Swimming is a great way to not only get into shape, but to stay in shape. If you’re looking for an intensive workout that’s easy on your joints – look no further than the pool. This exercise offers a myriad of physical and emotional benefits in contrast to it’s land compeers. There are four main competitive swimming strokes; freestyle or front crawl stroke, breaststroke, butterfly stroke and back stroke. Different swimming strokes have their own benefits and drawbacks, but there is just one stroke that is the most efficient and effective for the average person looking to burn calories while swimming. This article highlights a beginner friendly swimming stroke that burns the most calories.

Before we talk about which of the four main swimming strokes are the best for burning calories while swimming, let’s talk a bit about calories and what it means to burn them.

What is a Calorie?

A calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. We usually associate calories with food and drink however, anything that contains energy has calories. Calories are essential for human health, the key is in consuming the right amount of calories. Everyone requires different amounts of energy each day, depending on age, sex, size, and activity level.

How is a Calorie Burned?

There is two ways to measure caloric expenditure or calorie burning; directly and indirectly. Direct measurement of caloric expenditure requires monitoring of heat released by the body whereas, indirect measurement requires monitoring of ventilation and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide by the body. Indirect measurement is a more accurate way of evaluating caloric expenditure during exercise.

When your heart rate increases, you need more oxygen. You burn more calories when you burn more oxygen. Therefore, exercises that increase heart heart rate and use more muscle will increase oxygen consumption and burn more calories. Swimming is known for increasing lung capacity and utilizing almost all of the muscles in the body.

How Many Calories Need to be Burned to Lose One Pound?

To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories! Calories burned swimming is influenced by body weight, intensity of exercise, conditioning level and metabolism. You can enter your age, gender and height to calculate how many calories you’ve burned based on the activity you’ve performed today.

If you have concerns about your health and weight, consult your doctor. Calorie calculators are tools that estimate energy expenditure; every body is different and there are more factors that influence how many calories you burn and how quickly. Always remember that achieving healthy weight loss requires coupling exercise with a healthy and balanced diet.


So, Which of the Main Four Competitive Swimming Strokes Burns the Most Calories?

The swimming stroke that burns the most calories is the butterfly stroke. The butterfly stroke burns 774 calories per hour (at 155 lbs), keeping in mind it’s also the hardest stroke to swim and maintain, it’s also the least efficient for either a beginner or an average swimmer. Technique is extremely important and hard to master for the butterfly stroke. Due to the stroke’s complexity, it’s best to stray from this stroke unless you’ve got excellent technique.

Breaststroke is actually the best stroke to swim to burn calories. The slowest of all competitive swimming strokes,  it burns the same amount of calories per hour as the freestyle stroke. Breaststroke burns 704 calories per hour (at 155 lbs). While this is 74 calories short of the butterfly, in the long-run, breaststroke is more optimal because it’s easy to swim for prolonged periods of time. If you’re not a competitive swimmer, it’s best to opt for the breaststroke as you can swim for longer without exhausting yourself quickly. Breaststroke is often one of the first swimming strokes people learn. It is also the easiest to swim and perfect with regards to technique.

While breast stroke is the slowest stroke, you can increase the amount of calories you burn swimming by increasing your pace. Increasing your pace while swimming this stroke may tire you out more quickly.


Breaststroke Benefits

From what we know about burning calories: you burn more calories when you burn more oxygen (as heart rate increases so does oxygen consumption). Increased resistance coupled with long distance swimming make this stroke ideal for burning calories.

Increased Resistance

Since breaststroke requires you to power through the water rather than cutting through the water you burn more calories. You face the water broadside when you swim breaststroke and the flat plane of your chest meets with water’s resistance. The reliance of your legs for the kick to propel you in breaststroke make the breaststroke a slow-but-sure calorie burner since large leg muscles are energy-hungry.

Heart and Lung Health

In general, swimming is amazing for your cardiovascular and respiratory health. What sets apart the breaststroke from the other strokes is that it’s a long distance swimming stroke. Experts say that long distance breaststroke swimming will improve heart health and expand the lungs.



In the End, Find What Works for You

Ultimately, the best stroke to lose weight is the one you perform best. When you swim efficiently, you waste less energy just staying afloat and you work out longer. Thrashing around doing a poorly executed stroke will only exhaust you quickly and create turbulence around you. The number of calories you burn performing each of the four competitive strokes differs slightly due to the mechanics behind the movements.

Doing laps of one type of stroke can get tiring and boring. Mix up your routine! There are many other exercises you can do in the pool to add variety to your workout!