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What is a Swimmer's Build?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A swimmer's build is a particular type of physical body types that incorporates a high level of muscle tone with a lack of bulk. It is one of the most sought-after physical builds, especially for men. This physique is characterized by above-average height, broad shoulders, long arms, a long torso, a flat abdomen, a thin waist and powerful legs. Some people describe the upper body of someone who has a swimmer's physique as being V-shaped. This body type is called a swimmer's build because it is ideal for success in swimming, but it is not necessarily caused by swimming nor is it found only among swimmers.

Muscle Tone

There are two elements of a swimmer's build: tone and shape. Someone who has this physique is often said to have a "cut" or "ripped" body, which mean that the muscle tone is visible over the entire body. Abdominal muscles are visible, triceps and biceps are clearly visible, and the calves usually are prominent. At the same time, the muscle mass is not particularly large. Unlike bodybuilders, football players or many other athletes who rely on strength, people who have swimmer's builds have fairly svelte bodies.

Body Shape

Not everyone who has excellent muscle tone could be said to have a swimmer's build. People who are of average height, have narrow shoulders or have wide hips typically would not be described as having this type of physique, even if they are "ripped" without having bulky muscles. In some cases, height is not an important element, however, because excellent muscle tone and a V-shaped torso could give someone the long, lean look of a swimmer even if they are not especially tall.

Achieving This Physique

Although some people consider women who have a swimmer's build to be too big in the upper body and shoulders, this build is often considered to be the ideal physique for men. Many exercise regimens have been developed to help men try to achieve swimmer's builds. Many experts believe that the best way for someone to get this type of physique is to work all of the muscle groups in the body, build cardiovascular endurance and eat a healthy, high-protein diet that reduces body fat.

Swimming for Exercise

Swimming can be a powerful form of exercise. It is a strong cardiovascular workout and works nearly every muscle group in the body. At the same time, the buoyancy of the water means that the joints and bones are minimally stressed, making it less damaging in the long run than many other forms of exercise. Most people who swim for exercise do so for long periods of time and at a relatively slow speed, so it generally is considered an aerobic activity.

Lifting Weights

Although swimming can help develop muscle tone in many parts of the body, many experts say that swimming should be accompanied by other types of training, including the use of weights and other types of resistance. This is because there are only a few motions involved in swimming — mainly reaching, pulling and kicking — so the body's muscles become stronger at those motions but lack development in strength for other movements. High-repetition weightlifting exercises, when they are done properly with light to moderately heavy weights, can help a person develop muscle tone and stamina without adding a significant amount of bulk.

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Discussion Comments
By anon928944 — On Jan 29, 2014

The only way to get cut for people who have average to below average metabolism is diet. You have to eat a leaner diet in order to get a leaner looking body. Makes sense, right?

By anon332112 — On Apr 26, 2013

I've been swimming for 10 years, but I still have some fat that just won't go away. What can I do?

By anon163210 — On Mar 26, 2011

Michael Phelps. There's a prime example.

By anon71566 — On Mar 19, 2010

i have been swimming since i was five years old, and recently someone commented that i have a swimmer's build. what is that supposed to mean?

By anon32404 — On May 20, 2009

You correctly said that “most swimmers spend at least five hours a day in the water”. Many of these professional swimmers will still not have the “classic look” as their body fat will be too high.

If the objective is the “physical build that incorporates a high level of muscle tone with a lack of bulk”, you must include weights. Most professional swimmers will also do dry land work.

By overreactor — On Dec 25, 2008

What I have noticed in swimmers is a very long arm span, in addition to broad shoulders, and small waist.

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