Are you tired of the same old workout routine you do at home or in the gym? How about you take things up a notch by trying some pool workouts. Swimming pool exercises come with numerous health benefits and without some of the disadvantages of regular workouts. In this article we tell you why it’s time to make that switch and give you some of the best workouts you can try out in an exercise swimming pool.
What Are Pool Exercises?
So what exactly do pool workouts entail? Does doing a couple of laps in a swimming pool count? Or do you need specific swimming pool exercise equipment to pull them off. Technically, yes you do need some equipment.
Pool workouts are sometimes called water aerobics. They’re ideally low-impact workouts that are used to build muscle strength and boost your overall endurance. However, you can make them harder by increasing the reps or going faster during the workout. So yes, these exercises are fun, but they can also be as challenging.
Classes usually last for about an hour, where the instructor guides you through a series of moves. These moves are sometimes paired up with set music to keep you motivated throughout the whole process.
As for the nature of the exercises, pool workouts are usually composed of warm-ups, strength training, cardio exercises and a cooldown. Note that chances are you won’t be swimming since most of the workouts are performed in the shallow end of the pool.
Pool workouts are a particularly good choice for people with some kind of joint problems, chronic pain or just recovering from injury (6). So while you’ll be revving up your heart rate, your joints will not be jarred by the water. Additionally, they have also grown popular among pregnant women and seniors.
What Are The Benefits Of Pool Workouts?
So what gives water aerobics and edge over regular workouts if any?
For starters, there’s heavier resistance in water than in air. As a result, the same exercises you’d do on land are potentially become more challenging in water. This then means your muscles will become more engaged and thus boost calorie burning over a short period.
While aquatic exercises are great cardio workouts, they also come other health benefits including:
Pool Exercises Increase Calorie Burn
The combination of cardio and strength workouts together with water resistance in water aerobics ensures you’re getting a full workout. You can end up burning as much as 400-500 calories in an hour depending on cardio activity and size of weights (1).
Pool Exercises Increase Muscle Strength
The flow of water is constantly changing naturally and as a result, its movements can be very unpredictable. These multiple flow directions increase the pool’s resistance to about 4 to 42 times greater than air (7). The greater resistance ensures your muscles get a more rigid workout.
A study conducted in 2007 indicated that 12 weeks of aquatic aerobic exercise led to increased muscle strength, agility and flexibility among participants (6).
Pool Exercises Improve Muscle Endurance
Traditional weights usually require your body to push and pull against the weights in addition to gravity. Working out with weights in the water, however, requires your body to strain against the water’s resistance. This in turn leads to increased muscle endurance.
Pool Exercises Increase Muscle Flexibility
Water resistance requires your body to move in multiple directions to adjust to the constant push and pull of water. As your muscles are subjected to this strain, your joint’s range of motion naturally increases (4).
Pool Exercises Help Relieve Stress And Decrease Anxiety
Watching bodies of water move is one of the most relaxing activities you can take part in to help relieve stress. This is partly why vacations to island paradises and beaches are very popular. However, being in the water can be just as relaxing.
This study conducted in 2007 showed that women who took part in aquatic exercise significantly decreased anxiety and negative mood in women (2).
Pool Exercises Reduce Pressure On Your Joints
Several studies have indicated that water-based exercises like water aerobics can relieve joint pressure. This joint pressure is usually due to a number of things ranging from normal wear-and-tear to arthritis. As a matter of fact, hydrotherapy is considered to be the leading form of therapy for people suffering from joint problems (3).
Pool Exercises Can Help Reduce Blood Pressure
Water resistance is not just good for your muscles.
One of the lesser known facts about water pressure is that it works well with your blood, enhancing blood circulation throughout your body. This effectively decreases your blood pressure and in the long run, reduces your resting heart rate. What this means is that your heat will be maintaining its productivity while exerting less stress on it (5).
Pool Exercises Can Help You Cool Down
Working out in hot temperatures can sometimes have some negative effects on your body. Water aerobics can help you cool down while still facilitating effective workouts. This cool, crisp and refreshing environment can particularly motivate you since you’ll no longer be struggling in the heat!
Pool Exercises Are Low Impact
Regular workouts can be really taxing on your joints. However, in water aerobics, the buoyancy of the water helps in taking off some of the impact placed on our body because of our water weight.
In essence, the gravitational force applied on your body when in water is not as much as when you’re on land. As a result, the impact on your joints when doing activities like running is not equal to the impact when doing similar activities on land. This can particularly be great for people with joint conditions or those undergoing physical rehabilitation.
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What Muscles Are Targeted By Pool Workouts?
Here are some of the muscles you’ll be working on when you do water aerobics:
- Core muscles: Most of the exercises in water aerobic classes include side leg lifts and lunges that are perfect for your abs and other core muscles.
- Back muscles: Low-impact water exercises are known to help in strengthening your back muscles and as a result ease back pains.
- Glutes: Yes, you read that right. Moves like lunges, squats and high knee kicks done as part of a water aerobics routine can help tone your glutes.
- Leg muscles: Some exercises that strengthen your leg muscles like jogging, walking, jumping jacks, and underwater kicks are very popular in water aerobics classes.
- Arm muscles: Some moves like underwater bicep curls are good for your arms. Kickboards and pool noodles can also be added for some extra resistance.
Tips To Safely Exercise In Swimming Pools
Before getting to the good stuff, it’s imperative to know the basics for your safety and those around you. These include:
Water Aerobics Are Versatile
Working out in aquatic environments usually offer several options alongside techniques for all levels of physical ability. They can range from basic walking to high-level aerobic activities like deep water running. Standing exercises are also sometimes performed in water that is waist to chest deep.
All these exercises usually focused on improving your range of motion, muscle balance, strength and flexibility. That being said, ensure you only go for exercises that suit your level of physical fitness.
Water Temperature Is Just As Important
Temperatures in exercise swimming pools are crucial. Lower water temperatures (82-88 degrees F) are considered well suited for high-intensity exercises. It’s also advisable that if you’re among people prone to overheating like pregnant women or obese people, you should consider low temperature pools.
On the other hand, warmer temperatures (84-92 degrees F) is best suited for people with fibromyalgia, arthritis or those who are frail.
Knowing How To Swim Is Not Mandatory
While having basic knowledge of water safety or swimming is desirable when you’re around water, it’s not a necessity in this case. Most if not all of your workouts will be done in the shallow end of the pool so you’ll be able to stand for most of the moves.
Be Aware Of Your Physical Ability
Most people can tolerate longer exercise sessions in water due to its relative ease. This generally leads to workouts that are more intense coupled with larger ranges of motion. You should then be more aware of potentially overstressing your body and getting fatigued following an aquatic exercise session.
Consider Group Exercises To Spice Things Up
Group exercises are an excellent way of building connections, socializing, increasing accountability and staying motivated when working out. Being part of an exercise group can greatly increase your efficiency and as such your overall outcome.
Read More: Swimming Workout Plan For Beginners
Top 10 Pool Workouts For Full Body Workouts
Before getting to the how bit of it, let’s look at some of the swimming pool exercise equipment you need for your workout.
First off, don’t forget to bring a swim cap, towel and a pair of goggles. However, if you’re planning on working out alone, you should consider bringing the following equipment:
- Foam dumbbells: These are exercise weights for swimming pool workouts that get heavy when immersed in water but relatively lightweight when dry.
- Ankle or wrist weights: These are strap-on weights which increase your arm and leg movements in water.
- Kickboard: This tool can be used for several drills. It lets you hold on while staying afloat when doing lower body and core workouts.
- Buoyancy belts: They can help in keeping your head above the water to enable you to do arm exercises without treading water.
- Resistance gloves or hand paddles: Both equipment can be used to boost strength training in water.
Here are some of the best full body workouts you can try out in a swimming pool:
Lateral Arm Lifts
This move targets your upper body. Throw in some foam dumbbells for maximum output. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by standing in the water, ensuring it just reaches your shoulder level.
- Now hold the dumbbells at your side before raising your arms until they are level with your shoulders and the water.
- Next, lower your arms back to your sides
- Do 1-3 sets of 8-15 reps.
This move works on muscles found in both your lower and upper body. You can add some resistance by using ankle and wrist weights. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by standing in the water, ensuring it just reaches chest level. Ensure that your feet are together and your arms placed by your side.
- Next, jump by moving your legs outward while simultaneously bringing your arms over your head.
- Now return to your starting position with your arms at your side and feet together by jumping again.
- Do 1-3 sets of 8-14 reps.
High-Knee Lift Extensions
This move primarily strengthens your core muscles and lower body. To increase the overall challenge, add some ankle weights. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by standing in the water, ensuring it just reaches your waist level.
- Now engage your core while simultaneously lifting your right leg and bending your knee until your leg is at the same level with the water.
- Pause and hold this position for a few seconds.
- Next, extend your leg straight out then hold the position for a few more seconds.
- Steadily lower your leg, ensuring it remains straight throughout the process. Repeat with your left leg.
- Continue for about 5-10 minutes.
Planks are one of the best core-strengthener exercises on land and they are also key in boosting muscular endurance. However, it can be particularly difficult for you to hold them long enough for maximum effect if you lack a strong upper body. All this drastically changes in a pool.
Here’s how you do it:
- Start by standing in the pool and hold a noodle (long cylindrical piece of foam that floats) vertically in both hands.
- Press the noodles straight down into the water before leaning forward until your body is on an even incline. Ensure your head stays out of the water throughout the process.
- Hold this position and try keeping your body stable for about 1-2 minutes.
This move strengthens your core and leg muscles responsible for balance without the risk of falling and hurting yourself. When performing the move, your core muscles will be forced to keep you upright which will in turn increase your static balance.
Here’s how you do it:
- Start by standing in the water, ensuring it just reaches your waist level.
- Now steadily lift your knee then place the middle of a noodle under your left foot. Its sides should be floating up into a U-shape.
- Place your hands by your side then balance with your left food on the noodle for about 1 minute.
- Next, move out your left knee toward your side then balance for an extra minute. Now switch up your legs then repeat with your right knee lifted and right foot resting on the noodle.
- For an added challenge, lift both your hands over your head as you balance.
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Walk In The Water
This is considered to be the foundation exercise for water aerobics. It’s particularly instrumental in helping you get a feel of how you can create resistance for your workouts.
This move primarily targets your core, arms, and lower body muscles. You can increase the overall intensity by using ankle and hand weights. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by walking in shallow water, ensuring the water level is maintained around your waist height.
- Now lengthen your spine, then walk putting pressure on your heels first, then your toes. Avoid walking on your tiptoes throughout the process.
- Place your arms at your side, in the water, moving them as you walk.
- Ensure you engage your core and you stand tall while walking.
- Continue walking for about 5-10 minutes.
Back Wall Glide
This move will help you activate your core muscles and lower body. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by holding on the ledge of the pool and tucking your knees into your chest while pressing your feet into the wall.
- Next, push off from the wall, while floating on your back as far as you can get.
- Drawing your knees into your chest, press your feet down to the bottom of the pool before running back to the wall.
- Continue for about 5-10 minutes.
Core Ball Static Challenge
This is one of the best exercises in the swimming pool to strengthen your core muscles. Here’s how you do it:
- Start by getting into a lunge position with your right leg bent and left leg extended behind you.
- Now grab and hold an inflated ball that’s about 6 inches in diameter, keeping both hands directly in front of your navel. Ensure your shoulders are kept down and back.
- Hold this position for about 30 seconds, making sure you engage your core to keep you upright.
- Switch your legs hold for an extra 30 seconds.
The Bottom Line
It’s true that regular “land” workouts can become monotonous after a while. If you find yourself in this scenario, consider switching to pool workouts. These exercises are associated with numerous benefits, are just as challenging if not more and the bonus? They are low-impact and as such, are good for your joints.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021, harvard.edu)
- Effects of aquatic exercise on mental health, functional autonomy and oxidative stress in depressed elderly individuals: A randomized controlled trial (2019, nih.gov)
- Hydrotherapy for the Treatment of Pain in People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2011, nih.gov)
- Is water-based exercise training sufficient to improve physical fitness in the elderly (2012, biomedcentral.com)
- Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body (2012, nih.gov)
- The effect of 12 weeks water aerobics on health status and physical fitness: An ecological approach (2018, nih.gov)
- The Properties of Water and Their Application for Training (2014, nih.gov)