8-Week Swimming Training Program for Beginners

Swimming laps. Hybrid Images / Getty Images

Whether you're new to swimming or getting back in the pool after a long absence, these swimming workouts will help you build strength and endurance. With eight weeks of regular exercise, you can become a better swimmer and prepare yourself for more demanding swimming workouts. 

Before You Begin

These swimming workouts are designed for people who already have taken a swimming class and know how to swim. As with any exercise, it's a good idea to consult your doctor first if you have any known health conditions or haven't worked out before. These workout plans are designed for someone who can swim at least 100 yards or 100 meters (depending on the pool you're in). 

The Pre-Swim Warmup

Any good athlete knows that stretching and warming up are important to do before swimming because they prepare your body for the workout that's to come and will help reduce soreness afterward. Begin by warming up with either a brisk walk or a very gentle swim for five minutes. 

Once you've warmed up, continue with stretching either on the deck or in the pool. Although you'll want to stretch each major muscle group, you'll want to give special attention to the upper trapezius and levator scapulae (which connect your neck and shoulders), the pectoralis major and minor (your chest), and the latissimus dorsi (your mid-back).

Your First Swimming Workout

Your first workout goal is to build stamina, the amount of time you can exercise during each workout. Progress is measured in pool lengths. In the U.S. 25 yards is a common length for gym pools, so we'll use that as a reference point.

As a beginner, you'll want to start small and build up over time. For your first workout, all you'll need to do is swim 100 yards in four segments or lengths, with rests between each length. Rest time is measured in breaths. For your first workout, take as much time as you need between lengths. Use a simple front crawl stroke (also called freestyle). 

Most swimming workouts are based on exercising three to five days a week, depending on how advanced you are. If you're just starting out, working out twice a week for the first week or two is perfectly okay. The idea is to get comfortable working out and begin making it a habit.

Becoming a Stronger Swimmer

Now that you've got the basics down, it's time to increase the intensity of your swimming routine. Here's an eight-week plan with three workouts per week. Assume a 25-yard length.

  • Week 1 (100 yards): 4 x 25 with no more than 20 breaths rest between lengths
  • Week 2 (100 yards): 4 x 25 with no more than 15 breaths rest
  • Week 3 (150 yards): 6 x 25 with no more than 20 breaths rest
  • Week 4 (150 yards): 6 x 25 with no more than 15 breaths rest
  • Week 5 (200 yards): 8 x 25 with no more than 15 breaths rest
  • Week 6 (200 yards): 1 x 50 with no more than 20 breaths rest, followed by 6 x 25 with no more than 15 breaths rest
  • Week 7 (250 yards): 1 x 50 with no more than 20 breaths rest; then 8 x 25 with no more than 15 breaths rest
  • Week 8 (250 yards): 1 x 50 with no more than 15 breaths rest; then 8 x 25 with no more than 15 breaths rest

This plan is designed for a fairly aggressive progression. If you find yourself struggling with the longer lengths, don't be afraid to adjust your workouts accordingly. 

Beginner Swimming Workout Tips

Now that you've got a workout routine down, keep these tips in mind:

  • Swimming is great exercise, but it's not the only workout you'll need as a serious swimmer. Remember to maintain your swimming technique with regular swimming drills.
  • To build and maintain your overall physical conditioning, add some dryland strength work and stretching to your workout.
  • Keep your workouts fairly short, no more than 75 minutes per session.
  • If you need to stop at any time to rest, then do so, especially if you become dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Variety is the key to maintaining interest in your workouts, so add new challenges to your routine every six to eight weeks.