It’s a question that you’ll see asked on many online forums, “Can Bodybuilders Float?”
Just their sheer size, and almost the inability to move normally, generates a great deal of interest in what bodybuilders would be like in a pool.
In fact, you hardly ever see an extremely muscular guy doing laps in a swimming pool or floating in the sea.
Okay, we’ve probably all seen a muscling-hulk don a pair of speedos, although they never actually seem to go near the water
In truth, this comes down to the science of buoyancy and preferred methods of cardio for a bodybuilder.
Allow me to explain.
Can Bodybuilders Float?
Bodybuilders will find it more difficult to float than your average person. Fat tissue has a lower density than water, whereas muscle and bone tissue have a higher density. Most bodybuilders have a lot of muscle mass, higher bone density, and lower body fat levels. This makes it a lot harder to float or swim. In fact, many bodybuilders tend to avoid water due to the amount of effort required to simply stay afloat, never mind swimming.
1. Greater Muscle Mass Makes it Harder to Float
The main concern when it comes to whether bodybuilder’s can float is the amount of muscle mass they’re carrying.
I’m sure there’s many theories about whether a heavily muscular person can float or not, but it basically comes down to density.
As Archimedes once stated in his famous principle, “An object will float if it is less dense than the fluid”.
When it comes to the human body the most important elements for measuring density are bone tissue, fat tissue, and muscle tissue.
For now let’s concentrate on muscle tissue, and I’ll get to the other two in a moment.
Water has an average density value of 1.0 g/mL, whereas muscle tissue has an average density value of 1.1 g/mL.
So, in effect if an object was made up solely of muscle tissue it wouldn’t float.
Now, as fantastic a physique as many bodybuilders have, no-one is made up of 100% muscle tissue.
With that being said, it makes perfect sense that the more muscle tissue you have, the harder you will find it to float.
It’s also important not to confuse density with size or mass.
In fact, an obese person who weighs exactly the same as a muscular bodybuilder will have a far easier time floating.
Your body’s density is down to what it is made up of.
When it comes to muscle mass we take into consideration skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscle.
An average man will have approximately 75% muscle mass, whereas a woman will have 65%.
However, this can be as high as 89% and 75.5% for men and women bodybuilders respectively.
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2. Greater Bone Density Makes it Harder to Float
As I mentioned above, another important element for measuring density is bone tissue.
And any activity that puts stress on the bones can increase bone density.
During resistance training this “stress” is created by pulling and tugging on the bones as you lift weights.
This in turn will activate cells in the body to literally start building more bone.
This is actually why you’ll often hear that strength training is a great way to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Basically, the more you lift weights, the more bone density you are building.
So, in effect, you would expect bodybuilders to have extremely high bone density.
In fact, this is something that most professional bodybuilders are aware of, and they specifically strive for this.
Now, going back to Archimedes’ principle.
So, we know that water has an average density value of 1.0 g/mL.
However, bone tissue has an average density value of 1.75 g/mL.
Therefore, the more bone tissue you possess, the more difficult you will find it to float.
The average person will have bone mass of 3-5%, although this will get to slightly higher levels for bodybuilders.
Are you starting to see a trend yet?
Just as the case was with muscle tissue, it is likely that bodybuilders will have a higher density of bone tissue too.
In other words, bodybuilders tend to have more of the two body tissues (muscle and bone) that are denser than water.
Hold on, it’s about to get worse.
3. Reduced Body Fat Makes it Harder to Float
Now, the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to body density and the ability to float is fat tissue.
It’s interesting to note that fat tissue has an average density value of 0.9 g/mL.
Therefore, the average density of fat tissue is less than that of water.
In other words (according to Archimedes’ Principle) if an object is completely made up of fat tissue it would float very easily.
So, you could say the more fat tissue you have, the easier it is for you to float.
The average male has a body fat percentage of between 18-24%, whereas the average female is somewhere between 25-31%.
However, as you’re probably aware, most bodybuilders have extremely low body fat percentages.
In fact, the average bodybuilder will have a body fat percentage of between 3-5%.
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When you take into consideration a bodybuilder’s muscle, bone, and fat tissues, pretty much everything is going against them when it comes to floating.
Examples of Bod Fat From 2% to 18%
4. Swimming isn’t The Right Type of Cardio
I will say that although floating and swimming are closely related to each other they’re definitely not the same thing.
So, a bodybuilder may have more trouble floating, but is still able to swim.
The way your body is made up of various tissues will have an impact on how well you can float.
However, the way in which you breathe is the primary factor in your ability to float.
The whole point is that you fill up your lungs with air and this acts almost as a flotation device.
But, if you take short quick breaths then you’ll have a harder time floating.
And this is typically how we breathe when we panic, and panic can obviously be brought on by the inability to float.
So, even with everything I discussed thus far, a bodybuilder may have a hard time floating simply because of the way they breathe.
With that being said, one of the major reasons that bodybuilders may avoid swimming altogether is simply because of the amount of effort required.
Basically, in order to keep yourself above water you have to keep yourself in constant motion.
The constant paddling with your arms and kicking with your legs can become extremely tiring.
So, most people literally give themselves a break from doing this by floating (preferably on your back).
However, this goes against the specific type of training a bodybuilder wants to do.
It’s not often that you’ll see a bodybuilder performing “cardio” that requires short bursts of effort.
In fact, their preference is for low-intensity, steady-state cardio.
So, whether an individual bodybuilder can float or swim is neither here nor there.
In many cases it’s simply not the right type of cardio for them.
So, as you can see it isn’t completely clear-cut whether bodybuilders can float.
I guess this is down to each individual.
However, bodybuilders are not particularly predisposed to floating simply because of how their body’s tissues are made up.
The fact they have high muscle mass, greater bone mass, and low levels of body fat go against the basic principles of flotation.
Furthermore, due to the effort required, swimming isn’t seen as a cardio option for many bodybuilders.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.