5 Swimming Workouts You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less

You don’t need to swim for hours to get a killer workout in the pool. Here are some excellent 30-minute swim workouts for HIIT, pacing, calorie burning, and more.

While there are a lot of excellent benefits to swimming, saving time is not exactly one of them.

Unlike going for a run down the block, doing bodyweight exercises in your basement, or jumping on a road bike, swimming takes up a lot of time.

Not just to drive down to the pool, but changing, both before and after your swim, getting out onto the pool deck, collecting your swim gear, and so on.

But the good news is that you don’t need to spend a ton of time in the pool to get a great swim workout.

In fact, with a little focus and some planning, a 30-minute swim workout can check all the boxes when it comes to getting in better shape and swimming faster.

In this guide, we’ll check out some effective swim workouts that you can fit in under 30 minutes so that you can get back to your day with the afterglow of a great workout.

Let’s dive right on in.

30-Minute Swim Workout #1: Tabata

  • Why it’s awesome: Short, sweet, and to the point, Tabata is a demanding form of HIIT that develops anaerobic capacity better than steady-state exercise.

When it comes to 30-minute swim workouts, there is nothing more intense and high-yield than Tabata.

The Tabata protocol is a very high-intensity form of interval training formulated by Japanese researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata in the 1990s. The concept is simple and short (but not easy)…

Perform 8 rounds of all-out exercise for 20 seconds alternating with 10 seconds rest.

This is one of my favorite types of interval training swim workouts due to its short time frame.

Despite the short training window, the Tabata protocol has been shown to yield significant aerobic and anaerobic benefits.

The O.G. study, titled “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max,” compared Tabata with longer moderate-intensity training (MIT).

Tabata was superior for developing anaerobic capacity while building the same amount of aerobic gains as the steady-state training control group.

In other words: less time swimming and better gains compared to “traditional” steady-state training.

Here’s how you can use Tabata within a 30-minute swim workout:

  • Warm Up: 600m mix swim and kick
  • Pre-set: 8×25 alternating choice drill and build swim
  • Extra minute rest
  • Main set: 8×25 as 20 seconds of ALL-OUT effort, 10 seconds rest
  • Extra minute rest
  • Warm-Down: 8×50 swim with perfect technique, choice interval

The challenging part of this type of set—besides huffing and puffing through maximum effort reps, of course—is finding a way to make the 25s last 20 seconds.

Using a swim parachute or DragSox is a way to extend the work in each round if you are crossing the length of the pool in much faster than 20 seconds.

30-Minute Swim Workout #2: Kick-Centric

  • Why it’s awesome: Kicking is a great way to get a workout in the pool without crushing your shoulders.

Kicking in the pool, whether with a kickboard, face down with a swim snorkel, or on your side with one arm outstretched, offers lots of benefits to swimmers.

From added leg fitness, to working the core, or simply burning a metric ton of calories, kick sets for swimmers are legit.

In this swim workout that can be done in 30 minutes or less, we are going to hit the legs and hit them fast and hard.

  • Warm-Up: 400m with your favorite swim fins. Alternate 50m swim and 50m kick. Build the 50m kicks to fast.
  • Main set: 30×25 kick at 80-90% effort on :45
  • Warm-Down: 100 easy swim

When it comes to getting a killer workout in the pool, you don’t need to overthink it.

After a focused warm-up, get your butt on that kickboard and kick like a monster!

  • Tip: Highly recommend adding some dynamic leg stretches to your pre-swim routine with kick-heavy workouts. Forward and lateral leg swings are often enough to promote blood flow and loosen the joints around the hips and quads to get the most from your swim workout.

30-Minute Swim Workout #3: Strength and Power

  • Why it’s awesome: Power and speed work in the pool are a great way to stay fully engaged with your swimming and also get stronger and faster in the water.

Resistive swimming is a form of training where swimmers increase intensity and difficulty of swimming with resistance tools like a swim parachute, tether, and power towers.

Essentially, it is swim-specific strength development in the pool.

Resistive swimming has a lot of benefits beyond getting stronger in the pool.

It can help diagnose technique errors (and the things you are doing correctly) by amplifying aspects of the stroke. It is also a great workout, encouraging more core activation compared to regular swimming.

In this 30-minute strength-focused swim workout, we will alternate some resistive swimming with regular swimming so that you can carry over the benefits of added strength to your stroke.

  • Warm-Up: 400m as 100m swim, 100m kick, 100m pull, 100m swim build
  • Main set: 3 rounds [4×25 swim with swim parachute at 90% effort — :30 rest between 25s + 50 swim fast + 50 easy]
  • Warm-Down: 100 easy

Make sure to fully loosen up the shoulders and upper back before diving into this kind of resistive-based swim training.

  • Fun Fact: Resistive swimming can also help you balance your stroke. One study published in 2017 by the Journal of Sports Sciences, titled “Effect of hand paddles and parachute on backstroke coordination and stroke parameters,” found that when swimmers trained with swim paddles and a parachute, the stroke balanced out, creating “propulsive continuity.”

Add dynamic stretches (arm swings) to your pre-swim routine to get loose and ready for strong swimming.

30-Minute Swim Workout #4: Pacing

  • Why it’s awesome: This swim workout is short but designed to help you improve your ability to pace in the water.

Pacing is a crucial skill in the water. It allows you to properly manage energy to charge into the finish line or touchpad.

Pacing is crucial for not burning out in longer races, avoiding “crashes,” and even reducing injuries in training and competition.

This 30-minute swimming workout teaches you how to pace yourself with total precision.

Choose a pace time and try and “feel” your way to hitting those target times.

Learning how to pace yourself creates a more disciplined athlete in the water, and it’s also a mentally engaging way to complete a swim workout.

For this workout, pick a target pace for the 50s. In the swim workout below, we will use an example of a target pace of 35 seconds.

During the main set, will do some speed play, trying to hit that pace time, slightly slower than the pace time, and slightly faster so that you develop a full range of how to control the pace.

  • Warm-Up: 200m swim choice
  • Main set: 21×50 swim on 1:00 as seven rounds [50 target pace +1 second (i.e., 36 seconds), 50 target pace (i.e., 35 seconds], 50 target pace -1 second (i.e., 34 seconds)]
  • Warm-down: 200m swim choice

This pacing swim set helps you learn to properly manage your energy and fatigue in the water, allowing you to swim longer and faster.

30-Minute Swim Workout #5: Recovery & Relax

  • Why it’s awesome: Feeling a little stiff and run-down? This 30-minute swim practice is a full-body workout designed to promote blood flow, shake the rust, and have you leaving the pool feeling energized.

One of the best parts about swimming is the sheer versatility of what you can do in the course of your swim workouts.

Head-up breaststroke? Sure. Lots of pulling to work those shoulders? Why not!

This 30-minute swim workout is a full-body workout that is perfect on those days when you are feeling a little beat up, sore, or just want to get the blood flowing from head to toe in the water.

  • Warm-up: 200m swim choice + 100m kick
  • Main set:
  • Part 1: 6×100 IM with 25 seconds rest between reps. Alternate drill and swim on the 100s.
  • Part 2: 6×50 freestyle swim with 20 seconds rest between reps. Focus on efficiency and distance per stroke.
  • Warm-down: 100 double-arm backstroke + 10 deep eater bobs, shaking the limbs + 5 minute hot tub (if time allows 😉)

Tips for Getting More from 30-Minute Swim Workouts

Here are some time-tested tips for getting the most from the small amount of time you have in the pool:

Add a dryland activation routine to reduce time spent on pool warm-up.

Even though you only have thirty minutes in the water, you can “prep” for your swims outside of the water.

Use arm swings and leg swings, and add some of my favorite core exercises for swimmers, like planks, side bridges, and unilateral glute bridges, to “pre-heat” your muscles so that you can spend less time warming up and more time crushing them.

Cut out the garbage yards.

“Garbage yards” is a term frequently used on pool decks to describe yards that are swum without purpose or utility.

The benefit of having limited time in the pool is that you can cut out the unnecessary stuff and focus on the meters that actually drive results.

While long, unfocused swimming can be a great mental break from the dry side of life, if you have goals in the water beyond unplugging, cut the fluff, and get to work.

Warm down outside the pool.

Another tactic for making the most of your time in the water is to do a warm-down outside of the pool.

A designated 10-minute walk, for example. Or a 5-minute stretch and shower to get the smell of chlorine off while bringing back suppleness to your joints and muscles.

If the time limitation is strictly based on pool time (i.e., lap swim only lasts 30 minutes), you can get creative with how you warm down outside of the water to maximize time spent on the main set.

How many calories do you burn swimming for 30-minutes?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, an 185-pound individual burns 420 calories swimming “vigorously” for 30 minutes.

Compared to cycling (355 calories) and walking (178 calories), swimming is a highly time-efficient way to burn a ton of calories while exercising.

See also: How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?

Is swimming for 30 minutes enough for a good workout?

Whether swimming for 30 minutes is a good workout depends on your goals in the pool.

30-minutes is enough time to get your heart rate up, perform resistance training in the pool, and even learn how to pace your swimming properly. Especially if you can maximize the bread-and-butter swimming by performing most of your warm-up and warm-down on the pool deck.

As you can see from the swim workouts above, you can generate serious anaerobic and aerobic gains in less than thirty minutes in the pool.

Wrapping Things Up

To paraphrase a song by the country band Alabama, we are all in a hurry to get things done, including our swim workouts.

These quick and effective 30-minute swim workouts prove that you don’t need hours in the pool to reap the countless benefits of swimming.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned pro, these short sessions offer a Big Mac-sized serving of splashes, fitness, and engagement.

Disclaimer: Remember, before kicking off a new swim workout regimen or engaging in vigorous exercise, it’s always wise to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it’s the right fit for you.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month logbook for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, anecdotes, and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.


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4 months ago

Thanks, Olivier 👏

Olivier Poirier-Leroy
Reply to  Ema
4 months ago

My pleasure 🙂

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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