The Fat-Burning Swimming Workout to Lose Weight and Gain Strength

Joao Luiz Gomes Junior of Brazil jumps into the pool during the warm up at the Aquece Rio Test Event for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in the Olympic Park on April 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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There’s a reason Michael Phelps has such a lean, ripped V-shaped torso. Swimming burns lots of calories—750 or more per hour. We asked Stew Smith, C.S.C.S., a former Navy SEAL who’s trained thousands of Special Ops recruits, for a fat-burning water workout.

Swimming Is One of the Best (and Hardest) Workouts You Can Do

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(This routine is designed for an Olympic-sized pool, but any pool will work. Just adjust the laps as needed.) “You may not even have to diet,” says Smith. “You should drop at least a couple of pounds per week.”



Here are the workouts.

Damir Dugonjic of Slovenia competes in the men's 50 meters brest stroke of 36th international swimming championships held in Radovljica swimming pool under Obla Gorica on July 7, 2012 in Radovlica near Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Photo by Samo Vidic/Getty Images)
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  • 30-45 minutes per session
  • Four to five sessions each week


  • Don’t doggie paddle. For a novice, the backstroke is the easiest, then the sidestroke, breast stroke, and freestyle.


  • Tread water for three minutes, then stretch on a mat outside the pool.
  • Swim 10 lengths of 50 meters each. Rest 30 to 45 seconds after each lap.
  • “Beginners should try to add 100 or 200 meters every week,” says Smith.


  • Swim 200 meters (two Olympic-size laps), then stretch out.
  • Swim 100 meters, then hop out of the water and do 10 pushups and 20 crunches. Rest for 30 to 45 seconds. Repeat for 10 sets.
  • If you usually perform an upper-lower-body split, substitute body weight squats for pushups on leg days.

Training Tip
Don’t hit the water until you finish the rest of your training, says Smith. “It’s good to swim after doing weights and calisthenics because you’re going to be in a better fat-burning mode.” And once you’re done, you can hit the beach, guilt-free.

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