How to Combine the Gym and Swimming

Swimming is a favorite pastime for most people, even without considering it as a physical exercise. Yet as more swimmers display shredded bodies and weightlifters and other strength training athletes adopt swimming into their programs, the question for most is how these two can be integrated. How do you combine the gym and swimming?

The answer to this is dependent on your training goals. You have the option of swimming during your rest days or doing both swimming and gym workouts on the same day. If you are a swimmer, much of your training hours and days will be dedicated to swimming. On the other hand, strength trainers will spend more hours on their weights.

Combine the Gym and Swimming

It is Evident that Going to the Gym and Swimming Does Work

Swimmers like Ryan Lochte and Adam Peaty are among those who have added weight training into their program. On the other hand, athletes like 2017 World Strongest Man Eddie Hall, a former national swimming champion, have a swimming workout that is part of his training regimen.

The idea behind combining gym and swimming is based on the desire to work out all the main types of muscle fibers. Type 1 or slow-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for low-intensity exercises, which help build endurance and aerobic intensity. Type 2 or fast-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for high-intensity activities like weight lifting and other strength exercises.

Swimming and the gym allow you to reap maximum strength and fitness benefits by engaging all the muscle fibers. In return, you attain optimal performance in both activities. Below is a detailed plan on the options you have for mixing swimming and your gym work

How do You Add Swimming to Your Gym Workout?

The first option is to swim during the rest days of your gym work. What this achieves is allowing you to engage in both forms of exercise on different days fully. If you have three days where you do not do any weight work, then have your swim workout once or twice a week. The remaining day is a complete rest day with no physical activity.

Swimming in between weightlifting days is excellent because swimming is a low-intensity exercise and aids the active recovery of your muscles from intense workouts. It is a gentle cardio exercise with a low impact on the muscles and involves plenty of stretching.

It can also help you recover from sprains, strains, and other injuries you had in the gym. It has also been shown to aid in nerve regeneration. The overall effect would be improved endurance, extension, and rejuvenated joints.

Alternatively, you can opt for combining swimming and gym on the same day so that your rest days are left free. The challenge here is identifying which between swimming and strength training should come first. Each choice has its advantages and downsides.

Woman Diving

1. Starting with Swimming

For example, if you start with swimming, you are going to elevate your heart rate by the time you get to the weights, which raises your metabolism and results in more overall calory burning for the course of the whole workout. The downside, however, is that you will be tired from swimming, which may affect your performance in the gym.

2. Starting with Weights

If you start with weights first, and then you go swimming, you increase your body’s efficiency in burning fat. Aerobic exercises are great at burning fat, but they have to burn more glycogen before they get to the fat-burning portion. Starting with weights allows you to deplete the glycogen stores so that all our swimming efforts go to using the extra body fat. The downside to this approach is that the first exercise affects your optimal performance in the second.

3. Your Workout Goals- Strength (Gym) or Endurance (Swimming)

In the end, it comes down to your goals for the workout. If you are looking to build strength and muscle, then you should start with weightlifting sessions first then go swimming so that you can lift the weights when you are still fresh and reach the required intensity levels.

On the other hand, if your goal is to improve your swimming endurance and performance, then you should start with swimming first to avoid having tired muscles before weightlifting, which can harm your technique and lead to inefficiency and risk of injury.

Those seeking to lose weight are better served by starting with lifting weights first then doing swimming. However, the low intensity in swimming will affect the overall efficiency of the workout. To solve this, space out the swimming sessions and gym workouts by several hours. This approach allows you to recover significant strength to maintain the desired intensity in both exercises.

What are the Benefits of Swimming to Your Strength Training?

Another common question among gym enthusiasts is what benefits swimming adds to their routine and general fitness. Knowing the advantages, you are gaining provides sufficient motivation to take up both exercises. For strength training athletes, swimming offers the following;

Benefits of Swimming to Your Strength Training

1. Improved Flexibility

Swimming requires an efficiency of movement, which is only possible with great flexibility. After several sessions, the major joints, including the hips, knees, and shoulders, will have greater flexibility. This flexibility transfers to the gym in the form of an increased motion range.

2. Improved Coordination and Awareness

Swimming is a compound activity in that it engages the major muscles of the body. The use of various muscles – which at times are in opposing muscle groups – improves awareness and coordination. This ability helps when lifting weights in compound exercises like deadlifts, rows, etc. It also enables you to get the right form.

3. Improved Breathing and Better Endurance

Swimmers spend much of their time in the water holding their breath. For about fifty to seventy-five percent of this time, you will be in a state of oxygen deficit. This aspect helps you build your endurance and maintain your performance even through the mental block of fatigue. You are also able to regulate your breathing patterns allowing fast recovery between reps and sets.

4. Muscle Definition

Swimming’s fat-burning abilities ensure you get to see the gain of your workouts and define your muscle more. It is excellent at conditioning your muscles targeting even areas you may not have reached with strength training.

Man Back and Bicep

5. Other Advantages for the Gym and Swimming Include

  • Helps with shoulder mobility
  • Works your rotational muscles
  • Helps with active recovery
  • Strengthens rotator cuffs

Is Strength Training Beneficial to Swimming?

On the other end, swimming does also benefit from strength training in several ways. These include;

1. Weight Training Enhances Your Body Strength

Weight training is the fastest way to build more power. You need this extra energy for quick swimming times, whether it is through explosive dives, powerful strokes, and kicks, as well as faster turning. More strength and power allow you to be more efficient in your movements.

Weight training also helps you build up considerable explosive power, which offers you faster starts, stronger kicks and strokes, and better momentum inside the water. The extra distance you gain by starting strong and faster helps you record better times

2. Weight Lifting Helps Prevent Injuries While Swimming

With stronger muscles, you are less prone to injuries. Your body is used to higher training loads and can endure or sustain higher resistance for more extended periods. Weight training also allows you to understand your limits while also focusing on the right technique, all of which can be transferred to swimming. The result is better fitness and extended periods without having to recover from injury.

One Arm Push-ups

3. Build Your Muscles

Swimming is a great way to condition your body and improve your aerobic performance. Unfortunately, it only helps you build primary muscle. Swimming practice is relatively consistent, and your body does not get the new challenge to create more muscle. Weight training is an excellent way to change up the training routine and give yourself an option to build more muscle that will result in more strength and more significant conditioning.

4. Strengthen Your Core

Swimming relies on the base of the body to a greater extent. Your body core keeps you stabilized and helps with body coordination and is the origin of most moves you make in water. A more robust center, therefore, gives you an extra edge in the water. Compound exercises like deadlifts help strengthen the core and condition it to be better placed to handle the demands of swimming.


It is clear that swimming and gym workouts benefit from each other, and they are not the strange bedfellows you think them to be. Combining gym and swimming sessions in your weekly training plan. It will shock your body resulting in new gains while also allowing you the edge in recovery using swimming as an active recovery option.

Swimming and strength training results in better technique across both disciplines and helps prevent injuries from arising. This combination also allows you to meet your training goals while developing other areas of your body fitness. While the challenge is how to create a sustainable structure, by working with your goals and creating time for rest, you can create an effective training regimen using both gym workouts and swimming.

References Used in This Article

  1. Weight training before swimming? What’s the right order?
  2. Swimming for strength athletes
  3. Swimming and weight training- your free and complete guide
  4. How to work Swimming Into a strength cycle

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