A Look at Swimmer Muscles by Stroke

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A Look at Swimmer Muscles by Stroke

By Bri Groves, Swimming World College Intern, in collaboration with the creator of Swim Science, Dr. G. John Mullen

It’s no surprise that swimmers keep their bodies in peak shape and their commitment comes with an added benefit for fans. Not only can we watch them dominate in the pool, we can also enjoy the visual display of muscles flexing, faces grinning, and some seriously hot racing. Here’s a stroke by stroke breakdown of the stereotypical swimmer’s body.

Butterfly

michael-phelps-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Butterfliers have the arms. Their triceps are toned, their biceps are ripped, and they have some seriously large shoulders. While the undulation relies primarily on the abs and hips, butterfliers focus their efforts on the catch starting with their hands and ending at their lats, allowing the rest of their body to flow through the water.

Butterfly requires the fullest whole body muscle engagement out of the four strokes and the most arm muscle engagement per stroke cycle. While butterfliers often complete less stroke yardage than their counterparts, their high intensity training promotes toned muscles throughout the body.

Primary Muscle Groups:

Butterfly muscle groups

Photo Courtesy: Bri Groves

Backstroke

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Backstrokers are known for their firm pecs, thighs, and glutes. To keep themselves afloat, backstrokers rely heavily on their chests and midsections. An elite backstroker may appear to be effortlessly moving through the water, when in reality, the swimmer is subconsciously engaging each of these muscle groups. Backstrokers’ lower physical cognizant awareness allows them to continue for long periods of time at high cadences with comparatively low fatigue.

During the sprint cycle, a backstroker changes cadence by flexing the trapezius and lats. The engagement of these two large muscle groups results in a temporarily increased stroke rate and higher body position. Despite these benefits, prolonged flexing of the neck and back hinders rotation. Thus, these muscles are primarily active during short bursts of speed.

Primary Muscle Groups:

Freestyle muscle groups1

Photo Courtesy: Bri Groves

Breaststroke

lilly-king-100-breast-prelims-2022-world-championships-budapest-1

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Breaststrokers dominate when it comes to lower body strength. Like frogs, their legs display wonderful definition while their arms try to catch up. The rhythm of the stroke is determined by the amount and speed of the water that they can squeeze between their legs. An efficient breaststroker combines the force of his or her kick with an equally powerful chest press. These combined motions facilitate low stroke counts and muscle relaxation during the gliding period.

In practice, breaststrokers often excel in kick sets with minimal fatigue. Look out for them in the IM, as they make their way to the front during the third leg.

Primary Muscle Groups:

Breaststroke muscle groups

Photo Courtesy: Bri Groves

Freestyle

david-popovici-100-free-2022-world-championships-budapest-1

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Freestylers have the hips, hands, and feet. The stroke’s long axis rotation makes it ideal for tall people and even better for tall people with large appendages. Freestylers’ hands act as paddles while their bare feet often resemble the size of a stroker’s fins. Following the initial catch, freestylers rely on the largest muscle groups of the arms and legs to propel them forward.

The complete freestyler package contains wide hips to facilitate easy rotation and promote galloping through the water. A muscular midsection promotes connection of the leg muscles to the back and arm muscles. This connection is amplified by freestyler’s slight side pivoting to enable breathing and maintain shoulder stability.

Primary Muscle Groups:

Freestyle muscle groups

Photo Courtesy: Bri Groves

IM

Jul 16, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Caitlin Leverenz of the United States (bottom) races Emily Overholt of Canada (top) in the women's swimming 400m individual medley final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

IMers are indecisive. They like working a variety of muscle groups and toying with all the strokes. Watching an IM event is like a four in one deal for fans, we get to see all the muscles and strokes. What a crazy combination.

Primary Muscle Groups:

IM muscle groups2

Photo Courtesy: Bri Groves

 

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Heather Kyles Watson
7 years ago

Meredith Watson

Jacqueline Kordinak
7 years ago

I blame swimming for my odd attraction to male back muscles!

Morgan Goldthwaite
7 years ago

It’s not odd at all!

Bong Lozada Orlina
7 years ago

* do u know the most important muscle of all???
its the HEART…
you can have the biggest, the strongest… but if u have a ‘weak’ heart… you’re nothing!
it is immeasurable… its the will that pushes you to be the best that you can be!

Swimmer
Swimmer
1 year ago

Lol keep telling yourself that.

Melissa Willson
Melissa Willson
1 year ago

So very true. Another thing you must have is dedication. Without the dedication you have no heart and you have no willpower!!! Dedication gets you to places beyond State level, willpower + your heart or love of the sport + anything else will get you to international Level.

Last edited 1 year ago by Melissa Willson
Beonil
Beonil
5 days ago

And you think muscles come from ebay or what. If someone is strong and has muscles probably he has some hearth too

Conner Andrews
7 years ago

i love how jacked that guy is in the posters haha

Niel Hunts
Niel Hunts
5 months ago
Reply to  Conner Andrews

Its because bro be swimming IM all day

Clare Higgins
7 years ago

Claire Bowles- important info….

Paul Baratta
7 years ago

I hate when they use my picture without permission……

Emma Fie Holck Sørensen

Nikoline??? the booty 😉

Nikoline H. Holde-Jensen

Well i do really look forward to watching the swimmers yet again ???

Emma Fie Holck Sørensen

Ahahahaha

Donna Cornell
7 years ago

fascinating. Sarah Cornell

Chantelle McIntosh
7 years ago

Laura Nuutinen

Claire Nicholls
7 years ago

Rachel Panton Georgia Read ?

Alyssa Lavoie
7 years ago

Mayhève Rondeau Jocelyn Chassie Kirsten Lavoie

Lezette Garry
7 years ago

Keelin

April Smith
April Smith
7 years ago

Evan Smith

Suanne Dewet
7 years ago

Julian Cowper

Yassine Sellek
7 years ago

Yasser Ayane fach fkrk

Katie Reed Wion
7 years ago

Michelle Fleming – Umm, this is so up my alley. Fascinating! Yep, perfectly explains my strong liking to butterfly, freestyle & IM.

Sonja Smith
7 years ago

Josh Smith

Eileen Nordquist
7 years ago

Grace Nordquist

Breastroke boy
Breastroke boy
7 years ago

I feel like you have missed 2 major breastroke muscle groups: the biceps and the hamstrings. The whole in-sweep in breastroke is done by the bicep, while the up-kick is done by the hamstring.

Joee kaps
Joee kaps
5 months ago
Reply to  Breastroke boy

What about the biceps when doing backstroke? 💪 They definitely missed there too. Also the hamstrings on freestyle.

McKinley Moore
7 years ago

Brookelynn Kravetz AND MY BROAD SHOULDERS

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Hard for me as a woman to relate to the “jacked” male imagery even though I now the muscles are the same.

Rod Barratt
Rod Barratt
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

As a male coach… the first thing that occurred to me is – this does not appear to include more than half of all swimmers – the female …more than half!!

Also doubt the illustrator/author is a breaststroker.. also does not seem to emphasize vastus medialis… a major contributor to Br kicking!

ho lee fuk
ho lee fuk
2 years ago

nah shut up. the swimming physique is your overweight dead nan

ho lee sheet
ho lee sheet
2 years ago
Reply to  ho lee fuk

get a load of that guy^^

Rod Barratt
Rod Barratt
1 year ago
Reply to  ho lee sheet

Love the handle!!

Ava
Ava
9 months ago

i am thanking swimming for the muscles, 4 pack, breath control, BROARD SHOULDERS, DEAD HAIR and the BEAUTIFUL of CLORINE that i can’t escape.

chioma amanoh
chioma amanoh
6 months ago

I thoroughly enjoyed this post

Ming Ming toilet
Ming Ming toilet
6 months ago

I love big cute muscles I need them to live

Isabelle Fraser
Isabelle Fraser
2 months ago

Interesting reading!

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