In addition to being great cardiovascular exercise, lap swimming can help to tone all the muscles in your body. There are a number of modifications that can be made to a lap routine to enhance and specialize your workout. If you want to tone your arms, a combination of these modifications and water aerobics can do wonders.
Swim laps using the front crawl stroke to strengthen your arms. This stroke is the one most typically used for laps and, when done properly, uses the water as resistance to tone your muscles. It's called the front crawl because your belly is in the water as you propel yourself forward.
Bring one arm as far out of the water as you can, keeping the rest of your body in streamlined position. Bend your elbow so that it is at a right angle to your upper arm and shoulder and place the opposite arm out straight in front of you.
Cup your hand with your fingers together and push the water out behind you. Keeping your arm close to your side, raise it up out of the water in a circular motion and bring it to a position straight out in front of you.
Pull the other arm into the right angle position as you are bringing the first arm forward. Effectively, you will be using your arms in a windmill motion--both arms will always be moving.
Keep kicking your legs as you are doing the front crawl, as it will help to propel you forward and keep your bottom half from sinking.
Place a small buoy between your knees as you are swimming laps. Holding the buoy tight with your legs will prevent you from kicking which, in turn, will force your arms to work harder to keep your body afloat. This is a great way to tone your shoulder and arm muscles, especially if you use it while doing both the front crawl and the backstroke.
Use webbed water gloves while swimming laps. The webbed gloves will increase the water resistance as you swim. As you swim the front crawl, the gloves will help you to tone your tricep muscles, while using them with the backstroke will tone your biceps.
Take a water aerobics class at your local swimming pool to combine cardio and strengthening exercises. Most pools offer classes at both beginner and intermediate levels.
Use your webbed water gloves during the water aerobics class, especially when you are jogging in place or doing arm-resistance work. While arm-resistance work alone will help to tone your arms, the more you push through the water while you're moving, the better. Many instructors will encourage you to make small circular or side-to-side arm movements while you are jogging anyway--make the most of it!
Invest in a set of aqua blocks if the pool doesn't have any. The blocks are small, barbell-shaped flotation devices that, when pushed down or pulled up in the water, create a strong resistance. They, too, can be used with the arm movements to increase the effectiveness of water aerobics.
Even the best of swimmers can encounter unexpected situations. Always have another person with you as you swim, whether it be a friend or the pool's lifeguard.