14 Pool Workouts for a Full Body Burn

Water exercises are a great way to stay active and improve your health with some cardio. Especially as you get older, doing workouts or laps in the pool can be a great alternative to hitting the gym or jogging down the road. Water can offer resistance that is great for strengthening your muscles, while also taking pressure off of your joints and allowing for exercises that may not be possible for you on land.

While swimming is one great way to take advantage of a pool and build endurance, there are lots of other ways to engage in aquatic fitness. If you’d like to find out more about water exercise routines and how to get started, keep reading. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to slip into your swimsuit, slap on some goggles, and dive in yourself.

Why Should You Do Workouts in the Pool?

Water buoyancy means that part of your weight is supported by the water. This is great news for people who have chronic pain or joint issues –– you are able to get that full-body burn while doing a low-impact workout. That means it’ll be easier on you in the long run while still supporting healthy metabolism, supporting weight loss efforts, and helping you burn calories. The support of the water also helps your balance and allows you to gain more flexibility. If you fall or stumble, you are also less likely to injure yourself.

Do Pool Exercises Provide a Good Workout?

Doing exercises in the water is actually a great way to get a full-body workout. Swimming and other pool exercises train all muscle groups in the body. The water adds extra resistance that you wouldn’t get on land; every time you move, you are pushing against the water around you and building strength. Swimming and other types of water exercises are a great way to improve your physical health.

Are Pool Exercises Good for Seniors?

Pool exercises are a great option for people looking for a healthy way to stay fit. The low-impact nature of water workouts reduces the risk of pain or injuries that on-land workouts might present. The buoyancy on the water is also easy on the joints, knees, hips, and spine. Swimming and aqua fitness has also been shown to be good for your heart health and your flexibility. It may also help fight osteoporosis, as swimming can strengthen your bone mineral density. 

How Does Your Health Benefit From Pool Workouts?

Exercising in the pool can have a lot of upsides for your physical health. For one thing, your overall health is generally improved as you get active and lose weight. Water exercises are also good for pain relief. Certain conditions –– for example, arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia –– as well as cardiovascular health, can be improved through aqua fitness. Water workouts are also good for your mental health; certain aquatic exercises, like water aerobics or yoga, may reduce stress levels, anxiety, and depression.

Here’s What You Will Need to Get Started

The great thing about aqua fitness is that all you really need is yourself, a swimsuit, and a pool. However, as you get into a greater variety of workouts and strokes, you will find that having some extra gear is pretty helpful for any swimmer. These can increase or decrease the challenge level of certain exercises, provide safety, or just be plain fun for athletes of all levels. Here is a checklist of items you may need.

  • Water Shoes: Especially for beginners and seniors, water shoes are a good way to maintain traction with the floor. If you plan on water jogging, this is a good item to have.
  • Flotation Device: A lot of water exercises require or suggest the use of a pool noodle. Other flotation devices, like a belt or vest, can also come in handy.
  • Water Gloves: Water gloves will basically give you giant webbed hands. They are intended to increase resistance.
  • Styrofoam Water Weights: Water weights are handheld weights or foam dumbbells that are used for strength exercises in the water.
  • Goggles: These aren’t strictly necessary if you plan on staying above water; however, if your workout includes swimming, it’s always useful to have a good pair of goggles.
  • Kickboard: Many water workouts use a kickboard. Most pools will have kickboards around, but try to make sure you will have access to one.
  • A Comfortable Swimsuit: This one should go without saying, but a swimsuit that you feel confident and comfortable in is a must for any pool activity. If you like some extra coverage, consider swim shorts or a swim skirt.
  • A Swimsuit Cover-Up: To get you from the locker room to the pool, a nice cover-up is a good addition to your swimming gear.

Remember These Tips Before You Get Started

  • Pace Yourself. As with any sport or activity, everybody starts at different levels. If you are in pain or short of breath, take a break, and adjust swim workouts to your level. 
  • Remember to Breathe. Proper breathing is important both for your physical and mental wellbeing. Try some breathing exercises now and then to make sure you’re getting enough oxygen when above water before diving into high-intensity activities.
  • Have a Friend or Mentor. For safety and support reasons, it’s recommended that you have someone by your side for these exercises. A friend is a welcome addition, while a coach or instructor can help you get the most out of a workout.
  • Think About Your Goals and Needs. Different exercises will focus on different aspects of the body. Using weights can help strengthen your arms and legs. Water yoga poses can provide pain relief. Talk to your doctor or fitness instructor about what is right for you.

14 Pool Workouts To Try

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, it’s time to learn about what kind of water exercises you can do in a pool. Some of these suggest that you use extra equipment, but most can be done on your own, or adjusted to your preferences. Remember to not push yourself beyond your limits, and have someone supervising just in case.

Water Walking

This is a simple exercise that is great for any beginner. In water that reaches your waist, walk the length of the pool back and forth or in circles. You can even try backward walking. Try to roll your feet from heel to toe as you would on land. Keep your back upright and swing your arms. Do this for five or 10 minutes. You will notice that the resistance from the water actually provides a good workout.

Water Jogging

Once you’ve graduated from water walking, you can move on to try water jogging. This will get your heart rate up more. Similar to water walking, do the motions of jogging as you would on land, keeping proper form with your spine straight. Jogging in water is better than jogging on land when it comes to your knees, as there is less impact on your legs.

Pool Planks

This core exercise requires a pool noodle. Hold the noodle straight out in front of you. Without bending at the hips, lean forward to submerge the pool noodle. Your body should be at around a 45-degree angle with the floor; your feet should be on the floor, and your arms should be straight. Hold this plank position for around 30 seconds, and repeat it three to five times.

Wall Chair

This exercise is meant to be done in water that comes up to your chest. Keep your back against the wall of the pool. Holding onto the edge for support, extend your legs out in front of you with your feet together. Then bring your knees to your chest. Do this 10 to 15 times. 

Side Stepping

Face the pool wall in waist-deep water. Keep your back straight and step sideways with your left leg for around 10 to 20 steps; switch and sidestep with your right leg for another 10 to 20 steps. For added strength building in your lower body, squat lightly as you step without hunching your shoulders. Do two to three reps.

Water Bicycle

This is another exercise in which the pool noodle comes in handy. It focuses mainly on the legs. Wrap the pool noodle around your back and use it to rest your arms on. Then bend your legs pedal as if you were riding a bicycle in place. Do this for around four to five minutes. Add another pool noodle if you need more support.

Flutter Kicks

This is one exercise where the kickboard really comes in handy. Hold the kickboard out in front of you –– either with your hands or forearms at its sides –– and flutter kick your legs. This means that you must keep your legs straight as you kick to move through the water. If you don’t have a kickboard, you can hold on to the pool’s edge with your palms and flutter kick in place, alternating between left foot and right foot, to strengthen your abs.

Standing Water Pushups

Stand by the pool wall at arm’s length and place your hands against the wall, slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Bending your arms, lean towards the wall and then push yourself back out to the starting position, just as you would lower and lift yourself towards the floor in a regular push-up. Start with five reps and see how many you can do until your triceps and biceps feel fatigued.

Standing Knee Lift

This exercise is meant to help improve flexibility and might be difficult at first if you are a bit stiff. Stand against the pool wall with your feet planted on the ground and your arms at your sides. Keep your back straight, bend your leg, and lift your knee as if marching in place. Then straighten the leg. Bend and straighten the leg ten times before repeating on the other leg, and repeat the exercise three times.

Leg Lifts

This is another great leg exercise. Stand by the pool wall and hold the edge at arm’s length. Keeping your back and legs straight, lift one leg out to the side. Put it back down. Repeat this 10-30 times on each leg, and do it for three sets. If you think you have enough balance, you can do leg lifts with your hands on your hips.

Arm Circles

Do this exercise in water that comes up to your neck. Hold your arms out to your sides in a T-position, keeping them submerged but parallel to the water’s surface. Make small circular motions with your arms. Do this for around 15 seconds in both directions. For extra balance, you can hold on to the edge of the pool and do each arm at a time.

Arm Curls

You will need water foam weights for this exercise, although you can opt to do it without them and just use the resistance of the water. Standing straight in chest-deep water, hold a foam weight in each hand. Begin with your arms at your sides, then take turns bending each elbow and bringing the weight to your chest. Do this 10-30 times, or until you feel fatigued.

Chest Press

For this strengthening exercise, you can use foam weights, water gloves, or just your hands for resistance. Stand in chest-deep water with your feet hip-width apart. Have your hands, or weights, out to the side in a T pose. Keeping your arms straight, bring your hands inward until they meet in front of you. Then move them back out. Repeat this motion 10 to 15 times.

Forward and Side Lunges

Begin by standing upright in waist-deep water. With your hands on your hips, take a long lunge step forward. For the forward bent leg, keep the knee above the toes. Hold this position for a few seconds, then step back into an upright stance. Repeat the lunge with your other leg. Do this on each leg five times, for three reps. For a variation on this, do lunge steps to the side.

Just Keep Swimming

There are lots of different ways to engage in aquatic fitness. While these workouts are a great way to get started, we recommend you keep an eye out for local classes and instructors. Water aerobics, for example, is a great workout for all ages that you can do in a group setting. 

Water yoga or pilates is another way to improve your balance and reduce stress, as well as alleviate pain. If you want to do something good for your mind and body, the pool is a wonderful place to get started.


Health Tips | 10 Exercises To Do In the Pool | Choose PT

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Effects of aquatic exercise on mental health, functional autonomy and oxidative stress in depressed elderly individuals: A randomized clinical trial | NCBI