Should you do your strength training and then go swimming, or is it the other way around? Does it matter in which order you complete your workouts, or is it irrelevant in terms of your training success? Does swimming before a dryland session destroy your strength gains?
It all depends on your training goal. Before we dive into that, let’s explore the pros and cons for either order:
Swimming before a lift is great because it gives you the opportunity to burn more calories over the course of the weight training session by elevating your heart rate initially. This increases your internal temperature and elevates the metabolic demands placed on your body.
Related: 10 Health Benefits of Swimming
This ensures your heart rate will remain elevated, and thus increasing overall caloric burn for the entire workout. The downside is that you’ll be more tired after swimming, and won’t have as much energy to spend on resistance training, which is better for making lasting physique changes.
Weight Training First
Since the aerobic system is much more efficient in terms of generating ATP, weight training first can be beneficial because it allows you to get to the fat burning portion of the workout faster than if you had gone swimming first.
Related: How to Cross-Train for Swimming
Focusing the majority of your energy on making improvements in the weight room will result in better strength gains. After all the glycogen is depleted in the gym, you’ll burn more fat during your swim workout.
The downside to this technique is that it can be difficult to push yourself through a swimming session immediately after a tough gym workout. Your muscles will be fatigued and you may notice that your swimming technique breaks down faster.
So which is better? It depends on your goal!
Try these dryland exercises for swimmers:
To Build Muscle and Maximize Strength
If your goal is to build muscle and increase your maximum strength, do your strength session before swimming. You shouldn’t attempt a strength building workout when your muscles are already fatigued from the pool. You can’t work out at the intensity necessary to provide an ideal training stimulus.
If you are lifting heavy weights, overly fatigued muscles may increase your risk of injury while swimming. Your coordination will suffer and your stabilizing muscles are tired.
Watch our video on how to swim faster:
To Improve Swimming Performance
If your goal is to improve your swimming performance, swim before strength training. To produce an effective training stimulus, your muscles should be rested before long or intense swimming workouts.
Tired muscles prior to swimming negatively impact your technique and efficiency in the water. This can then lead to strain and overuse injuries in your joints and muscles.
Learn how to effectively cross-train for swimming:
To Lose Weight
If weight loss is your goal, do your strength training before your swim to empty your carbohydrate stores. This will force your body to produce energy primarily from fat rather than carbs during your swim. However, you need to be smart with your training using this method. You won’t be able to crush a long, challenging workout with empty carbohydrate stores.
While it is true that a much higher percentage of fat is burned for energy, the calorie burn, on the other hand, is relatively low because of the low intensity of the workout.
If you are looking to lose weight, a negative energy balance is key: If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. In the end, what matters is how many calories you burn in total during your workout. Spread your workouts out over several days rather than doing multiple workouts each day. That way you can train at high intensity and burn a lot of calories, while giving your body the time it needs to recover properly before the next workout.
Bottom line: In general, you should not do two workouts back to back in the same day. You will achieve better results in both your strength and swim training if you give your body sufficient time to recover. If you want to combine your strength and endurance training, should follow the order best suited for your specific training goal.
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