Pool Exercises

Tamsen Butler
Contributor Michele Wanke
Pool weight lifting

Pool exercises are a great way to lose weight without breaking a sweat. What's more, they offer a refreshing alternative to boring laps, and they're easier on your joints than traditional land exercises.

Popular Pool Exercises

You don't have to spend a lot of money to reap the benefits of pool exercises. If you don't feel comfortable signing up for a group water aerobics class or you don't have the means to join a swim club, then go at it alone. Aim to do each exercise in sets of 10-15, three times through. The following popular pool exercises will help you burn calories and increase your fitness level.

Leg Jacks

This simple exercise is familiar to many, as the movement is like the lower body movement of a jumping jack, but without the arms involved. The calves, abductors, and adductors are all targeted in this exercise.

  1. Start by standing in shoulder-deep water with your feet flat and your arms relaxed by your sides or with hands on your hips.
  2. Next, bend your knees and jump up off the bottom of the pool as high as you can.
  3. As you leap up, kick your legs out to the sides pointing your toes down.
  4. You should land with knees bent and feet apart.
  5. End the move by jumping up again and bringing your feet back together. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Ball Adductors

Use a small aqua ball for this exercise - a regular ball won't work as well. This exercise targets the adductors - the muscles of the inner thigh.

  1. While standing in the pool, place the ball in between your knees.
  2. Squeeze your knees to keep the ball in place.
  3. Depending on the size of the ball, it may try to compel your legs upward - resist this.
  4. Keeping your legs straight, alternate between squeezing hard and squeezing just enough to keep the ball in place.
  5. Repeat, also squeezing your glutes and abdominal muscles.

Arm Toner

This exercise requires a medium-size aqua aerobics ball. The biceps, triceps, the forearms, and grip strength are all worked in this move.

  1. Stand in chest-deep water with your feet apart and your arms extended straight in front of you.
  2. Hold the ball in your hands while breathing rhythmically.
  3. On the count of three, push the ball under the water and swing it into a figure eight pattern through the water. You should be able to feel the varying resistance on your arms and upper body.
  4. Concentrate on maintaining your balance and moving the ball smoothly through the water.

Foam Noodle Clam Digger

This pool exercise requires a foam water noodle. You should feel the exercise work your hip flexors, glutes, quads, and inner and outer thigh muscles.

Exercising with pool noodles
  1. Place the noodle behind your back while standing in chest-deep water.
  2. Lean back on noodle and angle your body to one side.
  3. Place your knees together, one on top of the other and bend your legs.
  4. Keeping your feet together, open the top knee and then bring your knees together again.
  5. Flip over and do the same on the other side.

Water Marching

The resistance provided by the water of the pool turns a simple movement like marching into something more challenging. The move is more challenging in deep water and less in shallow water. This is a full-body move when the arms are involved.

  1. Stand in chest-deep water and march in place.
  2. Make continuous strides, extending your arms and legs as far as you can. The water's resistance will keep you moving in slow motion.
  3. Stretch your limbs, point your toes, and pull your arms vigorously back and forth.
  4. Start by marching for two minutes and resting for one minute. Increase the time, as you get more comfortable with the exercise.

Pool Sit Ups

This abdominal move requires the exerciser to be comfortable with their face going underwater.

  1. While standing in the pool, hoist your lower legs up onto the side of the pool.
  2. Your upper body remains in the water.
  3. While stabilizing your torso, exhale and crunch your abdominals, bringing your chest closer to your knees.
  4. Either release into a position where your torso remains parallel to the bottom of the pool (allowing your face to stay out of the water) or push your torso all the way underwater.
  5. Take care to not allow your body or head to slam into the pool's wall if you extend fully after the crunch.
  6. Repeat the crunch.

Kickboard Drills

If you have access to a kickboard, you can do some challenging exercises that will get your heart pumping.

Women exercising with kickboards
  • Speed kicks: Grasp the board and keep your body parallel to the bottom of the pool as you kick as fast as you can.
  • Strength kicks: Grasp the board as above but instead of kicking quickly, aim to kick as largely as you can, pushing against the resistance of the water.
  • Stabilizing drift: Sitting upon the board, use your arms and legs to keep you upright as you drift in the pool.
  • Board push: Standing tall in the water, grasp the board on each side and push the board down into the water.

Wall Jumps

This explosive move targets the triceps and fast-twitch muscles throughout the body.

  1. Stand facing the wall of the pool.
  2. Place your hands on the side of the pool with your hands open and palms down.
  3. In one explosive movement, push yourself out of the water and into a position where your arms are straight.
  4. Slowly release yourself back into the pool and repeat.

Gentle and Effective

Working out in a pool takes a lot of the strain and impact off your joints. People who have injuries or who find conventional exercise uncomfortable may find that working out in a pool can make exercise more accessible.

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Pool Exercises