You may think that jumping into a pool is only something you do for leisure outside of the gym. But think again.
By incorporating swimming into your training routine, you will not only give your body a well-deserved break, but you will also gain some terrific health benefits, too.
Here are five ways swimming will make you a more well-rounded martial artist.
#1 Swimming Improves Your Cardio
Swimming is a great cardiovascular activity, but there is a difference between the two main types of swimming: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic swims are long distance. Typically, any continuous swim for more than five minutes falls under this category.
Anaerobic swims are short distance, but more intense. These swims increase your lactic threshold. This means swimming intense, short distances can condition your muscles for hitting the pads or bags in a Muay Thai class.
Just ask former ONE Championship star “Mighty” May Ooi, who participated in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. The swimmer-turned-martial artist scored four victories from 2014 to 2017, winning twice by knockout and twice by submission.
There is no doubt those extra laps in the pool helped.
#2 Swimming Makes Recovery Less Strenuous
Training in martial arts challenges your body, and a wonderful way to relax is with swimming.
If you are suffering from an injury and have to avoid high-impact exercises, swimming provides a great low-impact alternative.
As opposed to exercising on the pavement, which can do more damage to healing injuries, water serves as a cushion for your joints and bones.
Malaysian featherweight sensation Keanu Subba echoes that sentiment. “I think swimming is a great way to help with recovery and conditioning,” he says. “It’s the least taxing on the joints, and you can go hard every day!”
#3 Swimming Builds Up Your Endurance
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All athletes need endurance, and martial artists are no different. Without endurance, you would never be able to perform repetitive motions for extended periods of time.
Swimming helps you build endurance, especially if you swim for longer laps at slower paces.
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Endurance will help you kick those Thai pads 50 times at the end of a drill without finding yourself hunched over desperately throwing kicks and gasping for air.
ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is considered one of the best mixed martial artists of all time, and his endurance is off the charts.
#4 Swimming Makes You Stronger
Swimming is also a moderate form of resistance training. When you swim, you are propelling your body through water using all your muscles.
Since you use every muscle in your body, you will get stronger everywhere.
This practical strength carries over to martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where you need that strength to defend or attack on the ground.
Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai builds up his strength in the pool – sometimes with fins!
#5 Swimming Increases Your Lung Capacity
Swimming teaches you how to control your breathing. In martial arts, when you do not manage your breathing well, you may end up gassing out during your training sessions.
Proper breathing techniques, on the other hand, increase the way your body uses oxygen.
Former ONE Lightweight World Title challenger Amir Khan believes this is the number one benefit of swimming. Whenever the Singaporean has a chance to hit the pool, he uses that time to improve his oxygen intake.
“What I feel helps me personally is just breathing. When you swim, you have to create a breathing pattern. Let’s say if your breathing pattern is out, you cannot swim efficiently,” the Evolve star explains.
“Whenever I swim, I just focus on my breathing, and I feel it translates to martial arts because, in martial arts, you always need to have a proper breathing system.”