If you’re trying to lose weight, swimming is one of the best workouts you can do. Sure, it may be low impact, but don’t let that fool you — you’ll still get a great workout and burn tons of calories!

To help you maximize your calorie burn during each swim, we’re sharing our top 5 fat burning tips, plus a sample workout to put our advice into practice!

1. Do Full-Body Workouts

If you go lift weights, your workout plan probably includes a balanced mix of upper body, lower body and full-body workouts. Swimming is no different!

Swimming is a full-body workout by nature. You will work nearly every muscle group with your regular stroke. However, incorporating kick and pull sets enhances your swims and can challenge your upper and lower body a bit more than straight swimming.

Related: How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?

Add kick and pull sets to your workouts a few times per week, during warm up or as part of your main set. Beyond extra calorie burn, you’ll probably see an improvement in your kick and pull over time, too!

2. Swim IM Sets

Different strokes challenge your muscles in different ways and can help prevent painful overuse injuries in your shoulders. Incorporate stroke work (butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke) and Individual Medley regularly to push yourself.

Related: What is IM?

If you don’t want to swim a full IM set as your main set every day, try incorporating a bit of IM into your warm up or pre-set before you dive into the main set. It’s a surefire way to get your heart pumping and muscles primed for performance!

3. Increase Intensity

If you usually swim long workouts at a moderate or easy pace, try increasing the intensity of your workout for a better calorie burn in less time! The proof is in the science: The American College of Sports Medicine found that a 155-lb person swimming fast freestyle for 1 hour will burn 700 calories. They would only burn 490 calories swimming slowly for 1 hour.

A high intensity workout involves shorter distances swum at a faster pace with less rest. Think swimming at threshold pace, best average or even an all-out sprint!

However, you shouldn’t swim all of your workouts at maximum effort. You have to train smart! You may need to increase your rest and decrease the total distance of your workout when swimming at a high intensity.

4. Start Interval Training

Many new swimmers default to swimming lots of laps in one go. While we commend you for your efforts, we recommend splitting up those longer swims with interval training for better results!

In interval training, you’ll assign a time interval to each repetition, and strive to reach the wall before time runs out!

Related: What is Interval Training?

Rather than swimming 1,000 meters straight, try breaking it up into 10×100 on 1:30. This new format allows you to focus on quality technique and gives you the opportunity to increase intensity. You’ll be able to hold a faster pace for 10×100 than you would for a 1,000 straight swim.

Play around with your interval times to give yourself more or less rest. Shorter rest times force your body to work harder and burn more calories.

Most pools have a large clock to help you track intervals. You can also use a smartwatch with the MySwimPro app to keep track of your workout. If you don’t have a smartwatch or clock at your pool, rest for a specific number of breaths. For example: 10×100 with 10 breaths rest.

5. Use Equipment

Add equipment to your workouts to increase resistance, maximize muscle engagement and burn more calories! 

  • Fins: Challenge the legs! Throw on your fins during speed work for an extra boost.
  • Paddles: Work your upper body and improve your pull technique
  • Snorkel: Improve aerobic endurance

While equipment is a great tool, don’t rely on it too much. It should supplement your workout. You should not be swimming your entire workout with fins on!

Related: 8 Benefits of Swimming with Fins

Sample Swim Workout

Try this workout to burn extra calories in the pool!

Distance: 2,600m

Duration: 1 hour

Warm Up

  • 1×200 Free
  • 8×25 Kick Best Average
  • 4×50 IM (1 Fly, 1 Back, 1 Breast, 1 Free)

Main Set (2x)

  • 6×100 Pull with Paddles
  • 1×200 IM
  • 4×25 Free at Race Pace

Cool Down

1×100 Freestyle Easy, Perfect Technique

How do you make your swim workouts more challenging and effective for your goals? Share your tips in the comments! For more swimming tips, workouts and coaching, download the MySwimPro app! Try our ELITE subscription free for 30 days to unlock all of our swimming, dryland and technique resources.



  1. Well done… this one I will use as a training after COVID to get back into swimming! Thanks for the hints..

  2. I love the IM!
    I want to use swimming to build strength. I know in general that shorter distances at higher intensity build strength and that, for example, breaststroke pull builds pec and back kick is good for hams. I’ve been doing lots of fly, because I want to be able to do pull-ups.
    Where can I find more info on using swimming to build strength?

    • Taylor Holmes on

      Hi Jen, swimming can help build strength to a certain extent, but where you’ll really see gains is when you combine swimming with dryland training at home or in the gym! The MySwimPro app has tons of personalized dryland workouts, both with and without equipment that you can try out! Check them out here: https://myswimpro.com/blog/category/training-plans/

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