9 Easy Pool Exercises
We’d all like to have an at-home gym to get fit and stay active. But the truth is, if you own a pool, you already have one! Your pool is one of the best, most versatile fitness tools you can possibly have. With just a few fun, easy pool exercises each day, you can get a full-body aerobic workout.
Water is buoyant, yet 800 times denser than air, giving you the perfect balance for low-impact, high resistance fitness training. Pool exercises and aquatic fitness routines are great for building strength, increasing stamina, enhancing flexibility, improving balance, and even losing weight. Compared to on-land exercises, exercising in the swimming pool is much easier on your bones and joints thanks to the buoyancy, and you can burn calories faster and more efficiently thanks to the powerful resistance of the water. This makes water fitness perfect for almost everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or body condition.
The great thing is that you don’t need much of anything to get started with these simple pool exercises. Really, all you need is a swimsuit, a towel, and a can-do attitude. If you have one, a pool noodle can come in handy for some exercises. As you progress, you may find that pool fitness accessories like goggles, a swim cap, water shoes, a buoyancy belt, wrist and ankle weights, aquatic dumbbells, a kickboard, or even resistance gloves can help you amplify your workout and get the most out of your routine.
BONUS TIP: If you're looking for a complete pool exercise accessory bundle, you'll want to check out the TYR Aquatic Fitness Kit. With a set of aquatic dumbbells, a flotation belt, and a pair of resistance gloves, you'll have everything you need for a great pool workout.
Before you get started with pool exercises, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
- Consult your physician before starting any new exercise routine. Make sure you are healthy enough for exercise.
- If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, experience abnormal pain, or find it difficult to catch your breath, stop exercising and get out of the pool immediately.
- Remember to stay hydrated! You will sweat more than you realize while exercising in water. And the warmer the pool, the more water you’ll lose to sweat. Drink plenty of fluids both before and after your workout.
- If you’re not a strong swimmer or can’t tread water very long, a floatation device such as a buoyancy belt, life vest, or pool noodle can help you on the journey toward your aquatic fitness goals.
Now you’re ready to get started with these 9 easy pool exercises.
OFF-SEASON MODIFICATION: During the cooler winter months when the pool is closed, you can still keep your fitness levels up with these simple exercises. Try them out indoors, or take advantage of a warm and sunny day to exercise in the backyard. The light blue boxes below each exercise explain how you can modify each exercise for land use.
This exercise can be a good warm-up routine to acclimate your body to the water conditions and get your muscles limbered up and ready for exercise. If you’re just starting out with a fitness routine, this can also be a good full-body workout to gradually build strength and stamina. Walking in a pool is great resistance training for your whole body, from your legs, to your core, and even your arms.
Start out with your legs fully submerged, with the water around waist height. Walk as you would normally, planting your heel before rolling forward to your toes. Avoid walking around on your tiptoes, which can be easy to do in the water. Remember to stand tall as you walk so you engage your core properly. To work your arms, swing them back and forth at your sides so you can feel the water's resistance as you walk. Do this for 5-10 minutes during your warm-up period, or turn it into a regular exercise routine by walking for 20-30 minutes each day. To increase the difficulty, use wrist and ankle weights, use resistance gloves, and/or increase your pace.
Even outside the pool, walking is a great low-impact exercise to get your body moving and elevate your heart rate. To increase the challenge, use ankle and wrist weights, increase the pace, or wear a weighted vest or backpack.
2. Side Steps
Start in water that’s between waist and chest deep. Facing the pool wall, take 10-20 steps sideways, keeping your toes and body pointed toward the wall. Remember to stand tall, and keep your core engaged as you go. Once you've finished going the first direction, go back the other way. Do this 1-3 times each direction. If you need to, you can hold onto the pool ledge for stability. This exercise primarily works your legs and core. For increased difficulty, use ankle weights.
To modify this exercise for land use, just do a side step squat. Start with your feet together, arms bent, and bring your hands up near your chest. Step to the side with your right leg, widening your stance to shoulder width. Keep your back straight as you squat down, stopping when your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Return to standing position and bring your feet back together. Repeat this exercise, but this time step out with your left leg. Do this exercise 10 times on each side, increasing the number of reps as you build strength.
3. Work Your Arms
Move into deeper water that’s around shoulder level. To work your arms, there are a couple of different pool exercises you can do. To get the most out of these exercises, you’ll need to have a set of foam aquatic dumbbells. Start with arms resting at your side, holding your dumbbells so your palms are facing up. Bend your elbows to bring the dumbbells to the surface of the water (almost like a curl), while keeping your elbows close to your body. Rotate the wrists so your palms face down, and push the dumbbells back into the water and return to the starting position.
From this same position with your arms at your sides, you can also do a lateral arm lift. Simply raise your arms out to the side until they’re level with your shoulders and/or the water level. You can do this exercise with or without dumbbells, and you can use wrist weights for added difficulty. Do 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions for each of these arm exercises.
General arm exercises are an easy way to tone your upper body outside of the pool. Use weighted dumbbells to work your biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles. If you don't have much arm strength, start with a light 2-3 pound weight and a high number of repetitions, and gradually work your way up to heavier weights with fewer repetitions.
4. Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks are another full-body pool exercise that can be modified for difficulty with aquatic dumbbells or wrist and ankle weights. Start from a standing position in water around chest level, with your feet together and arms relaxed at your sides. Jump up and widen the stance of your feet by moving your legs outward. At the same time you jump, raise your arms to the surface of the water. Jump again and return to the starting position at the same time as you lower your arms back to your side. Do 1-3 sets of 10 reps.
Watch this video clip by @blondegiraffe_ to see this exercise in action:
Jumping jacks are a great way to get your heart rate up, and this exercise doesn't require fancy equipment or a lot of space, either. To modify the difficulty of this exercise, simply use wrist or ankle weights.
5. Jump & Tuck
While this is primarily a leg and core exercise, you will also use your arms to stabilize yourself. In water about chest high, stand up straight and tall with your core engaged. Jump straight up, and tuck your knees to your chest before returning to your original standing position. To increase the difficulty of this pool exercise, don’t let your feet touch the bottom of the pool after you jump up. Just tread water to stay afloat in between each chest tuck. Do 1-3 sets of 5-10 jumps.
If you're looking for a comparable exercise to do on dry ground, just grab a jump rope! You don't have to do the same exaggerated leg movements as you would in the water. However, a brief session skipping over a jump rope will still give you a full body aerobic workout. Jump for 30 seconds, then rest for 15-30 seconds, and continue this exercise for at least 5 minutes. If you don't have a jump rope, another option is to jump up onto a short fitness step, step back down to the floor, then repeat the exercise. Some fitness steps allow for height changes to increase workout difficulty.
6. Knee Lift
This pool exercise serves many purposes. It builds strength in your legs and core, it helps you increase your balance, and it can enhance your flexibility. Stand with your back to the pool wall, in water about waist level. Lift your right knee up to a 90 degree angle, then extend your lower leg to straighten your knee as much as possible. You can either move right into the next knee lift, or you can hold your movement for a count of three. Repeat this on your left. Do 1-3 sets of 10 lifts for each leg. The pool wall will help stabilize you as you find your balance in the water. For added difficulty, step away from the wall. You can also use ankle weights to maximize your strength training.
Outside of the pool, you can still use this exercise as a way to increase balance, strength, and flexibility. Stand with your back against a wall if you need support, but try to avoid leaning against it if you don't have to.
7. Leg kicks
Hold onto the edge of the pool, or grab a kickboard if you have one. To increase the difficulty of this pool exercise, use ankle weights. Start on your belly, doing short, rapid flutter kicks in the water. Move on to larger, sweeping scissor kicks. Smooth dolphin style kicks and breaststroke kicks are also good to mix into your leg work routine. Do a variety of different kicks for a few minutes each. You can also alternate through the kicks several times, doing each kick for about a minute before switching to the next one.
To modify this exercise for indoor use, start by getting down on your hands and knees. Simultaneously extend your left leg behind you and your right arm in front of you, keeping them both in line with your back and as straight as possible. Hold this pose for a count of 5, then return to starting position. Do the same with your right leg and left arm, holding them out straight for 5 seconds. Do this exercise 10-15 times for each leg to work on core strength and stability.
You don’t even need an aquatic bicycle for this pool exercise. Take one or two pool noodles and wrap them around your back, resting your arms on the ends of the noodles. While you’re floating, pump your legs in the water as though you’re riding a bicycle. The amount of time you do this exercise depends on your fitness level, speed of movement, and whether or not you are using ankle weights to increase the difficulty of the exercise. We recommend starting with only 3-5 minutes of pedaling, and gradually build up to 10-20 minutes.
If you don't have a stationary bike, you can still do this exercise outside of the pool. Lie down on the floor, with your hands behind your head and your knees pulled toward your chest. Straighten your left leg out at a 45º angle, and turn your upper body so that your left elbow touches your right knee. Return to starting position. Then perform this same movement on the other side – extend the right leg, touch your right elbow to your left knee, and return to starting position. When you speed this movement up, the leg movement will mimic pedaling a bike, and your alternating elbow touches will help to work your core as you "pedal."
Swimming is probably the most obvious pool exercise on the entire list. It’s also one of the most efficient and effective ways to get your heart pumping and burn calories fast. As you start swimming laps, remember to take it easy. Take breaks as needed, and be careful to not over-exert yourself. Start with just a couple of laps, take a brief break, then swim a couple more laps. You can gradually increase your workout time as your body gets stronger and your stamina increases. It doesn’t matter which type of stroke you use to swim laps, either. As long as you’re swimming, your entire body is getting a solid workout.
This one's a little harder to modify for land use when the pool is closed. Check with your local fitness clubs to see if they offer memberships that include indoor pool access. But if not, that's OK! Finding other ways to keep up with your fitness journey through the winter months will help to make you a stronger swimmer when it's time to open your own pool once again. The modified exercises above can all help you reach your personal swimming and fitness goals.
These are just a few of the pool exercises you can do. You're just getting started! There are an infinite number of ways you can improve your strength, balance, stamina, and flexibility by simply working out in the swimming pool. When you’re ready to take your fitness routine to the next level, Leslie’s is here to help. We carry the highest quality at-home pool workout accessories, from goggles to dumbbells and so much more. Take a look at our online selection, or stop by your local Leslie’s to pick up your aquafitness supplies.
Looking for more exercise ideas? @blondegiraffe_ has a few more workouts you can do in your pool with a set of aquatic dumbbells from Leslie's: