Swimming vs Cycling – Best Exercise for Training in Injury

 Most people use cycling and swimming as alternative exercises in times of recovery. Still, they are formidable exercises that make a big difference. Which between the two is more ideal as a recovery alternative?

Hi everyone. I’m Josh and I have been a marathoner for the past 15 years of my life. Over those years I have gained and suffered a lot from running and every experience has only made me better and more resilient.

As an athlete, injuries could happen to a beginner as well as to an expert. How we handle them or manage them after the fact makes a big difference in how we heal and how fast we can get back to doing what we love.

Swimming and cycling are what we runners fall back to when we are unable to run. Here is what I have learned about these two low-impact exercises.

Swimming vs Cycling Summary Comparison

Training Concern
Which technique rules?
Stronger Leg Muscles
VO2 Intake
Building Abs
Cardio Workout
Strength Training
Calories Burned
Swimming at 700 calories
Least risk and danger
Best for terminal Illness
Best for muscle or joint injury


Swimming vs Cycling for Weight Loss

Both techniques are effective in shedding excess weight but swimming burns more calories as compared to cycling.

Both of these exercise routines call for some effort but swimming works out more than your lower body. For you to lose weight effectively and in a balanced way, you must lose more calories than you take in.

To lose at least a pound, you should shed approximately 3500 calories. Finding the best training techniques between the two depends on the number of calories once can shed per hour.

Adding to the twist of discovering which between cycling and swimming is ideal for you, your current weight and how hard you can work on the training and not forgetting your form in technique, contribute massively to how much you can shed per hour.

It turns out, the more pounds or kilograms you weigh, the more calories you will shed. This is because calories are simply units of energy and so they are a measure of how much energy you need to get you moving. When you are heavier in kilograms or pounds, you require more energy to shift around and that’s why you effectively burn more calories.

The more calories you burn, the more fat is transferred into lean muscle, and the more body mass you lose which translates to lost kilos. When swimming for about an hour, an average weighted individual at about 155lbs will lose about 700 calories while the same individual cycling outside at the same time will lose about 600 calories.

Probably on a stationary bike, which can allow for more intense revolutions per minute, the same individual could burn almost as much as when they swim. So, with respect to losing calories, it seems an hour at the pool will help you shed off more.

Either way, to lose weight, you must combine training with a proper diet. Minimizing and regulating the number of calories in your daily intake is crucial to the success of your training regimen. If you work out and keep eating junk, nothing changes. So, whichever training technique you settle for, remember to diet first and stay hydrated.

Swimming vs cycling for a cardio workout

Choose cycling over swimming to get your heart pumping and your temperatures raised because it encourages breathing.

Getting your heart pumping hard and raising your body temperature is what cardio does to our system. These properties increase blood flow to our arteries and get our joints moving fluidly. While swimming is a great cardio activity, it keeps your body at a much cooler temperature than normal and prevents your heart rate from going up as it normally does in other cardio exercises.

It is both an aerobic and anaerobic activity because you have the choice between training in short intervals or going a long distance at a constant pace. Aerobic moves like taking laps in the pool will build your lung capacity and help you become more enduring.

Anaerobic exercises are those that require a burst of energy while holding your breath to get through activity or challenge which is then followed by long recovery breaks. Both alternatives get your heart rate a little bit high but being underwater, not much heat is created.

Either way, swimming for about 30 minutes in strokes back and forth, will have you feeling exhausted. While cycling, it is much easier to raise your heart rate and temperature from the quick racing down spontaneous terrain. Biking is also great for mental health helping to raise your spirits by being outdoors.

The heavy breathing is a great aerobic workout provided by cycling and your lower body muscles benefit from the peddling. Being a low impact exercise on your joints and muscles, it is a fun way to be outdoors and to keep healthy. However, you need to invest in protective biking equipment to stay safe in case of an incident.

Between the two, biking is more powerful than a cardio workout compared to swimming. Your oxygen volume or VO2 intake is increased while cycling and this is good news for your lungs, liver, kidney, heart, and brain.

Swimming vs cycling for belly fat

Swimming vs Cycling

Swimming is more effective in burning belly fat compared to cycling but with a very slight difference.

If you have some stubborn belly fat that you have done everything to get rid of but you still can’t figure it out, try swimming. Many peoples’ bodies respond differently to training techniques. Trying a few techniques with monitoring may help you find your ideal training technique between cycling and swimming.

Underwater training allows your body temperature to remain at a certain level. This happens to work out well for burning belly fat. It turns out that the more you work out in terms of strokes in the pool, the more temperature you conduct but it is kept inside your body by the general temperature of the pool.

When trying to finish belly fat around your stomach or waist, it is important to remember that it cannot be reduced by focusing or targeting exercises towards our abs. Yes, doing so increases the effectiveness and speed of visible changes but nothing much can be accomplished by spot training your abdominal muscles.

To gain a flat or more tone midsection, you have to give your body an overall good workout and do this on a consistent basis. More than that, your diet is extremely crucial in reference to your belly fat. You become what you eat and eating a high protein, vegetable, fruits with limited carbs, and tons of liquids will get your body overall leaner and more energetic.

When working out to tone your stomach, of most importance is that you keep a straight back and a tight core. When cycling on an upright bicycle, you have the option of contracting your core while bent over resting on the handlebars.

Another way to target your core is to try cycling in an upright position and hands-free. This will have you focused and concentrating all your energy into your mid-riff muscles and joints. This is a bit difficult though and risky. Request help from your instructor.

Finally, swimming seems to be more effective in the shaping and sculpting of the ideal body shape. To get a more compound effect, you could combine the two.

Swimming vs cycling – best for injured muscles

Swimming is best for injured muscles because it is weightless and will not stress them any further as compared to cycling which requires you to push down on the bike pedals.

Considering it is also a very relaxing form of exercise, this is the best option for anyone who is suffering from any muscle pain. Swimming exerts no pressure on the muscles and instead of the resistance in the buoyancy of the water help strengthen the damaged cells.

What’s more, is that the weather conditions against the throbbing and hot area around the inflamed muscles are cooled down by the water. Water has a healing property and anyone with an injury should take advantage of the pool to stretch out their muscles.

Working the aching muscles against the water currents helps soothe the throbbing pain and helps to quicken the healing process by stimulating blood flow to the region. Swimming will also soothe your mental and psychological stress that comes with being immobile or unproductive as a result of an injury.

Cycling on the other hand, though specialists will advise some patients of injury to cycle a few days of the week, when it comes to injured muscles, its best to steer clear.

Cycling requires you to navigate and calls for short and quick turns and bends that will indefinitely trigger your sore muscles. The searing pain that you will feel could cause you to lose grasp of the handles either increasing your chances of injury or putting your life in danger.

Though it doesn’t put a strain directly on your knee or leg muscle, cycling when you are injured could increase and worsen the inflamed muscle causing more tears in arteries and capillaries that make it even harder to heal.

Swimming is a sure bet for anyone who is elderly or anyone who is currently in pain or is consistently in pain due to some terminal illness like arthritis.

Swimming frog styles vs spin class

Frog style of swimming is quite tough to master but spin classes are easy and can be done by anyone.

The frog style of swimming is also known as breaststroke due to the hand movements that are similar to frog movements underwater. It is one of the slowest techniques to perform but is effective in calorie burning.

With your palms pulled towards your chest and touching each other as in prayer then push your arms outward with palms facing down towards your shoulders. Then turn your palms outward and push back the water in a semicircle and back to starting position.

Your legs should be streamlined and to do it perfectly, you need to pull your knees up to your chest and kick out before returning to the original position and repeating. It is possible to burn up to 680 calories every hour doing this technique.

Spin classes are great because of the general team spirit and the encouraging charges by your instructor. This combination will have many people pushing themselves beyond their usual limits. It is possible to lose anywhere between 600 and 1000 calories per hour which are quite impressive.

If you have to choose between the two, the best idea is to pick both of them. If your goals are to gain muscle, spinning first and then taking a dip in the swimming pool will help you attain your goals that much faster.

Alternatively, you could do some swimming sessions and some cycling sessions on different days of the week to gain benefits from both techniques. While the spin class will cause your muscles and joints to get a bit sore after training at high intensity, swimming will help cool you off and further sculpt your body.

Drawbacks of swimming and drawbacks of cycling

Major disadvantage of the two is accessibility and affordability. Meaning that both these training options require some monetary investment in order to use them.

Some of the disadvantages of swimming are such that it increases the occurrence of pain in joints or tendons because of the repetitive movements one makes while swimming.

Swimming could cause irritations in the eye or skin because of the many chemicals in the water to keep it safe and germ-free. You should invest in high-quality goggles and gear to keep your performance free of toxins.

Picking swimming as your routine training sport will increase your monthly budget as you must find a pool to train in every other day. these are in limited availability and you will most likely end up paying peruse which is expensive to maintain.

Cycling as well increases your expenditure as you have to purchase a good quality bike and the necessary protective gear to go riding across town.

The fact that you will be traversing the city roads filled with traffic and crazy, angry drivers, cycling is a bit riskier compared to swimming.

Cycle lanes and trails are missing in most states and this is an added frustration to the cyclers. Where to store or park your bicycle is another huge inconvenience because any minute you leave it unattended for too long you risk it getting stolen.

Distance in miles or kilometers you can go on a bike to gain the same calorie-burning activities the swimming pool can provide is limited out in the hazardous streets.


Is cycling good for swimmers?

Yes, cycling is a great way for swimmers to break the monotony of swimming daily as training.

The muscle development encouraged in cycling is great for swimmers who use a lot of their lower body muscles to propel themselves underwater.

The large muscles that can be achieved through cycling help the individual in terms of stamina and overall swimming speed. One way you can spice up your training as a swimmer is to incorporate interval training. This is basically sprinting on the bicycle for about a minute at high intensity and cooling off by peddling moderately for three minutes then repeat the cycle.

This rise and fall in-breath and temperature helps your body adapt to shocks and makes you more enduring and stronger. Adding some weight or resistance to your cycling technique will also add to the power in your leg muscles that will come in handy when stroking the water.

Which swim stroke burns most calories?

The butterfly stroke is on record as the best stroke in terms of burning calories.

It has the capacity to burn up to 775 calories off a 155lbs individual per hour meaning that you can lose up to a pound in less than 6 days. To settle the calorie-burning concern in terms of swimming techniques, the breaststroke is mentioned as a friendly alternative that can burn about 70 calories less than the butterfly stroke.

Is it advisable to swim and cycle on the same day?

Yes. There is no issue associated with swimming and cycling on the same day.

Unless of course, you do too much of one that will make the other activity a little unbearable. Water has calming and healing effects and it is very advisable to take a dip in the pool after a good spin cycle.

You are discouraged from swimming before you exercise as it tires you out and will kill your drive to go hard in the gym.

Swimming after cycling helps cool you off and eases the tension in the worked muscles making your next day more bearable than if you missed the evening or afternoon dip.

Why am I so tired after a swim?

Swimming is a full-body workout underwater that works out your hamstrings, glutes, anterior and posterior muscle, biceps, triceps, and abdominal muscles.

A few splashes and cool strokes in the water will be working out all these muscles at the same time.

The resistance in the water that you are constantly swimming against also plays a part in causing fatigue to take you over.


If you have any aches and pains related to your muscles and joints, it is advisable to do a less mobile activity. Swimming takes the pressure off your injuries and your mind temporarily off the pain. Being able to stretch and do a few strokes every now and again keeps the body in check.