means you can burn more calories and move towards your weight loss goals faster.

Online resources are a good place to start learning swimming technique. Still, for the best results, you should get a coach or join a club for a few sessions to get personalized feedback on what to fix and work on.

Incorporate Some Sprint Swimming

Vigorous exercise can induce a phenomenon known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. You may have heard it referred to as “the afterburn effect” before. 

In its essence, EPOC means that you’ll burn more calories after you’ve finished working out since your body will increase its metabolic rate to recover itself to pre-exercise conditions. 

This effect is well supported by research, with one study finding that participants burned an extra 190 calories over 14 hours after a vigorous 45-minute cycling session than on days when they didn’t exercise. Another study showed similar results, but the effect only lasted 2-3 hours. 

Try adding some sprint 25s or 50s into your swimming program to benefit from this. If you are more experienced, you can even add 100s, 200s, and 400s. You can also try swimming on intervals which will increase the intensity of your swim workout. 

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption graph

Make Sure You’re Swimming Enough

You want to swim at least 4-5 times per week for the best results. If you can do more, great!

That said, in the beginning, if you only swim 2-3 times, that’s fine. It’s all about starting slow and working your way up until you can consistently train a few times per week, then adding to that. 

Use the Right Swimming Gear

Swimming gear can add resistance and speed to your workouts, which helps you burn more calories and build additional strength so you can reach your goals faster.

Additionally, it can be a great tool to help you with specific technical aspects of your swimming.

For example, beginners may have trouble with body position; a pull buoy can be a great tool to help with this. Similarly, fins, paddles, and kickboards help work on kicking and pulling mechanics. 

If you want an in-depth breakdown of which gear to use, consider reading my article on the complete swimming gear checklist

Mix Things Up

Mix up your strokes and sets to keep things interesting and ensure a great full-body swim workout.

Different strokes use different muscle groups and can burn more or fewer calories than others. You’ll also become a more well-rounded swimmer, which will help with your fitness and weight loss goals.

You can vary your swim sets to include sprinting, kicking, pulling, and more. 

Go for a Morning Swim Before Breakfast

Fasted exercise before eating in the morning has been shown to help burn more fat by some studies. While other studies suggest, it makes no difference.

Regardless, this is something you may want to consider adding to potentially reach your goals faster. Remember, if you take this approach, consuming enough protein throughout the day is vital to preserve muscle mass. A protein supplement can help with this.

Similarly, suppose you have a pre-existing health condition, or your workouts are very intense. In that case, this may not be the best approach. 

This is something that everyone will have to experiment with for themselves. For example, you may find that your cravings increase later in the day if you skip breakfast, which can make it harder to stick to your weight loss plan. In that case, you can consider removing this strategy.

Add Cross Training into Your Swimming Routine

If you want to, you can switch things up and train outside of the water from time to time. Try adding running or skipping as forms of dryland cardio. Similarly, you’ll benefit from strength training.

Not only is this great for your weight loss goals and health, but the extra fitness and strength will also make you a better swimmer inside the water. 

Plan for Post-Swim Hunger

Swimming has been known to make you feel hungrier afterward than other forms of exercise.

The exact reason why this happens is unclear, but some theories include pool temperature, hormone changes, dehydration, and the fact that swimming is just a tough workout in general.

That said, here are some strategies for avoiding post-swim hunger:

  • Have a post-swim snack on hand, ideally high in protein, and consume it within 30 minutes after training.
  • Increase your body temperature with a warm shower or swim parka.
  • Ensure you stay hydrated.
  • Consider adding a pre-swim snack.

Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming and Weight Loss

freestyle swimmer

Is Swimming Good for Weight Loss?

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise that provides a full body workout and burns many calories. Combining swimming with the correct nutritional and lifestyle choices is a good and effective method for weight loss. 

How Much Should I Swim To Lose Weight?

You might wonder how many laps should I swim to lose weight? Or how long should I swim to lose weight?

Well, it’s commonly believed that one pound of fat equals about 3500 calories. While this estimate is outdated and not entirely as accurate in the long term, it’s a helpful reference point. And for the sake of simplicity, this is what we’ll be using. 

This means to lose one pound per week, you have to be in a 500 calorie deficit each day. 

Below is a table showing how many laps and how long you should swim to achieve this calorie deficit. This is estimated on the average swimming pace (around 2 miles per hour) for the freestyle stroke. Also, take into account that your body weight affects how many calories you burn, along with other factors like genetics

This table was taken from my article: How many laps is a good swim workout?

Bodyweight (Ibs) Calories Burned Laps (25m) Duration (minutes) Distance (meters) Stroke Swimming Speed
120 500 134 63 3350 Freestyle 2 miles per hour
160 500 100 47 2500 Freestyle 2 miles per hour
200 500 80 38 2000 Freestyle 2 miles per hour
240 500 67 32 1675 Freestyle 2 miles per hour

Keep in mind most people won’t swim 7 days a week, which means you’ll have to swim slightly longer to make up for off days or reduce your nutritional calorie intake on the days when you don’t train. 

Can You Lose Belly Fat Swimming?

While swimming is a great way to lose weight, it’s impossible for any form of exercise to reduce fat on a specific area of your body, for example, the belly. To lose belly fat, you’ll have to lose fat across your entire body, and in the process, you’ll lose some belly fat as well. 

What is the Best Swim Stroke to Lose Weight?

Butterfly is often called the best swim stroke for weight loss since it burns the most calories. That said, most people won’t be able to swim butterfly properly, nor for a sustained period.

Breaststroke is in second place when it comes to burning calories, freestyle in third, and backstroke in fourth. 

Breaststroke is a good beginner stroke but will also be harder to sustain for prolonged periods. 

Out of all the strokes, freestyle is the easiest to swim for an extended period, thus making it the most effective for losing weight.

That said, try to mix all of the strokes into your workout. This way, you can reap the benefits of them all. 

Why Am I Not Losing Weight from Swimming?

If you’re not losing weight from swimming, it’s not necessarily swimming that’s the problem. You’ll encounter the same problem with other forms of exercise as well.

The real problem is that you’re most likely not in an adequate calorie deficit, which is required for weight loss. To achieve this, you can try exercising more or choosing healthier food options with fewer calories in your diet.

Refer to the fundamentals section of this article for a full explanation. 

Try These Swimming Workouts to Lose Weight

Swimming is not only an excellent tool for helping you lose weight, but it’s also an enjoyable workout with various health benefits. 

By using these swimming workouts, applying the tips provided, and eating healthy with the correct number of calories, you are sure to see results. The important part is to stay consistent with your training and nutrition. 

Train hard! 

Photo of author
I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with over a decande of experience in the sport of swimming. I also hold certifications in Exercise Science and Nutrition. 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.

A Cheat Sheet for Creating the Perfect Swimming Workout and Routine

Download this FREE cheat sheet to create the perfect swimming workout and routine. Learn how to structure your swim workout and enjoy 9 example workouts, ranging from beginner to advanced.

Swim Workout Cheat Sheet
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SwimCompetitive-SwimOutlet Bottom Banner 2

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