7 Trainer-Approved Swim Workouts for Beginners

Swim Workouts for Beginners

Getty/Design by Cristina Cianci

If working out on solid ground has grown stale over the last year of exercising from home, enter swim workouts, a challenging and fun activity to add to your fitness routine. And it's not just fun because of all the splashing — swim workouts are an effective way to build muscle and endurance while going easy on your joints, says certified personal trainer and fitness instructor Donna Walker. Even better? They're versatile, says personal trainer and swimming coach Dan Daly. "Swimming can be as easy as a light stroll in the park and as hard as a 100m sprint," he tells Byrdie. "Shoot for 20 minutes at the pool to start, working up to an hour or more depending on your goal."

If you're ready to dive in, read on to try these trainers' seven favorite beginner-friendly swim workouts.

Meet the Expert

  • Dan Daly, CSCS, is a swimming coach and personal trainer based in New York City.
  • Donna Walker, NASM-CPT, is a coach at F45 Lincoln Park.
01 of 07

Beginner Intervals

Love high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts on land? Then you'll love this HIIT swim session from Daly. Jump in the pool with a pull buoy, fin, and/or kickboard for extra support as you slay these laps.

  • Warm-up: swim 4x25 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice. Take 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim 5x100-yard freestyles at your average pace. Take 30 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 200-yard freestyle at a moderate pace with a pull buoy and/or paddles.
  • Swim with a kickboard for 8x25 yards. Take 15 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim 100 yards as fast as you can with your stroke of choice.
  • Swim 100 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice.
02 of 07

Simple Intervals

Get a feel for swim workouts with this simple interval sequence from Walker. Practice your freestyle and try your hand at any other favorite strokes as you power through some laps.

  • Warm-up: swim 100 yards of your stroke of choice at an easy pace.
  • Alternate 50-yard freestyles at an easy pace with swimming 50 yards with a kickboard and pull buoy. Repeat two to four times.
  • Swim 4x1-minute freestyles. If you make it to the wall before the minute is up, take those extra seconds to rest.
  • Swim 300 yards of your stroke of choice at an easy pace.
03 of 07

Custom Tabata

If HIIT workouts are your jam, then Walker's customizable Tabata circuit is right up your alley. Start by picking your activity of choice: It could be swimming laps, holding on to the pool wall and kicking, doing pull-ups on the pool wall, or running in place in the shallow end. Whatever your activity, alternate 20 seconds of maximum-effort exercise with 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds for one four-minute session to get your heart pumping in seconds flat. And if you're looking for a longer workout, tack on some extra sets to make this Tabata session your desired length.

04 of 07

Technique-Focused Workout

If your goal is to improve your swimming technique, then look no further. This form-focused workout from Daly drills your freestyle with different paces, patterns, and distances to help you master the classic stroke.

  • Do four surface or underwater streamline push-offs from the wall. Walk back and repeat.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle at an easy pace.
  • Swim 4x25-yard freestyles, building from a slow pace to a sprint. Take 25 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim 4x25-yard freestyles using fins and/or a snorkel. Take 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear.
  • Swim 4x25-yard freestyles with 6 kicks per stroke using fins and/or a snorkel. Take 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear.
  • Swim 4x25-yard freestyles with 6 kicks for every 3 strokes using fins and/or a snorkel. Take 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle with your most perfect stroke and no gear.
  • Swim 4x25-yard freestyles. Take 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle at a fast pace.
  • Swim 100 yards of your stroke of choice at an easy pace.
05 of 07

Deep-Water Running

Calling all runners! This water running workout from Walker is perfect if you're looking for low-impact cross-training, rehabbing an injury, or want to get in the water. First, choose whether you want your workout to be steady-state running or intervals. Then hop into chest-deep water to get started, wearing a flotation belt if that feels more comfortable for you.

If steady-state is your preference, run from one side of the pool to the other for as long as it takes to get your heart pumping and muscles working. If intervals are your option, pick your favorite timing ratio: Perhaps 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, Tabata timing, or 1 minute on, 30 seconds off. Then alternate running with those moments of recovery to spike your heart rate quickly and efficiently.

06 of 07

Stroke-Focused Workout

Breaststroke, sidestroke, backstroke, butterfly...the list goes on. Pick your favorite and hit the pool with Daly's stroke-focused sweat sesh. Bonus? You can switch up the stroke of focus each time you do the workout to drill all the different options!

  • Swim 100 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice.
  • Swim 100 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice with a kickboard.
  • Swim 100 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice with a pull buoy.
  • Swim 4x50 yards of your stroke of choice (except freestyle). Take 30 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle at a moderate pace.
  • Swim 3x50 yards of your stroke of choice (except freestyle). Take 20 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle at a moderate pace.
  • Swim 2x50 yards of your stroke of choice (except freestyle). Take 15 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle at a moderate pace.
  • Swim 1x50 yards of your stroke of choice (except freestyle). Take 10 seconds of rest in between each interval.
  • Swim a 100-yard freestyle at a moderate pace.
  • Swim 100 yards at an easy pace with your stroke of choice.
07 of 07

Distance Swim

Build your stamina with Daly's simple but challenging endurance workout. Pick a stroke, then swim it for 30 minutes to an hour at a pace that feels sustainable to you. No need to aim for speed with this one, he says — here, slow and steady wins the race. Incorporate kickboards, pull buoys, snorkels, or other supportive gear if you'd like.

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