Swimming for Soccer: Pros and Cons

swimming for soccer title over image of swimmer

Swimming is an easily accessible exercise option for many people. As a soccer player, you may be considering adding swimming to your training program, but you’re currently unsure if it will significantly benefit you as a soccer player. Fortunately, this article is here to help you figure out if swimming will help you as a soccer athlete.

Swimming is good for a soccer player’s stamina and cardiovascular capacity. It can also improve a soccer player’s core strength. However, swimming is an aerobic exercise, unlike soccer that is primarily anaerobic. Too much aerobic exercise can be detrimental to a soccer player.

There are pros and cons to including swimming in your fitness program. This article will look at both the benefits and disadvantages of swimming and help you assess if swimming is good for you as a soccer player.

Benefits of Swimming for Soccer

Swimming is characterized as one of the most complete sports that exist since it involves using the muscles of the legs, trunk, and arms.

In addition, it’s ideal for all ages since it is a low-impact sport and provides many benefits for people’s health. But what are the specific benefits of swimming for a soccer player?

Increased Stamina

Stamina is critical for any soccer player.

When you are constantly on the move for 90 minutes or more during a soccer game, you need all the endurance you can get. Every soccer player has to do a lot of jogging and sprinting. Swimming is one way to increase your stamina to help you compete at a higher level on the soccer field.

Swimming improves your overall endurance when you partake in the activity for long periods of time. You train your body to need less oxygen to provide the necessary energy to get you through a game. This will help you last longer, not just during soccer but during any physical activity.

Increased stamina levels also help you to perform better during more demanding workouts. Instead of feeling exhausted by the end of a training session and struggling to keep going, you can use your increased energy levels to maximize your training time. 

Greater Cardiovascular Capacity

One of the biggest benefits soccer players unquestionably get from including swimming in their training routines is that it helps them increase their overall cardiovascular capacity.

Cardiovascular capacity is what helps an athlete to perform a high-intensity activity for an extended amount of time. The greater your cardiovascular capacity, the longer you will perform effectively at a high intensity.

Swimming regularly has been shown to improve the contractility of the heart, lower blood pressure, lower the heart rate, and improve the efficiency of the lungs.

Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, especially if you swim vigorously, reach your target heart rate, and maintain continuous movement for as long as possible.

Increased Lung Capacity

Swimming helps to improve a player’s respiratory capacity.

Respiratory capacity consists of the maximum oxygen capacity that the body can absorb, transport, and consume in a given time.

soccer player running with ball
Soccer player running with ball

This is important because we rely on our lungs to supply the oxygen we need to keep our muscles performing at their peak capacity. Without enough oxygen, our muscles will tire quicker, and our performance levels will decrease.

Increased lung or respiratory capacity will improve a player’s performance on the field.

Studies have shown the swimmers have a high lung capacity than many other athletes. This is another reason why incorporating swimming into your training can be hugely beneficial to you as a soccer player.

One way players can measure their respiratory rate is by paying attention to their heart rate. The higher the heart rate, the harder your heart is having to work to pump oxygen around your body. The best athletes can increase their heart rate and then lower it rapidly.

I recommend following the example of professional soccer players and getting hold of a fitness tracker vest to monitor your progress in this area. Check out my recommendations in my article – The Best GPS Fitness Tracker for Soccer Players.

Enhanced Core Stability

One of the great aspects of swimming is that it is a sport that helps you build all your muscle groups, especially your core stability.

In soccer, a player regularly has to do complicated maneuvers that require a high level of physical ability. A U-turn on the field with opponents approaching you or dribbling the ball to get past them without losing your balance is a challenging task.

An increase in core stability allows you to do these tasks with greater ease.

Core stability and strength also play a vital role when you need to kick the ball long distances for a pass or a shot at a goal. With greater core strength and stability, you can generate more power through your feet so that you can kick the ball harder and further.

Reduced Risk of Injuries

Swimming is a low-impact form of exercise that has a lower incidence of injuries compared to other training.

It is gentle on the joints, bones, and the body in general since the only thing it comes into contact with is water. Due to the water’s buoyancy, you don’t put stress on your joints and ligaments. Swimming involves only a slight chance of injury.

Swimming is a great way to help athletes rehabilitate and recover from an injury.

Your injuries may prevent you from doing exercises and recover your strength on land. However, the same may not be true when you’re in the water. The time you need to get back on the field may get reduced significantly with swimming, which will translate to more games played.

More Flexibility Throughout a Player’s Body

Most soccer players have a lean body. There’s little advantage to bulking up with huge muscles that interfere with flexibility and add unnecessary bulk that might make you slower on the field.

You don’t need to bulk up since, unlike football, size doesn’t matter in soccer. The perfect example of this is Lionel Messi.

Messi is one of the most celebrated and successful soccer players of all time and is just 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 159lbs. Since soccer is such a skill dominant game, as long as you’re strong enough to keep the ball, that’s all you need.

Swimming helps to keep you lean and elongates your muscles to keep them flexible. Swimming trains both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers as you use your arms and legs repeatedly in the pool.

Slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers are critical for soccer players since they help you make quick movements and maneuvers.

Your muscles also get stronger without adding more volume.

Helps a Player Cool Down After a Game

Swimming can also be an excellent cooling down routine post-game or after regular training.

As you know, swimming can be easier than jogging or running and doesn’t have a severe impact on your joints.

Soccer player swimming

When you get into the pool after regular training, you circulate oxygen through your body and help your muscles recover from the pain and also manage to squeeze out some aerobic conditioning.

Moreover, pool water also helps to cool your body and gives your warm muscles a splash of relief. It’s refreshing and, as a bonus, can also improve your mood.

Disadvantages of Swimming for Soccer Players

Despite the many benefits that swimming offers soccer players, it is necessary to emphasize that there are potential disadvantages to swimming as a soccer player.

Swimming Is an Aerobic Exercise; Soccer Is Anaerobic

Aerobic exercises are any activity that involves an increased heart rate for an extended period of time.

Anaerobic activities are activities that involve quick, short bursts of activity.

Overall, soccer is an anaerobic activity. The majority of a soccer game involves multiple short, high-intensity sprints and movements. Swimming, on the other hand, is aerobic and consists of long periods of continuous activity.

Because of the effect aerobic activity has on the slow-twitch muscle fibers, too much aerobic exercise can actually make a player slower.

Slowing down harms any soccer player’s game!

As I’ve already mentioned, stamina and endurance are essential in soccer. Still, a player should be careful not to overemphasize development in this area compared to improving anaerobic performance.

For a deeper look at aerobic vs. anaerobic performance in soccer, check out my article – Why long-distance running is NOT good for soccer players.

anaerobic vs aerobic

Risk of Dehydration 

One risk that often goes unnoticed in swimming is dehydration.

Swimming is a fairly intense exercise that involves the use of all the main muscles. This means you sweat and lose fluids, just like other types of intense workouts.

However, since you are underwater, it is often difficult to notice and feel that you are sweating.

For this reason, swimmers can become dehydrated, leading to the loss and imbalance of electrolytes (such as magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride) which are necessary for the healthy functioning of the body.

If you are going to swim, you need to keep a close eye on your fluid levels.

Swimming Isn’t an Intense Workout

If you want to see quick results from your actions, swimming isn’t the way to go.

Swimming is a low-impact and less intense workout than many others, making it less effective for massive improvements within the short term.

If you want to see drastic changes to your body in a short space of time, swimming won’t help. It can, however, help you in the long term. Small changes accumulate gradually to make a significant difference. 

It Can Be Time-Consuming

Since swimming sessions are usually long, it takes valuable time out of your tight schedule.

If you are a soccer player who wants to bring trophies to your college team, making time for swimming apart from your studies and other soccer training sessions is tough.

The long durations demanded by swimming may not be worth it when you have limited time.

Managing time is even more challenging for seasoned athletes who play the sport professionally. Hence, despite the potential positive impact of swimming on your muscles, it lacks flexibility.

Should a Soccer Player Swim?

Having looked at the advantages and disadvantages of swimming for soccer players, it’s time to think about what a player should do.

Swimming is good for soccer players because:

  • It improves a player’s cardiovascular capacity
  • It increases a player’s lung capacity
  • It provides enhanced core stability
  • It keeps a player’s muscles lean and flexible
  • It helps in recovery from injuries
  • It refreshes and increases circulation

But swimming also has the disadvantages of:

  • Being an aerobic exercise when soccer is anaerobic,
  • Putting a player at risk of dehydration
  • Not being a very intense workout
  • and being time-consuming

One of the great demands to achieve excellent performance on the soccer field is the optimal physical condition of the player. 

Soccer is an intense sport where endurance, energy, and agility are essential to staying active in games.

When you couple this with the current fierce competition, it means that both professional club players, and those who simply dedicate themselves to playing weekend games, follow strong training programs that primarily include running for up to more than an hour to improve their soccer ability.

It sometimes seems that these training sessions are not enough to shine on the field of play. Looking for external alternatives represents an opportunity to be at a higher level than your opponents.

While swimming can help you in many ways in your soccer career, you shouldn’t underestimate its limits. That’s why it’s best to complement your soccer training with swimming sessions instead of believing that it can make you a better player.

For instance, high-intensity soccer drills with less intense swimming would be an excellent match for a diverse and effective routine.

My advice is to include swimming in your fitness training as a low-impact active rest activity.

I recently released my 30-Day Soccer Fitness Guide, which includes a daily, step-by-step soccer-focused fitness program to help you take your fitness to the next level.

As part of the program, there are days set aside for active rest. Swimming is perfect for these days. 

ebook image

By following this program, you can enjoy the benefits of swimming combined with a fitness program that can set you apart from the rest of the players on the field.

Check it out here or click the button below.

Swimming Exercises For Soccer Players

If you do decide you want to include some swimming exercises in your soccer training, here’s what you should consider.

If you want to focus on particular muscle groups, you can choose different styles of swimming.

Some would help you train muscle groups of the upper body like biceps, triceps, and deltoids. In contrast, others will help you work on everything under the pelvis, like quads and thighs.

There are different types of exercises you can do in the pool and other styles of swimming that you can opt for.

Since each player is different, you need to figure out which combination works best for you. Consult your coach for their advice also.

You can mix your regular soccer drills with a session of backstrokes and butterfly or do running underwater after your normal training to provide you with impact-free resistance training.

While swimming is great on its own, you can’t depend on it as a soccer player. You’re better off complimenting your current training with swimming exercises.

Next Steps

Whether you integrate swimming into your routine or use it for recovery sessions, it shouldn’t be your focus.

Swimming is fantastic to change up your routine with an activity that is still demanding and provides results, but too much can have a detrimental effect on you as a soccer player.

For more effective ways to stay fit for soccer, have a look at one of my previous articles:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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