Water Pilates: 6 Essential Exercises

Have you been thinking about delving into the world of water exercise, but are still stuck in the swim lane? Don’t grab your coverup just yet; there is so much more to aqua fitness than just swimming! 

If you’ve never heard of water Pilates, get ready. We will break down the basics and tell you about the top six most essential exercises you need to know about.

What Is Water Pilates?

If you’ve never even heard of water Pilates, you’re not alone! It is relatively new compared to traditional water aerobics or lap swimming, and it sometimes goes by the name of aqua Pilates. 

The general idea of water Pilates is that the movements and principles of traditional Pilates, which is known to lengthen and strengthen muscles, are taken to the pool. Water provides extra resistance, making the strength training much more intense while still being easy on the joints. 

These easy but effective routines can help you strengthen your core and improve your ability to tackle the activities that everyday life throws at you. Adding water to these workouts boosts their effectiveness and significantly impacts your workout.

What Do I Need To Get Started With Water Pilates?

The equipment that you need for water Pilates is minimal. Obviously, you need a swimsuit that is suitable for athletic movement, and you need a place to do the workout. Typically water Pilates is done in a swimming pool, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t take this workout to the lake. The ocean might be a bit challenging, with the waves crashing as you attempt to balance.

For many moves, a pool noodle is recommended. This is especially important for those who are not strong swimmers. Interestingly, you actually do not need to be able to swim in order to do water Pilates. Most of the time, the moves can be done in shallow water or with the aid of flotation devices. 

Top Water Pilates Exercises

First of all, we recommend that if you have never done water Pilates, you will want to consider taking a class to learn the correct form and to prevent injury. It’s also recommended that you talk to your doctor before trying any new form of exercise that your body isn’t used to. We also recommend investing in a quality swimsuit that won’t ride up uncomfortably. 

With that said, here are some of the best exercises to do if you want to get into amazing shape with water Pilates:

Exercise #1: Seated Pedal

Like many moves in water Pilates, this one requires a pool noodle. In shallow water, sit on your pool noodles though it is a swing. Then pedal your legs as though riding a bike. 

You can vary the intensity depending on your ability and even speed up and slow down for interval training. Alternate pedaling forward and backwards for optimal results.

Exercise #2: The 50:50

The 50:50 is a great movement for warming up, but it can be used for the actual workout as well. 

Begin by wading into the pool's shallow end. You should be roughly up to your chest in water. Swing your left leg backwards and keep your toes 6 to 12 inches off the pool bottom, keeping your left leg straight. 

Inhale for a count of five and swing your arms forwards and back at your sides while keeping them straight, keeping your back straight and your neck in line with your spine. As you exhale for another five counts, repeat the technique. This is one repetition.

Repeat the process with the other leg. 

Exercise #3: The Crosstrainer

This exercise is best performed in deeper water. 

Place a noodle behind you, below your shoulder blades, and hold each end of the noodle. With straight legs and flexed feet, march in the water, allowing the torso to respond in opposition to the lower body. (Think of a toy soldier, and you’ll have a good idea of what your legs should look like). The waistline, lower tummy, and legs are all worked out in this exercise. 

Do three sets of 20 reps each, starting slowly and steadily for the first two sets, then increasing the speed and intensity for the final set.

Exercise #4: Beats (The 100s Variation)

Swim out to the deep end with a pool noodle. Lean back on the noodle for flotation and support, then raise your feet to a roughly 45-degree angle. Swing your arms under you in fast, tiny forward and back movements, using the muscles in your core. Inhale for a count of five and exhale for a count of five. 

These are traditionally called 100s because you do them in counts of 100. Of course, you don’t have to do that many! You can also modify if this feels too difficult by bending the legs or raising them a little higher than 45 degrees. 

Exercise #5: The Seated Frog

Just like in the Seated Pedal, sit on the noodle as though it is a swing. Squeeze heels together to form a diamond shape with your legs, with toes, knees, and hips turned outwards. Inner thighs and glutes are worked as you bend and stretch legs in a frog-like manner. Even if you feel a little silly, you’re underwater, so no one can see you! 

The more you raise your legs in the water, the more your core is activated. Do four sets of 20 reps, gradually increasing your intensity and pushing your legs higher in the water with each set.

Exercise #6: Tuck Up - Side Stretch

This is one move for which you will need two pool noodles. 

In water where you can't touch the bottom, hold one in each hand. Suspend your body vertically by stretching your arms all the way out to the sides. Tuck your knees up to your chest while keeping your feet together, then press your feet to the left as far as you can. Pull them back into your chest, then stretch your right foot out. 

Repeat the exercise for 1 minute.


Water Pilates is an incredible exercise for anyone who wants to tone up, get in a good workout, and take care of their joints. Try out these moves and see how it goes. All you need is a pool noodle or two, some water, a cute bathing suit, and a spoonful of motivation!


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