How To Use Swimming To Tone Your Stomach

A man swimming to tone his stomach

Discover which swimming exercises will get maximum results for slimming your tummy. No complicated sports science, just carefully honed advice from the experts.

7 simple ways to swim your way to great abs

What are the best ways to lose belly fat? Head down the pool to burn calories and target your tummy with specific strokes and exercises. Breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke all engage your core, length after length, while movements like water crunches give your abs a run for their money. You could also try the ‘wall grab’. At the pool edge, hold yourself up using your elbows, then starting with your legs straight or bent, gently bring them up until you’re in a seated position and hold this for 10 seconds before repeating.

Streamline your technique

Not only will a strong core look good, it’ll help you to enjoy a better body position in the water, boosting your performance. To really make it count? Mindfully engage your middle by imagining that you’re pulling your belly button towards your spine. This will tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your torso straight, with the knock-on effect of strengthening your back. Regardless of which swim stroke you choose, aim to keep your body as straight as possible so that you always work your core.

Include specific ab-strengthening exercises


  1. Resistance training

    Keeping your back straight and head facing forward, start to walk or run through the pool. Carry a weighted ball to make it more difficult. Thanks to the added resistance of the water you’ll have to work harder to move through it. Lift your knees as high as you can and feel your stomach muscles flex into action. Tip: Aqua belts can be great for this kind of training as they keep you upright while encouraging the posture you’d naturally adopt when running on land.

  2. Treading water

    Want some time out from lane swimming? Hang out in the deep end to tread water. For maximum effect, bring your knees up as high as they go and keep your stomach muscles tight. Try this for one minute without stopping.

  3. Kickboard exercises

    For a different perspective on ab workouts, turn on to your back and hold a kickboard to your chest. The spotlight will be on your core muscles to keep your body balanced and your head above water.

  4. The ‘wall grab’

    This one takes stomach toning to the next level. At the edge of the pool, hold yourself up on the side using your elbows. Starting with your legs straight or bent (whichever you prefer), gently bring your legs up until you’re in a seated position. Hold this seated position for around 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this as many times as you can.

  5. Bicycle abs

    Head to the shallow end and place your back against the wall, stretching your arms along the pool edge. Start moving your legs as if you were pedalling a bicycle – the higher you bring your legs up, the harder you’ll work. Aim for 30 seconds to begin with (longer if you’re able), then rest and repeat.

  6. Water crunches

    Continue in the ‘bicycle abs’ position – back against the wall, holding yourself up with your arms spread wide. From here, perform crunches in the water: straighten your legs out in front of you while still holding the edge and then bring your knees up to your chest. Straighten your legs again and repeat.

  7. High knees

    Run on the spot in the water, lifting your knees to hip height. Engage your core and focus on using your abs and glutes to lift your legs. Go slow and controlled if you just want to concentrate on your abs, or increase the pace for an added cardio challenge.



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