Keep your face above the surface to do the sidestroke.
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Both aerobic exercise and strength training are key parts of a comprehensive physical fitness program, particularly if you'd like to develop a leaner and better-toned physique. Swimming can help fulfill your aerobic needs and, while it isn't as intense as a weight-training program, the activity can help tone your muscles, which must work against water's resistance. Learning the sidestroke gives you another option as you try to lose fat, strengthen your muscles and improve your body composition.
Body composition refers to the percentage of fat on your body, as opposed to the lean mass in muscles and other tissues. Your body composition may be poor if you're carrying excess fat, or if some of your muscle groups are weak. In other words, being thin doesn't automatically mean that you have a healthy body composition. Maintaining good body composition reduces your risk of some diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. You'll also enjoy more energy and you can improve your athletic performance by improving your body composition.
Swim the Sidestroke
As you'd expect, you swim the sidestroke with one side of your body pointed toward the bottom of the pool. Begin the stroke with your body in a straight line and your legs together. Extend your lower arm forward and hold your upper arm next to your side. If you swim on your right side, with your left shoulder pointing up, kick your left leg forward and your right leg back. Aggressively snap your legs back together to produce a scissors kick. At the same time, add more power to your side stroke with alternating arm pulls. When your right arm pulls back toward your chest, your left arm moves forward, remaining under water. As your right arm moves forward, your left arm pulls back.
Benefits of the Sidestroke
The sidestroke is relatively easy for new swimmers to learn, in part because you can keep your face above the water, so you don't have to worry about moving your head to breathe. It also places less stress on your shoulders, lower back and knees than some other strokes, so people who can't front crawl properly may be able to swim the sidestroke. Even if you don't have a physical limitation, you can typically perform the sidestroke for longer periods than other strokes, because it's less taxing on your body. This allows you to burn more calories, reduce fat and improve your body composition. If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, you'll burn about 544 calories per hour doing the sidestroke, according to FitDay.com.
To improve your body composition, perform sidestroke drills while swimming on both sides, so muscles on each side of your body enjoy an equal workout. For example, you can swim a set distance, such as 500 or 1,000 meters, while switching sides every 100 meters. Alternatively, try a sidestroke workout recommended by swim coach Barbara Hummel that includes four repetitions of 75 meters each. Swim on your right side during the first rep. Swim on your right side for 50 meters and then on your left side for 25 meters of the second rep. For the third rep, swim on your right side for 25 meters and on your left side for 50, and then do the final 75-meter rep on your left side. Rest for 30 seconds between reps and for two to three minutes between sets. Try to do at least two sets.