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Which Is a Better Workout Swimming or Cycling?

Updated on April 28, 2011

Essentially cycling and swimming develop different parts of the body and different muscle groups, though if done in the right amount and the training is rightly planned out both have extreme cardiovascular benefits. Also from a pulmonary point of view, both are very good workouts. Swimming and cycling increase your vital capacity by leaps, implying increased stamina, because you can breathe in more and hold it in longer and if you practice interval training with these, the results will be outstanding. Interestingly, swimming helps build strong pulmonary system dramatically in the beginning and cycling does it after some days, so both are beneficial and cross training with both has it own advantages.

Three men swimming across The River Ganga on our way to Haridwar from Delhi. One of the men in the pic almost drowned but later was able to swim back safely to the surface.
Three men swimming across The River Ganga on our way to Haridwar from Delhi. One of the men in the pic almost drowned but later was able to swim back safely to the surface. | Source

Now comes the point that which one is a better workout swimming or cycling. Acording to me, both are excellent workouts. Swimming is more upper-body oriented workout while cycling is a thigh and buttocks workout, though even stomach muscles come into play, but then intercostals or side stomach muscles are necessary in all sports and when developed will give maximum performance. They are also known as core-muscle groups. Swimming develops arm, chest, back, and stomach muscles. Cross training with both will increase muscular growth and endurance. That is why you should consider cross-training using both over the week for an overall growth, but swimming being an ideal workout every other way, as there is no hard contact with the ground, has two weaknesses, one, tendons tend to get weak and you can hurt yourself in ground sports, if you only swim. And second is legs remain forever undeveloped in spite of practicing all four strokes.

Pure white water falling from Ban Ganga at Mata Vaishno Devi, Jammu, India
Pure white water falling from Ban Ganga at Mata Vaishno Devi, Jammu, India | Source
Myself trying to splash water over the camera.
Myself trying to splash water over the camera. | Source

But still swimming allows you to focus on different muscles in different strokes. It also helps you to build up your core pretty quickly and effectively. Another important thing about swimming is that ergonomics of swimming are better than cycling. If you get your mechanics in place, you can swim for a few hours without tiring or feeling any body ache. Cycling will start to hurt, from shoes to saddle, to your derrière, your palms getting numb beneath the gloves, your back getting stiff after a hundred or so kilometers. For cycling, you basically wear a lot more clothing and things that will scream discomfort at you. You start feeling the weight of the bike, no matter how light it is; it is stuck to you that won’t let go whereas water will be soothing comfort for you. Also long-term cycling can cause problems with knee joints.

Members of Delhi Cycling Club at National Rail Museum in New Delhi.
Members of Delhi Cycling Club at National Rail Museum in New Delhi. | Source

But still bicycling surely helps our legs become powerful first, along with ease to design a good cardio workout that is essential to a healthy heart and lungs but the same will come out with swimming as well. Just be sure when you do, do it with intensity, discipline, structure, and a regimented approach and have a plan to work on and a goal to reach. On an additional note, there is a swimming technique called as bubbling where you increase stamina and train the body to breathe while swimming. In bubbling, you basically squat and release the air through your mouth and then stand up and gulp air with your mouth. Repeating bubbling up to 10 times, you will feel completely relaxed. If you will keep increasing the number of repetitions on a gradual basis, you are on your way to develop better endurance and stamina.

So least but not last, out of swimming and cycling both are good but swimming is a little better workout that helps improve your overall body shape and health where are less pains and strains but more gains. Also an upcoming water workout called aqua yoga works really well. One of my friends did aqua yoga for 3 months and lost lots of weight. I used to make fun of him when I noticed him doing it at first but he lost weight faster with this aqua workout than I did with exercise and treadmill.

Members of Delhi Cycling Club preparing for their rides.
Members of Delhi Cycling Club preparing for their rides. | Source


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    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I would anytime prefer swimming over cycling. Yes it is adventurous and exciting.

    • spsingh profile image


      7 years ago from

      In summers i prefer swimming and in winters cycling...but still i would say swimming is more adventurous...

    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      @Ancillotti, yes heat and weather is also an issue with cycling which is not a problem with swimming but I would like to add one more thing. According to a recent research, it has been found that people who engage in long distance cycling on a routine basis tend to have low sperm cell count as their testes are always fixed on the cycle seat preventing them from maintaining a suitable temperature for sperm development.

      @mtsi098, whatever we imagine has been already invented. For your information, the thing you are saying is called as pool cycling where your half body gets into water and you have a bicycle lying in the water. This is a very good exercise and I think one should try it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      good comparison on two activities and yet both are helpful to different parts of the bodies...Now if someone would invent a cycle that you could use in a pool to work all muscles that would be great...I personally enjoy both :)

    • Ancillotti profile image


      7 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES

      With the heat that is here in Brazil I would say that swimming is a thousand times better and more enjoyable to do. Cycling only on days when the sun gives it a rest ...

      Nice hub!


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