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Michael Phelps – Greatest Olympic Swimmer – Workouts and Diet

Michael Phelps - Greatest Olympic Swimmer

Michael Phelps at the National Aquatic Center in Beijing. Aug. 10, 2008

Michael Phelps bio

  • Born: Baltimore, Maryland
  • 27 years old
  • 6 foot 4 in tall
  • 185 pounds
  • Size 14 feet
  • 12,000 calories a day
  • aka “the human dolphin”

Michael Phelps, the 27 year old American swimmer, has been hailed as the greatest Olympic athlete of all time after winning his eleventh gold medal. There is no doubt that Michael Phelps is extremely well suited to swimming.

Phelps is 6 foot 4 in tall and weighs around 185 pounds (84 kg). He has size 14 feet and a 6ft 7in arm reach, which is 3in longer than his height. He has relatively short legs for his height, which gives him an additional advantage in the pool. Also his knees are double-jointed and his feet can rotate 15 degrees more than average, allowing them to be straightened fully so that his mighty feet act like flippers. These genetic advantages help him to kick off the wall and propel himself dolphin like 10m before actually have to swim. This is how he got the name, “the human dolphin“.

A little known fact about Phelps is that in his youth, he was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He started swimming when he was seven years old, partly because of the influence of his sisters and partly to provide him with an outlet for his restless energy.
Michael Phelps will be competing in only 7 events in the London 2012 Games, so he will not be able to match his Beijing record of winning 8 Olympic Gold medals in one Games. He has dropped the 200-meter freestyle.

Michael Phelps’ Body

Michael Phelps’ heart pumps 30 litres of blood each minute to his muscles, which is double the amount of the average adult male. He also produces only one third of the lactic acid that the average swimmer does, meaning that he does not suffer from muscle burn during intensive exercise like his competitors do. He says that after a race his lactic acid levels are the same as a person who is at rest.

Michael Phelps’ Swimmers Diet


Michael Phelps consumes a staggering 12,000 calories each day. An average man only needs 2000 calories a day, and powerlifters consume in the region of 8000 calories a day. Michael Phelps is a real powerhouse of fitness.

His breakfast typically consists of three fried egg sandwiches topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise, toast, an omelette, porridge, three pancakes and two cups of coffee. This breakfast could easily feed the average family. This is not all eaten at once though, before practice, he eats cereal or oatmeal, and then after practice, it’s the eggs, omelettes and veges. Sounds like he is on an egg diet.

Phelps lunch usually consists of a pound (500g) of pasta, with two ham and cheese sandwiches and approx. 1000 kcal of energy drinks.

For dinner Michael Phelps has more pasta, another pound of it, with a pizza and more energy drinks. In addition to this he will take protein supplements to keep his muscles in top condition. A swimmers diet needs to combine protein and carbohydrate to ensure there is good musular growth and endurance.


Sample Breakfast

  • 3 fried-egg sandwiches
  • 5 more eggs in an omelette
  • 3 chocolate chip pancakes
  • 3 sugar-coated slices of French toast
  • A bowl of grits (maize porridge)

Sample Lunch

  • A pound (1/2 kg) of pasta
  • 2 ham and cheese sandwiches
  • Energy drinks

Sample Dinner

  • A pound (1/2 kg)  of pasta
  • Pizza
  • Energy drinks

He will also snack on fruits and nuts so ensure that he is getting good nutrition as well as calories.

Michael Phelps’ Workouts and Training Routines

Phelps trains for six hours a day, six days a week, without fail. Even if Christmas day falls on a training day, he does a full day of training. Total dedication to his training program has made him a world champion.

He swims approximately 50 miles (80km) each week, which is over 8 miles per training day. He has two massages everyday and also takes ice baths to help his body to recover.

Michael Phelps’ Beijing 2008 Olympic Success

Michael Phelps has won 8 gold medals in the Beijing 2008 Olympic games. In the Athens 2004 games he won 6 gold medals, winning the 400m individual medley, 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. In Beijing he not only won each race in which he has competed, but has also broken the world record in each case.

Some people have been critical of the claims that Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time, as swimming provides an opportunity to win a lot of medals. Decathlon athletes have to excel in 10 events to have a chance of winning just one medal, and boxers, judoka, archers and road racers all only get the one chance. Some argue that Daley Thompson is still one of the greatest Olympians for his success in the decathlon in the 1980’s, or Michael Johnson for his total dominance on the track during the 1990’s. However, there is no denying that Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer not only of the Beijing 2008 games, or the greatest swimmer of the 21st century, but so far the greatest swimmer of all time, and certainly the greatest Olympian of this millennium.


If you wish to take up swimming as a sport, then contact your local swimming club. Swimming clubs are a great way to improve your swimming abilities and many actively encourage club members to compete in local competitions.

Michael Phelps Weight Training Routine

swimmer in pool doing butterflySwimmers can improve their performance by building their upper body. Broad, powerful shoulders are essential to a swimmers physique, as the help to propel the swimmer through the water.

Michael Phelps is an excellent example of this, as his upper body is actually more developed than his lower body. To help build muscle to improve speed and stamina in the water, you should focus on the following three weight training for swimmers exercises.

1. Standing Dumbbell Press

Aim to perform 3 sets of 10-16 repetitions of this exercise. Swimmers need to develop muscular endurance, not hypertrophy. To perform the standing dumbbell press, start with the feet shoulder width apart and your knees locked out. Keep you chin level with the floor and raise the dumbbells so that your elbows are just below shoulder height. Tighten your abdominals and slowly press the dumbbells up until your arms are above your head.

At the top of the movement, briefly pause before lowering the weights back to the start position. Keep your arms vertical throughout the exercise, ensuring that your wrists and elbows form a straight line. Keep the abdominals and lower back tight to help support the spine during the exercise.

If you do not have dumbbells, then resistance machines in the gym will suffice. Be sure to position yourself and the machine so that your hands start above your shoulders, not in front of or behind.

2. Dumbbell Front Raise

To perform the dumbbell front raise take a similar stance as above, with the feet 30cm apart. Hold the dumbbells by your side to start with, with palms facing your thighs. While keeping the arms straight, slowly raise the weights in front of you until your arms are horizontal, with the dumbbells in front of your shoulders. As you raise the weights to the horizontal position, turn your wrists so that palms face the floor.


Pause momentarily before returning the weight to the start position. Ensure that you have a solid stance and that your heels do not lift up off the floor. The emphasis is on the front deltoids.

3. Dumbbell Lateral Shoulder Raise

This exercise is a little more awkward than the first two. Firstly it should be performed on an inclined bench (approx. 45 degree incline). Start by holding the dumbbell in one hand while laying on the bench on the opposite side of your body – i.e. if you hold the dumbbell in your right hand to start with you need to be laying on your left.

The free arms should be rested over the top of the bench to help with support. To start, the dumbbell is held across your body, with the palm facing downwards. Slowly raise the weight upwards until it is perpendicular to your torso. Lower slowly back to the starting position, then repeat with the other arm.

4. Flexibility Training for Better Swimming

A flexible shoulder girdle is essential to all swimming strokes. Improved performance can be gained by working on flexibility in the upper body. Weight training exercises increase the contraction of the muscles, which improves the range of motion for a joint.

When performing weight training exercises as above, ensure that your work through your full range of motion. Do not do any partial reps, not resort to lifting through just half the range of motion when you get tired.

There are any other exercises that can compliment a swimming routine. The general rule for swimmers, as it is for all athletes, is to perform compound weight training exercises, and aim to increase repetitions to build muscular endurance.

Read more on swimming and swimming for fitness.

The Michael Phelps Story – Trailer

Reference and Resources

Michael Phelps Interview” by August 13, 2008:

Michael Phelps has embraced the Internet and shares news and sometimes training online. On his Faceboo page he shares not only what he is doing with regards to training but also any charity work or other business he is involved in: He is also a regular Tweeter, keeping his 95 thousand followers updated:!/michaelphelps.

The Michael Phelps Foundation is his non-profit organization that promotes swimming for young people and also promoting healthy living. Speedo donated $1 million after Phelp’s won 8 gold medals.

The Michael Phelps Swim School provides specific swimming training for children. It started as the North Baltimore Swim School (NBSS) and Phelps was one of its first students. After his success he came back to help support the school.

More like this in the Athletes section

  55 comments for “Michael Phelps – Greatest Olympic Swimmer – Workouts and Diet

  1. Rolson
    August 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    It’s simply amazing watching him and what he has accomplished. I can’t even imagine consuming 12,000 calories a day.

  2. lauren
    October 17, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    could you send me some work out so me and my team could get better and we could win more meet and everything

  3. MotleyHealth
    October 18, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Hi Lauren,

    I shall see if we can write up some workouts for you. What styles and distances are you competing in?

  4. Jon
    November 13, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I can imagine eating 12,000 calories a day, but I cannot quite see me being that slim afterwards!

  5. joseph king
    January 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    I think he should be banned from further contests… he’s some sort of titan or something, he cant be human!

  6. MotleyHealth
    January 8, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I agree, him and Usain Bolt, who managed to smash the 100m record without even trying!

  7. hannah
    February 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I think michael phelps is hot and my hero and is an amazing swimmer

  8. Mr Australia
    March 6, 2009 at 5:33 am

    I think he would be the perfect match for Ian Thorpe. Infact I think Ian may even win against this god.

  9. Brittany
    March 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Mr Australia-
    it would be a good match between phelps & thorpe, but the only event that they swim that are the same is the 200 m, and phelps had smashed thorpe’s record by nearly 2 seconds. that’s huge.
    he also should not be banned from the olympics or anything:
    1-he has worked hard for all that he has & since he’s so good at what he does, you think he should be banned? hmm.
    2-i will still support him even though he smoked weed–a reason why people don’t support him. true fans will over-see a mistake.

  10. Mr Australia
    March 13, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Well I think you forget that thorpe kept smashin his own records. So he could probably still pack a huge punch if he decided to do it again.

  11. torpedo
    March 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    michael phelps is my swimming idol no matter what he does. he is undefeatable and undestructable. also he should not be banned from the olympics

  12. Mr Australia
    March 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

    No of course he shouldn’t be banned he is great. I just think that Ian may beat him.

  13. Training Camp - Chula Vista
    April 2, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Michael updated his Facebook page today with news of his training:

    “Hey everyone…i’m back in Baltimore after two weeks out on the west coast for a training camp w/ the national team. Gotta get ready for Nationals and Worlds this summer. It’s been a painful process getting back into training shape, but it feels good to be back in the water. Our camp was hard at the Olympic training complex in Chula Vista. It was nice to be back outside swimming in the sun and adding some color. But it was definitely no day at the beach. We actually spent one of the days training w/ the Navy SEALs…yes, THOSE Navy SEALs!!! I’d like to say that I did pretty good (all things considered of course) but clearly nothing close to the level of the SEALs. I must admit, it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. Not just going through some of the training that they do, but also to have the chance to sit and talk w/ them. After all, they (and all the men and women of the military) are fighting for our freedom and to me, they are the ultimate gold medalists!!! ”

    Go Micky boy, I am sure you showed them SEALs how to swim!

  14. Hally
    April 13, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    He is amazing, how can he be this dedicated to the sport, to give 6 hours training each day. That’s unreal. He is unbelievable :D

  15. Nick
    May 16, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Most swimmers swim 6 hours a day starting in high school. It’s not a big deal. I don’t think people realize that. Most of his success is due to his natural ability…not because he works harder than the rest of the swimmers in the world. The hardest working swimmer ever was Tom Wilkens, and the best he did was a bronze in the Olympics, but he had little to none natural talent

  16. Loris
    July 20, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Tony Jaa, a martial artist from Thailand, practices 8 hours a day, every day

  17. MotleyHealth
    July 20, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    That’s right. And Usain Bolt trains for just 3 hours a day. But those 3 hours are intensive. Professional athletes and martial artists alike have to train hard – it is their job to do so!

  18. MotleyHealth
    August 2, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Phelps broke the World 100m butterfly record yesterday, and became the first man swim it in less than 50 seconds. His countryman Cavic also broke the barrier with a time of 49.95s.

    “I had to be out in that first 50m within striking distance and I went out in 23.3sec, that’s the fastest I’ve been out in, I haven’t been within half a second of that. It’s really gratifying.” Phelps, Rome, 1sy Aug 2009.

  19. Matthew
    September 1, 2009 at 3:26 am

    HOLY CR@P!!!
    Dang Michael Phelps is a beast
    And I keep crackin up at his breakfast because its so crazed.
    Dang he’s mad cool and inspirational.

  20. Cameron
    October 26, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Ok i swim for Lubbock TX during the summer and Coronado High school during the school year. my coaches told me i should be eating about 5000 to 6500 calories a day. And i thought that that was a lot but 12000 thats just way tooo much for me. I have a similar diet compared to him just not as much as him.

  21. shanie
    November 3, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    phelps is amaizing

  22. steven
    January 27, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    u are just amazing in what u do

  23. jasmine
    April 10, 2010 at 1:33 am

    he has an amazing body!!!!!!!

  24. Derrick
    May 19, 2010 at 1:15 am

    My time was ok but still needs inprovment. My time for fly is 40:23 and I came here to get pointers for my time. What can I do to make my time faster?

  25. jojo
    May 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    i love you Michael Phelps you are my idol

  26. Nessa
    September 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    he is amazing…may God bless him!! i pray to get there some day :)

  27. kat
    October 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    he is awesome and funny

  28. rhett
    November 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    he has worked hard and done everythiong right, i think one day he might be as big and strong as me, ha

  29. cara de castro
    November 27, 2010 at 6:14 am

    he’s amazing..i wished i could be like him someday

  30. Hannah Davies
    December 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

    your amazing, id love t meet you some day :)

  31. Rebecca Donaghy
    December 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

    hey, i think your amazing i would love yo meet you some day :) xx

  32. Hannah Davies
    December 3, 2010 at 10:34 am

    helloo Miss Rebecca Donaghy :) xx

  33. rebecca doanghy
    December 3, 2010 at 10:35 am

    hello hannah davies ^^^^ :)xx

  34. Hannah Davies
    December 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

    im sittin next to you at this moment in time, in St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School, in Flint, sat in Public services ;) xx

  35. rebecca doanghy
    December 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

    you sure are but dont forget were in G32 :P xx

  36. rebecca doanghy
    December 3, 2010 at 10:42 am


  37. aaryan
    December 26, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I cannot believe how he could maintain his diet

  38. MotleyHealth
    December 26, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I know, you have to be so fit and so dedicated to consume that sort of food. He is not alone though, many bodybuilders and weight lifters eat similar amounts of calories every day.

  39. mohamad
    January 13, 2011 at 1:06 am

    I love micheal style of training,

  40. Derp2themax
    January 14, 2011 at 2:08 am

    I hope he realises that swimming weakens your bones so when he gets older hes in for some trouble.

  41. MotleyHealth
    January 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

    He does not look very weak. Do you have any scietific evidence to support that statement Derp2themax? Because research has actually indicated the opposite,

    e.g. “male swimmers had significantly greater bone mineral density than did the nonexercisers”
    Ref: The Relationship of Swimming Exercise to Bone Mass in Men and Women, by Eric S. Orwoll, MD; June Ferar; Shelia K. Oviatt; Michael R. McClung, MD; Kathleen Huntington, MS
    Arch Intern Med. 1989;149(10):2197-2200.

    Studies have shown the impact sports do indeed increase bone density, however, I am yet to read any evidence that swimming reduces bone density. Phelps also does “dry training” such as weight training, and also follows a diet to provide optimum nutrition for his needs. I really doubt he will be suffering from weak bones in future years.

  42. christine lavigne
    February 1, 2011 at 7:42 pm


  43. MotleyHealth
    February 24, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    He just updated his Facebook page;

    “Training Camp is going really well. It has actually been warm enough to train outdoors a couple of the days. Less than a week and we will be done with camp and off to Indianapolis for the Grand Prix.”

    Sounds like it will be another great year for Phelps. We all know what he is working towards this year though – The London 2012 Olympic Games!

  44. Alexandra
    May 15, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Michael Phelps has been my inspiration. Every day at practice I think about his dedication and how hard hes worked and its amazing. It makes me work harder!

  45. Gaby
    May 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Michael Phelps is awesome!!!! I want to be like him, i want to achieve what he has achieved. I read his book every day and I am getting more inspired by him each minute i read the book. Every night I train, every morning I train I always think how hard he trains and it makes me work so hard that i can’t feel any of my body. Good Luck to Michael in 2012!!!!!!!! x

  46. Uchikima
    May 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Micheael phelps is really fast.
    i can imagine nobody can beat this man.

  47. Zachary
    May 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Michael Phelps is the best swimmer I think we will see for awhile unless another swimmer like him rises up soon, but for now he is crazy even though he might not win 8 gold medals at the 2012 Olympics.

  48. Willie
    July 14, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Hey motley health,

    Can you write up some workouts for me? Im a young high school varsity athlete in search for some off season weight training. I mainly swim the 100 breaststroke and 50 and 100 free. So basically I’m a spinter with breaststroke as my priority. Breaststroke based workouts would be better.


  49. MotleyHealth
    July 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Willie, it may be better to speak to a swimming coach, they should be able to guide you better.

  50. Micah
    January 29, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Hey I am a 100 breastroker but I have one problem. I only began to swim year round since this august. My time for the 100 breast is horrible: 1:14.22. I was looking for a workout I could do year round that gets me to like 1:00 or lower. I have until next february to accomplish this goal but I could use some advice or help Please write back. Thank you! Go Phelps!

  51. MotleyHealth
    January 29, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Micah, really you need to find a swimming coach who can advice. Or even a dedicated swimming forum, such as U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums

  52. Micah
    January 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    @MotleyHealth Thank you, but thats just it i am on a swim team, i have been for three years. Only just recently did i start training year round in August. My coach gives me stuff to do that is yes hard, but i want to get better. It seems to me that i can get any better than 1:14 1:13 even. Im just looking for a workout i can do all year that will help me get a 1:00 or under, because i know it is possible i look on youtube alot. Thanks :D

  53. MotleyHealth
    January 30, 2012 at 12:39 am

    I wish I could help Micah, but I am not experienced in that area, sorry.

  54. Julia
    October 21, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    There’s a reason Michael Phelps is considered a great athlete. His incredible skills in the water and superb body have something to do with it. Get on his level by making the effort to swim each and every day. Start with 3 days a week and work your way up to more as the weeks pass.

  55. MotleyHealth
    October 21, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    More than just something to do with it Julia!

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