Which Muscles Does Swimming Develop?


Swimming is a fantastic, low-impact sport that uses a wide range of muscle groups. Due to the low-impact nature and supporting environment, the risk of injury is low. Having said that, I do have many memories of hitting my head on the wall or hitting my ankles on the wall in many mistimed training routines. This article will look at which muscles swimming develops.

Although each swimming stroke uses muscles in a different way, all swimming strokes require a strong core and lower back to keep the body in a controlled, streamlined state to help reduce drag.

Posture and Health

As many of us sit for endless hours sat at a computer, we can develop rounded shoulders. Swimming can really help improve posture due to the development of the core and shoulder region.

Not only this, but swimming can help reduce stress. Spending an hour or so staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool, you may find yourself thinking about other things other than the daily stress; a swimming environment is a peaceful and relaxing one.

Swimming is one of just a few sports that gives your body a whole workout. Nearly all of the muscle groups within the body are engaged. Combining this with the low-impact and high heart rate nature of swimming and you can see the huge benefits that swimming has.

Muscle Groups

The diagram below connects the muscles to each swimming stroke.

swimming muscles
Photo credit: swimtoslim.com

Freestyle and Backstroke

  • Rotation: Core and obliques
  • Arm: Thenars, brachioradialis, flexor digitorum profundus,, biceps, triceps, deltoids
  • Core: pectoralis, teres major, teres minor, rhomboid major, rhomboid minor, gluteus maximus, abductor magnus, erratus anterior, external oblique, rectus abdominus, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, spinus erectus,
  • Leg: quadriceps, flexor digitorum brevis, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior
  • Neck: sternocleidomastoid

You can read more about the muscles for backstroke swimming on this article.

Butterfly stroke

  • Pecs, lasts, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.


  • Pectoral and Latissimus dorsi
  • Glutes and Quadriceps

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