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Can Swimming Help With Soccer? Benefits and Drawbacks

Can Swimming Help With Soccer? Benefits and Drawbacks

Most of the time, when we talk about sports, we often refer to them as isolated activities. However, players are more single-sport athletes on a professional level than multi-sport athletes. This is understandable since focusing on a sport can help improve its mastery.

Like other professional athletes, professional soccer players spend most of their days focused on soccer. However, this does not prevent them from pursuing other interests in different sports.

One of such sporting activity is swimming. Like most of us, swimming is done more as a leisure activity than a competitive sport. The same can be said for those soccer players who swim during the soccer season and in off-seasons.

Are there any benefits of swimming to soccer players who engage in them, or is it just a pastime activity? This article seeks to determine if there are any significant correlations, with regards to improving performance in soccer, between swimming and playing professional soccer.

Can swimming help with soccer?

Yes, it can. There is reliable evidence that shows that swimming can help improve soccer players’ overall health and physical attributes.

Most soccer players who engage in swimming do it to stay in shape and keep fit during the off-season. Others use it as an effective recovery method after their training sessions.

man with muscles swimming

As an intense and rigorous sport, soccer needs lots of endurance, balance, and agility. When we bring in the amount of running, jogging, or the average total distance covered by the players (somewhere between 5 to 8 miles), cardiovascular exercises become a necessity.

For this reason, many soccer players play other sports when they have the time for it. It is something that professional sports fitness experts highly recommend.

Growing up, especially in high school, most of us were involved in multi-sport activities. For many professional soccer players, this was the stepping stone that helped them build the needed endurance and fitness that the sport requires.

What are the benefits of swimming?

Swimming is a sport or recreational activity that involves the propulsion of the body in water. To help propel and keep the body afloat, the arms and legs are kept in a constant controlled motion.

With over 71% of the earth covered in water, swimming should not only be a sport or recreational activity but a necessity. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of swimming as a soccer player.

Complete body workout

If you have ever been involved in swimming, you’ll understand that it takes coordination of your entire body to not only propel you in the water but also to keep you afloat.

From your hands and legs kicking and beating the water to placing your body in a streamlined position to break through the water’s column, your entire body experiences a total workout.

For soccer players, all parts of their bodies need to be fit and in shape. For instance, a good way to move through the water is by performing flutter kicks or other forms of kicking.

To effectively perform the kick, the toes have to be pointed out in proper alignment with the knees. Over time, for a soccer player, this helps free up the ankle area to take better ball kicks and shots.

Although soccer players are not allowed to use hands when playing (unless for the goalkeeper), hand swimming strokes can help improve the arm’s flexibility when running. For a soccer goalie, swimming strokes will help improve flexibility on the shoulders, elbows, and arms in general.

hand swimming strokes

Swimming also helps in total muscle memory and strengthening. Since the focus is on soccer players who primarily use the feet to play, engaging in leg exercises in water can help improve stamina and endurance.

A good example of a professional soccer player who takes this seriously is Cristiano Ronaldo. Regarded as one of the most hardworking soccer players to have ever graced the sport, he decided to include an underwater treadmill in his swimming.

He’s also known to take regular swimming sessions to help with a complete body workout.

Swimming, when combined with other targeted body exercises, can have a tremendous effect on the player’s abilities.

Swimming pools are not just an aesthetic feature in the homes of most of these professional soccer players but equipment to achieve a comprehensive body workout.

Cardiovascular fitness

Combining soccer with swimming is a good way to get the best of both worlds of exercise. Professional swimmers have the best lung capacity than any other player in any sport. This is obviously because they have to take longer breaths while in water.

This helps them achieve lower blood pressure and heart rate in the long run. This is what cardiovascular fitness is all about—the ability to engage in a high-intensity activity without the body getting tired quickly.

benefits of swimming when combined with soccer

Soccer players can benefit greatly from this as the sport requires lots of quick burst runs and strenuous activities. With more oxygen in the lungs, soccer players can benefit by having energy feeds both aerobically and anaerobically.

Muscle toning and burning of fats

Swimming can be done as a form of exercise. A significant amount of calories is burned from an ideal swimming session.

Soccer players can key into this to help reduce body fats and increase muscle tone. Unwanted body fats do not only affect performance on the pitch, it has a negative effect on the player’s health.

Swimming alone may not be sufficient to tone muscles and burn fats for a soccer player, but it works well as a good extra exercise.

It helps to reduce the occurrence of injuries

This is particularly true for soccer players during the off-season. During soccer seasons, players are actively involved in all kinds of training and exercise week in and out. This helps them stay fit and strong.

soccer players running in training sessions

Off-seasons are the only available time when professional soccer players can rest from all the strenuous activities they have endured for months. However, if unchecked, it could lead to complacency in training and exercising.

Swimming becomes a healthy alternative to retain muscle memory and stay active while still being able to enjoy the time off. Taking a break from targeted exercises can make the player susceptible to injuries when a new season begins.

Incorporating swimming into periodization routines will help improve the soccer player’s overall performance.

As a recovery method

Muscle recovery is an important aspect of training in any sport, especially soccer. As a sport with intense training and workout sessions, fitness experts mandatorily include recovery into their training plans.

It is common to see soccer players use ice baths, stretching, drinks, or even massages as recovery methods. Other soccer players, who understand the benefits of swimming, also use swimming as a good recovery method.

Swimming is a fun way to relax the muscles after intense exercises. Just ensure you do not push your body harder than it has already been beaten.

Improved sleep

Sleep is an essential aspect of a soccer player’s life. Therefore, it is jointly recommended as a good recovery method with other preferred options.

On average, soccer players should get about 8 hours of sleep. It helps restart the body and prepare it for another day of intense activity.

This is where swimming comes in as a great motivator. After swimming, the body is primed at its best for recovery. This is the best time to take a nap.

Also, the quality of sleep after swimming has a rejuvenating effect on the performance of soccer players.

man sleeps tight

Should you swim before a soccer game?

There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. It would depend on what your body can handle.

As we already discussed, swimming can serve as both a complete body workout and a good recovery method. Swimming hours before a game can help improve performance since the muscles are well rejuvenated from recovery and sleep.

However, if done for a complete workout, it’s important that other strenuous activities are either reduced into routines or eliminated.

Either way, if you want to swim before the start of a soccer game, it’s advisable to do so at most 2 hours before the game begins. This way, your muscles are well rested and fully recovered.

Drawbacks of swimming in soccer

Swimming acts as one of the natural ways to help build and tone muscles in soccer, especially when compared with steroids. However, if not adequately included in training routines, it can be counterproductive and lower performance.

Fatigue and cramps

Swimming can be a fun recreational activity, but when included in training sessions, it is best to design and follow up on a routine. Swimming just for the sake of it can be exhausting and tiring.

If you spend an extended period in water, muscle fatigue begins to kick in. As a soccer player, this can be a serious threat on the pitch.

Swimming may have numerous advantages in soccer but can become a nightmare if not properly checked and controlled.

cramp at swimming pool

Dehydration problems

Swimming takes a lot of energy, especially with the coordinated movements of the arms and legs. Just like any energy exerting activity, this causes the body to sweat.

However, it is hard to notice because the body is submerged in water. Extended periods of sweating leads to dehydration of the body’s fluid. These fluids take along with them some of the body’s needed electrolytes.

For a soccer player, dehydration can cause several heart-related problems. In addition, an improper electrolyte balance in the body can affect muscle contractions and coordination.

dehydration when swimming

Muscles play an important role in soccer since they’re needed for strenuous activities. A decline in body coordination will affect your balance and critical thinking.

This is why soccer players are encouraged to take in a lot of fluids after swimming or performing rigorous activities.


Swimming is an excellent way to improve soccer players’ cardiovascular capacity and muscle strength. It is also an excellent recreational activity that can be included in a player’s training sessions during the soccer season and off-seasons.

Since swimming helps increase lung capacity, it allows soccer players to hold in more air in their lungs while running around the pitch. This helps provide sufficient oxygen to the muscles and prevents easy muscle tiredness.

There are several benefits soccer players can get through swimming. However, they have to be careful not to partake in it for longer periods to avoid experiencing its drawbacks.

A routine should be drawn up and followed to avoid affecting players’ performance. If players decide to take a swim before a game, it is best to do so hours before the game commences to allow for proper recovery.