Dealing with the muscle soreness after a regressive training drill or looking to take a break from the regular workout for a while? Swimming is a perfect escape to boring training sessions and grants your body a much-required break from exertion.
But how does swimming helps in accelerating muscle recovery? Swimming is a perfect low-intensity sport that gets your heart pumping and burns tons of calories without putting excess pressure on any particular muscle group. Swimming not only improves the blood circulation but also assist in mobility and stretching to reduce the stress within muscle tissues.
Types of muscle soreness:
Before we understand the muscle soreness you need to know the types of muscle soreness. There can be caused by three significant reasons:
- Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Workout injury
- Muscle cramps.
DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness):
It’s the most common reason behind soreness and stiffness. It is a byproduct of the intense workout session, caused because of the occurrence of micro-tears in the muscle tissues due to heavy training.
DOMS may lead to muscle soreness, tenderness, and loss in strength. DOMS usually stays for 2-3 days.
Acute pain is experienced just after the workout or exercise. It should never be taken for granted, it always suggested to visit your nearest health expert. Workout injury might be caused because of a muscle tear or damage in tendon or ligaments.
Note** In the case of workout injury, you should take advice from the doctor or certified expert before opting for any DIY routine.
Commonly happens because of the loss of water, supplementing with some sports drinks or electrolytic salts can help you recover from cramps.
This article will be majorly focused on the effects of swimming in curing or reducing the symptoms of DOMS.
Can swimming help muscle recovery?
Definitely! It’s a great way to swim away from muscle soreness and allowing your body sufficient time to heal itself. It is the best recovery technique around.
Researchers at the University of Western Australian conducted a study with nine well-trained triathletes who were asked to perform two sets of High-intensity interval running sessions, followed by a swimming session as a cool-down period.
The study concluded – a swimming-based recovery session improved the following day exercise performance.
To make it easy to understand, the muscle recovery process can be divided into three phases:
- Healing muscle fibers
- Muscle mobility and stretching.
- Protein synthesis.
So how does swimming helps in achieving accelerated recovery?
Healing muscle fibers:
Apart from proper nutrition, your body is demanding some rest to work on the healing process.
Swimming isn’t a weight-bearing activity – which allows the fibers to repair without further exertion. Swimming make-up an incredible active recovery routine that allows you to burn some extra calories without putting excess pressure on any specific muscle tissues.
Mobility and stretching
Want to recover faster? Indulging in active recovery activities can help. Although there are many active recovery options like a slow jog, massage, foam rolling; Swimming is the best active recovery routine (because of being low weight-bearing).
A separate study (8) conducted to observe the difference in active recovery and passive recovery routine. An active recovery routine was found to be an all-round winner.
Protein synthesis is the most important part of the fast recovery process. Your body’s ability to synthesize the protein is the deciding factor of recovery sleep.
Many researches have advocated the benefits of resistance training for improved protein synthesis rate. This means swimming is not just reliving weight pressure but also helping in accelerating recovery and development of better strength. Swimming while active recovery routine can improve protein synthesis by up to 50%.
Is swimming good for muscle soreness?
So we talked about the restoration, but is swimming good for muscle soreness as well??
Most of the people aren’t even aware of the difference between muscle soreness and muscle overuse.
Muscle overuse: Result of frequent, repeated use of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones. Allowing some healing time and restoration of fluids are the best solution to recover from muscle overuse.
Muscle soreness is commonly caused due to the lactic buildup and tight fascia.
How does swimming assist in relieving muscle soreness?
Whether you are a marathon runner or CrossFit athlete or a regular fitness freak, muscle soreness happened to all of us.
Muscle soreness is nothing but a lactic buildup and tight fascia that has become stiff due to harsh workout.
Swimming doesn’t just avoid any further strain on the overused muscle tissues but it also helps in preventing DOMS.
Swimming strokes are an active form of stretching which works on multiple muscle groups. This stretching helps in relieving stiffness and maintains the flexibility of all connective tissues.
Swimming also improves the blood flow which helps in clearing out lactic buildup, hence resulting in accelerated recovery and reduced soreness.
Muscle activation with swimming
Unlike other low-intensity cardio activity, swimming helps in targeting the wide variety of muscle groups. Different swimming styles require different muscle groups.
Although swimming requires full-body coordination, some muscles that are principally required. Let’s have a look at primary muscle groups engaged while swimming.
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
Lats are majorly required for the pull movements (like pull-ups, chin-ups), and there is the primary muscle that is responsible to push the body further in the water.
You will never see a swimmer with small deltoids. Deltoids play a very important role in almost every form of swimming. Whether you are into freestyle swimming, butterfly stroker or breaststrokes, delts help in kick-starting your swim.
Pectorals muscles (Chest)
Pectoral muscles play an integral part in freestyle stroke and breaststroke.
Core. Additionally, these muscles play a key role in underwater body stabilization.
Quats are the frontal part of your legs that plays an important role in jumping and kicking mechanism.
Strokes such as backstroke and butterfly rely heavily on the kicks.
The core plays a major stabilizing agent in swimming.
Tight core allows you to remain hydrodynamic, which permits more powerful strokes and better propulsion through the water.
Other swimming benefits for muscles:
Swimming provides a wide range of benefits from developing better cardiovascular endurance to full body toning, helping you burn tons of calories to build stamina. But this article is all about the effects of swimming on muscle health. Let’s get into its other benefits on muscle.
Swimming for lean muscle
Although swimming is a low-intensity cardio workout but it provides enough resistance to develop lean muscle mass.
A study (2) conducted with 24-volunteers found some reasonable benefits of swimming on muscle development. Regular swimming is found to be effective for improving body composition, strength, and blood lipids.
Swimming and muscle atrophy
Muscle atrophy is a condition when your body starts losing its muscle mass due to injury or medical condition.
Muscle atrophy commonly happens because of a lack of physical activity or mobility (due to injuries). Swimming is one of the best low impact physical activities that not only supports joints and muscles but also assists in strengthening them.
Swimming for muscle tension
Swimming helps in keeping the muscles active and provides gentle stretches to relieve tension.
While many athletes follow swimming as a “cooling down” activity, any regular fitness enthusiast can opt for swimming as an active recovery routine.
I personally prefer swimming for at least twice a week, those swimming sessions are usually followed by heavy training days.
For strength development
No other land exercise tones the body like swimming does.
Swimming involves just about every muscle in the body, from your forearms to your feet. Natural resistance from water not just assists in calorie burning but also helps in achieving better strength and coordination.
No age restriction:
Age-related health problems are the main reason for not being able to stay regular with the workout.
Swimming is the best workout alternative to support joint, muscle and cardiovascular health,
Swimming is a sport that has no age limit, you can enjoy it at almost any age. It’s not just an exercise, it produces therapeutic effects that relaxes the body and mind.
Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments as always. This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.