What Muscles Do Work In Different Swimming Styles?

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Swimming is a low-impact exercise that incorporates a wide range of muscle groups. Swimming allows many of the body’s muscles to be worked and engaged in different ways. Because of this, and because of the fact that swimming is done in the water where you are essentially weightless, the risk of injury is very low, and the benefits are numerous.

When stroke techniques are executed properly, the muscles can only benefit as they become stronger and more flexible. After all, it is a known fact that competitive swimmers have extremely toned physiques and some of the most esthetically pleasing bodies amongst athletes.

No wonder why swimming is considered one of the best options when your goal is improving the body’s silhouette and musculature since swimming makes almost the whole body act and work hard to move forward through the water.

Swimming is the most balanced way to pay attention to all muscle groups with just one workout, without simultaneously loading multiple joints. Swimming provides an even load to all of the muscles, increases the strength and endurance of the body, benefits the vital systems, and improves the body’s immunity.

We can talk about its benefits a lot, but today we are here to talk about one subject in particular: what muscles do work in different swimming styles. 

There are a few swimming styles and those are:

  • Breaststroke
  • Front crawl
  • Backstroke
  • Butterfly
  • Freestyle

Also Read: How Soon Can You Go Swimming After Getting A New Tattoo?

What muscles are used in breaststroke?

Breaststroke allows the movements of the arms and legs to be performed in a horizontal plane. Breaststroke is the slowest swimming style, but it is also the most comfortable for long-distance swims. The leg muscles are the main source of the force that pushes the swimmer forward in breaststroke. 

Here is a list of muscles that evolve when swimming breaststroke:

  • Quadriceps
  • All glute muscles
  • Adductor muscle
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Iliopsoas muscle
  • Gastrocnemius muscle
  • Abdominal external oblique muscle
  • Deltoid muscles of the shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Palm muscles
  • All of the muscles in the foot

As you can see by this extensive list of the muscles engaged while swimming breaststroke, the whole body is involved in this process. No particular muscle takes the majority of the force and does the majority of the work, which makes this swimming style more comfortable and allows the swimmer to swim distances for a longer period of time.

What muscles are used in breaststroke

What muscles are used in front crawl?

The front crawl style allows the swimmer to develop a very high speed, which makes it a favorite amongst many professional swimmers whose job is to race and be the fastest. The style requires physical fitness that needs to be on a very high level, correct breathing techniques that only improve speed, and high endurance. The front crawl is considered very energy-consuming, and the main load is distributed on the shoulders and arms, and the legs act as stabilizers in the water. 

Here is a list of muscles that evolve when swimming front crawl:

  • The deltoid muscles of the shoulders (anterior, middle, posterior)
  • Shoulder muscles responsible for rotation
  • Triceps
  • Biceps
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Subscapularis muscle
  • Clavicle and sternum muscles
  • Abdominal external oblique muscle
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Quadriceps
  • Gastrocnemius muscle
  • Tibialis anterior muscle
  • The muscles of the palms
  • The muscles of the feet

The technique of the front crawl requires a higher tempo, which means that swimming this style uses much more energy. During a front crawl swimming workout, all of the engaged muscles work extra hard to push the swimmer through the water.

What muscles are used in front crawl

What muscles are used in backstroke?

The backstroke (which is also often called the back crawl) is the polar opposite of the front crawl since it is considered a swimming style that is the least energy-consuming of them all. If you want to push yourself when swimming back crawl, make sure to skip breaks and swim as quickly as possible, to really push and challenge all of the engaged muscles. While swimming backstroke, the majority of the force is going to be made by the hands, legs, and torso. 

Here is a list of muscles that evolve when swimming backstroke:

  • All of the muscles in the forearms
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Muscles of the palms
  • Trapezoidal spinal
  • Large chest muscle
  • Quadriceps
  • Gastrocnemius muscle
  • Tibialis anterior muscle

When it comes to backstroke, your arms do the majority of the work, while the legs are much less involved than with other swimming styles. While swimming backstroke, the athlete does not need to focus on the breathing technique as much since the face remains on the surface and does not immerse in the water.

What muscles are used in backstroke

What muscles are used in butterfly?

The butterfly style is the most spectacular and efficient for engaging the muscles, and it is the first choice of those who pick swimming as a means of losing weight. The butterfly is very, very difficult to perform, even for shorter periods of time, and it requires excellent physical fitness and tremendous effort. Swimming the butterfly style allows you to develop high-speed movements.

The main muscles that push you forward are located in the upper shoulder girdle area. The back also gets a high load; the legs are secondary in the equation.

Here is a list of muscles that evolve when swimming butterfly:

  • Front, middle, and rear shoulder bundles
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Palm muscles
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • All dorsal muscles
  • Chest muscles
  • Quadriceps
  • All glute muscles
  • The muscles of the feet

The load that the muscles take when swimming front strokes is several times higher than when it comes to swimming breaststroke, for example. This is why butterfly requires perfect technique and high coordination. Swimmers spend years and years working hard on this style and improving their butterfly speed results.


Freestyle is very popular among swimmers, but you need to understand what freestyle is in order to know which muscles are engaged when swimming in this style.

Freestyle is a combination of the four main types of swimming. The swimmer can change between these styles during his swimming session or the race. The only rule is that the swimmer must touch the pool wall turning and at the finish, but the contact can be made with any part of the body. Therefore, since freestyle is just the combination of the four main swimming styles, the muscles engaged during freestyle swimming are the muscles that are engaged in all other types.


Swimming is one of the best ways to evenly develop all muscle groups, strengthen the body, and increase strength indicators, both in and out of the water.

Swimmers who usually swim front crawl or back crawl will develop a highly developed torso. Likewise, swimmers who are big fans of the breaststroke are going to be blessed with pumped muscles of the femoral section.

Those who love the butterfly style are going to have the powerful muscles of the upper shoulder girdle, as well as very powerful leg musculature. That is why it is necessary to vary between swimming styles and try all of them!


There are a lot of questions surrounding the topic of different swimming techniques engaging different muscle groups. Here are some of the most common questions, all answered.

Q: Which muscles does swimming work the most?

Swimming uses the majority of the body’s muscles (which is the appeal for many swimmers), but there are five main muscles that are the most engaged while the swimmer is moving through the water and those are:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Tricep muscles
  • Pectoral muscles
  • Core muscles
  • Quadriceps muscles

Q: What are the 4 common swimming styles?

The four most common swimming styles include front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. Another addition is freestyle.

Q: What physique is best for swimming?

Just like you can have a predisposition for basketball by being tall, there is a certain build that can give you an advantage when it comes to swimming. The naturally-gifted swimmers have a strong core (which means defined abs), strong lats and triceps, above-average height, a long torso, and upper limbs.

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