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Best Swimming Fitness Techniques for Competition, Weight Loss, and Physical Therapy

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 8/16/2010

Swimmers don't just dive in the water for fun. Many swim competitively for exercise, or splash around for the therapeutic health benefits. If you're thinking about swimming for exercise, add these best swimming fitness techniques to your routine.

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    Competitive Swimming Fitness

    Competitive swimmers are always looking for a new edge on the competition. Whether it be new goggles, a more streamlined swimsuit, or better head cap, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

    However, competitive swimming doesn't stop at the accessories. In fact, swimming exercises can help competitive swimmers improve their fitness in addition to their competitive performance.

    Set Goals: US Masters Swimming recommends formulating a swimming routine. This is one of the best swimming fitness techniques for swimmers. Start by setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals for your new routine. Are you trying to reach a certain number of laps? Are you trying to beat a certain time, your competitor's or your own? Write these down and begin scheduling more time to practice these moves.

    Slowly Ease in to New Routines: Swimming professionals recommend building up your skills slowly. Don't push yourself too hard the first few days. Gradually build in speed and endurance to prevent injuries, loss of breath, and discomfort.

    Plan New Drills: Swimming drills force swimmers to focus on their techniques. Use drill time to analyze how you're swimming. Movements through the water should be precise and crisp, not sloppy or malformed. Work especially on techniques, like butterfly, that take more muscles and are more complicated to complete precisely.

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    Weight Loss Techniques

    Did you know that swimming can help you lose weight? While it's not as demanding as heavy weight-lifting and cross-country running, swimming still poses a challenge to out of shape individuals and provides an outlet for fun exercise at the same time.

    Swim in Cold Water: One of the best swimming fitness techniques for those who want to get in shape is swimming in somewhat chilly water. That means not taking shortcuts and swimming around in a large hot tub. If you get hungry afterward, eat diet-friendly foods, not donuts and candy bars, to satisfy your craving.

    Use Those Legs: Do as much kicking as possible to lose weight. Grab a kick board, noodle, or life preserver and kick across the pool as long as you can endure.

    Tread Water: Treading water requires the use of your arms and legs. Don't do the survival float in this case. Many swimmers tread breaststroke style, where their arms and legs perform the same movements as breaststroke, only with their faces out of the water and their legs below them instead of behind them.

    Swim Using Strokes: Frontstroke, breaststroke, and sidestroke all provide weight challenges for swimming fitness. Avoid backstroke, as this doesn't pose as much of a weight loss challenge as the other strokes mentioned previously.

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    Physical Therapy Techniques

    Senior citizens and patients who need physical therapy often find relief in swimming. The exercises listed below are some of the best swimming fitness techniques for physical therapy.

    Swim in Warm Water: Warm water is good for arthritic bones. While arthritis patients might not want the hot tub, they should still swim in water that is comfortable to their bodies and does not make their muscles tighten from the chill.

    Freestyle: Freestyle swim without turning your head or neck too much. You can frontstroke with your head out of the water (sometimes called "Tarzan"). Do only as many laps as you can tolerate.

    Use Flotation Devices: Exercise target areas of your body, such as the neck, ankles, wrists and elbows, while hanging on a noodle or float. This will stabilize you and keep you from having to tread water while you exercise.

    Breathing Exercises: Some swimmers will perform breathing exercises while in the water. Perform these in areas where your feet can just touch, or rely on a noodle or other flotation device. You can move your arms and legs back and forth in rotation to loosen muscles while you breathe. This is one of the best swimming fitness techniques for therapy.

    Sources:

    US Masters Swimming