General Question

_bob's avatar

What swimming style is best to burn fat?

Asked by _bob (2485points) March 30th, 2009
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9 Answers

exitnirvana's avatar

As far as strokes are concerned, Butterfly is the most rigorous. But, certainly Freestyle/Backstroke would burn plenty of calories.

dlm812's avatar

A variety is best, especially if you are not in swimming shape, as it will help work different muscle groups. In the beginning, I would do a lot of freestyle, with backstroke, breaststroke, and kicking mixed in as “breathers”. You’ll have to work up to butterfly, as it does require the most energy and muscle (and it will also build a lot of muscle in your shoulders, upper arms, and thighs). Despite it being the most rigorous, I wouldn’t do too much of it unless you want to have the upper “bulky” look. I used to be a breast and flyer when I swam competitively, and I had huge shoulders.

skfinkel's avatar

I heard that swimming is not the exercise to do if you want to lose fat (“have you ever heard of a skinny whale?” was the comment this diet commentator said). Nevertheless, I think swimming is a most excellent exercise for overall health and suppleness. But for fat burning, I would look to the kind of exercise where you have to lift heavy things with some part of you in real atmosphere—not water.

bluedoggiant's avatar


Butterfly is most rigorous, but is VERY bad for your shoulders

I have been swimming competitively for 6 years and have gone to many state champion ships.

But Swimming is not the only sport, try running and walking.

CrazyRedHead's avatar

Swimming will help define and evelope muscle which will help to burn fat.
I lost 40 lbs. by doing intense swimming, in high school.
Freestyle and back stroke are probably your best bet.
Butterfly works your abs really well, but does kill your shoulders.
If you’re looking to loose your butt DON’T try breast stroke, it will only enhance it. lol

if you’re looking for good work out regiments I may have some. (swim ones anyway)

CrazyRedHead's avatar

I definitely meant Develop not Evelope lol

chicadelplaya's avatar

I think which ever stroke you are exerting the most consistent energy will ultimately burn the most calories (butterfly, in my opinion). However, it’s really hard to maintain a strong workout with the butterfly stroke. Just be consistent with which ever stroke you can go the distance with (for most people, freestyle). Swimming is an awesome total-body workout and a great choice!

itsnotmyfault1's avatar

I think it’s less about what stroke you’re doing, than what set you’re doing.

Just like with weight lifting, lots of short, fast sets will tend to build muscle, while distance sets will tend to trim you down.

I’m trying to keep off college weight, and it’s been a long time since i swam HARD, but I’m basically doing repeat 200’s at a “tough” pace, and then when i can no longer do 200’s, i do 3 fast 100 IM’s (all the strokes).
My general idea is to get a good amount of distance-type training, but not just endlessly lap, because then you end up just cruising.
The IM’s at the end are so that i don’t forget how to swim.

In summary, I would aim for a distance-oriented set, rather than speed. Of freestyle (because doing significant distance of the other strokes is weird. And usually a lot harder.)

Hobosnake's avatar

I’m no expert… but it seems to me that if you can do butterfly for an extended amount of time, I’d use that.

Most likely freestyle would be your best bet, though. Once you get to the point where you can swim over a mile you can build up hundreds of meters pretty quickly if you keep at it. (or at least I was able to).

@itsnotmyfault1: I think breaststroke is actually easier to swim distance than freestyle is, but I’m not sure because I can’t really do breaststroke right. Backstroke is also easier if you have trouble with the breathing style of freestyle but don’t have trouble with the weirdness of backstroke.

However, I should tell you that I weighed myself just before and just after my school’s swim season (which I was very much a part of) and found that my weight hadn’t changed by a single pound. (to be fair, I did try to put myself on a higher-calorie diet because I’m already skinny as hell, but this consisted of little more than switching to drinking whole milk rather than 1%)

So, in my experience, while it is the best sport in the world, swimming isn’t exactly a weight-loss program.

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