Get Wet With These Pool-Based Workouts

30-Minute Water Workout — How to Sculpt Your Body in the Pool

Get Wet With These Pool-Based Workouts

Whether you're looking for a new fitness challenge or a low-impact workout that's easy on your joints, pool workouts are an excellent way to get cardio and strength training in one sweat sesh.

In fact, water provides about 15 times more resistance than doing the same moves on land, says Mary E.

Sanders, PhD, an associate professor in exercise science at the University of Nevada, Reno, and director of WaterFit International.

«The harder you press during an exercise, the more resistance the water provides, so you can tailor the workout for how you feel at that moment,» says Sanders.

You're using your arms, shoulders, legs, glutes, and core to help you stay afloat and move against gravity when you're in water.

That's why swimming is one of the best exercises for weight loss, if you want to rev up your metabolism and burn calories.

What's more, research has shown that exercising in water improves flexibility and helps relieve pain. «Water tones the whole body, yet it also relaxes you, so it's ideal for people with injuries and back problems,» says Nicole Forsythe, a water fitness instructor at the Delano Hotel's David Barton Gym in Miami, who put together this 30-minute circuit in water.

But if you don't know how to swim, don't worry.

The exercises below are meant to be performed in less than four feet of water, and they're moves you traditionally do on land, so there's no fancy technique here.

To boost intensity and calorie burn, throw in three minutes of high knees after every two exercises. Repeat the entire workout three days a week, and soon you'll be leaving that cover-up behind.


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Warm up by walking as fast as you can in the pool for 5 minutes or doing high knees for three minutes. Then, complete three sets of each move, resting 15 seconds in between each set.

Tricep Dips

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This move might look simple, but it's sure to work your entire upper body, including your chest, back, triceps, and shoulders. How hard can lifting yourself in and the pool be, right? It's more challenging than you think.

How to do tricep dips: Place your palms flat on the pool's edge or grab the gutter. Engaging your arms and shoulders, press yourself up as high as you can by straightening your arms.

Hold this position for a few seconds. Keeping elbows close to body, lower yourself until elbows form 90-degree angles. Don't let your feet touch the pool bottom. Raise and lower yourself for 10 to 20 reps.

Arm Curls

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To get the most this exercise, you want to move with control, working against the resistance of the water. With each curl, be sure to tighten your biceps and triceps by imagining that you're holding onto weights in each hand. The faster you move, the bigger the burn you'll fee.

How to do arm curls: Stand with your feet slightly turned out and far enough apart so that your shoulders are partly submerged. Form a «T» with your arms—bending at the elbows—so your palms face your chest, allowing your fingers to touch.

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Tightening your biceps and triceps, extend your arms out to sides from the elbows, a door swinging open on a hinge, so that your palms face forward and your arms are parallel to pool bottom. Close your arms to complete one rep. Do 20 reps.

Leg Curls

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You'll be surprised how breath you'll be after a few reps of this move. Running in water can feel twice as hard as running on land. Work quickly to get your heart rate up and tighten your glutes each time you bring your heel up.

How to do leg curls: Working your hamstrings and calves, this exercise forces you to work against the resistance of the water to lower and lift your leg.Stand with feet together.

Extend arms out to sides and hold the edge of the pool with one hand for balance. Bending your left knee, perform butt kicks by tapping your butt with your heel. Lower and repeat with right leg to complete one rep.

Do 20 reps.


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This exercise is basically what it feels to do squat jumps underwater. Engaging your glutes and thighs, press down on your heels for momentum to explode up.

How to do jumps: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat low enough so that your shoulders are under water. Extend your arms out to the sides for balance.

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Jump straight up, lowering arms and squeezing butt as you go, and bring legs together at top of jump. Land in starting position. Do 20 reps.

Leg Lifts

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Your core will be getting as much action as your legs in this exercise. Once you feel balanced and supported at the pool's edge, feel free to pick your hands up for an added ab challenge.

How to do leg lifts: Sit on the edge of the pool with your legs extended and toes pointing toward the bottom of the pool. The water should come to about mid-thigh. Lean back slightly with your hands behind your body for support.

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Keeping your legs straight, lift your legs off the water to form a «V» with your body. Point the toes and keep your legs together at all times. Lower your legs to the starting position. Do 10 to 20 reps.


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This exercise strengthens your inner and outer thighs as you work against the current of water to lift and lower your legs.

How to do scissors: Lean back against the pool wall, grasping the edge for support. Raise your legs so they're parallel to the pool bottom, then spread your legs as wide as possible.

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Squeezing your inner thighs, bring the legs together, crossing left leg over right. Contracting outer thighs, open your legs back up to the starting position. Repeat, crossing right leg over left, to complete one rep. Do 20 reps.

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How to Get In Killer Shape in the Pool (Without Swimming Laps)

Get Wet With These Pool-Based Workouts

Pool workouts aren’t just for retirement communities anymore. Many people think of swimming as the ultimate low-impact aerobic exercise, but pool exercises, done correctly and with intention, can build muscle, burn fat, and produce a surprisingly effective regimen.

Sure, the classic water aerobics are often used as a punchline in Hollywood movies. But water workouts? Now that’s a horse of a different color. If you’re looking for a new routine that produces big results, it’s time to throw on a pair of trunks, grab some foam weights (trust us), and cannonball in.

Remember: There may be no running at the pool, but running in the pool is fair game.

We tapped Erika Lee Sperl, an L.A.-based strength and mobility coach,and team manager for Australian fitness company 2XU, for her thoughts on how to get fit while getting wet.

“Pool-running has been utilized as a rehabilitation tool for injured and recovering athletes for years. Once they’re healed, many athletes say goodbye to the pool — until the next sign of injury,” Sperl says.

“But aquatic workouts can be an ongoing part of a training program, whether you’re training for strength, power, endurance, or general fitness.”

In chest-deep water, your body weight is approximately 10 percent less than normal. Add in an increase in resistance, and you can train at a higher intensity without the strain or impact of joint-jolting land-based training. Here are some in-pool exercises and a couple of workouts you can perform in the water — no low-intensity aerobics included.

The Exercises

Pool Running

With a floatation belt on, get into the deep end. Use your breath and perceived rate of exertion to estimate your level of intensity. If you move to the shallow end, incorporate high knees and butt kicks. Use the side of the pool for intervals of flutter kicks.

Press-ups and dips

Use the edge of the pool to press yourself up and the water. Use your triceps to reverse the movement back down.


In the deep end, cross your right foot over and in front of your left foot while extending your arms out to your sides. Step your left foot to the side. Cross your right foot behind your left foot. Continue moving laterally, then repeat, moving in the opposite direction.

Lunges and squats

Perform these just as you would on land. Add in jumps the water. “This focuses on training explosive power,” Sperl says


Keep the movement small, focusing on form. Alternatively, make it a bounding skip and aim for height and power as you come the water.

Flies, Lat raises, Bicep curls, and Tricep press downs

Use the palm of your hand to create resistance, or add a paddle or water dumbbell. “The beauty of the water’s resistance is that you will train the concentric and eccentric portion of the movements equally,” Sperl says.


Get the pool and hook your shins and feet over the side of the pool, knees bent at 90 degrees. Perform crunches, Russian twists, or isometric holds. “Use the buoyancy of the water for support,” Sperl says.

Hip twists

With your feet in a split-stance, keep both arms straight in front of you and just below the water’s surface. Rotate at your core from side to side. “You can do this with or without paddles,” Sperl says.

If you’re looking to mix it up occasionally, doing freestyle laps are a killer, if slightly boring swimming pool exercise alternative to this workout. Here are some things to always keep in mind when doing laps.

  • Keep your head neutral, turning it to the side to breathe (NOT lifting it).
  • Swim on your side, not flat on your belly.
  • Keep your elbows high.
  • Rotate your hips back-and-forth to power your kick.

The Workout

“If you thought Marco Polo or water Zumba were water workouts, think again,” says Sperl. “I used this workout with a professional basketball player during the off-season and his butt was sufficiently kicked. The main set can be repeated or modified as desired to reach your targeted total training time and goal.”

Warmup (5 min)

Jog in place (1 min)Alternating knee to chest (30 sec)Alternating straight leg kicks (30 sec)Karaoke side-to-side (1 min)Alternating high knees (30 sec)Butt kicks (30 sec)

Lateral shuffle side-to-side (1 min)

Circuit (10 min)

Perform 40 seconds of exercise followed by 20 seconds rest, then move to the next exercise.

Rear lunge to front kick, first legRear lunge to front kick, second legPoolside press-upsSquats or squat-to-jumpsFliesBounding skipsRear lunge with lateral rotation, first legRear lunge with lateral rotation, second legPoolside Russian twists


Cooldown (5 min)

Repeat warmup routine.

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