The Best Water Workouts You Should Try This Summer

When you think of working out, there’s a good chance running, weight lifting, indoor cycling, and some kind of tire-pushing, heavy duty boot camp come to mind — but what about pool workouts? Exercising in the water is a great way to get an overall cardiovascular workout that’s also gentle on your body — especially during the summer season when it’s almost too hot to function outside. You’ll finish your workout feeling refreshed and strong in all the right ways. Plus, the post-workout chlorine smell is a bit nicer than your regular dry-land workout sweat, if you ask us.

What are pool workouts?

Simply put, pool workouts are any cardiovascular or conditioning program you can do in the pool. The workouts are made for any fitness level and are easy to customize or adapt to specific health conditions or injuries. In fact, that’s one of the biggest advantage of pool workouts. “The water is a great way to incorporate non-impact cross-training exercises into your workout routine,” Jennifer Guise-Brogdon, aquatics group exercise instructor at Bay Club and team USA swimming coach, tells SheKnows. Pool-based workouts allow for an intense workout without a lot of strain on your joints and bones, which is optimal for those rehabbing aches and pains.

Another benefit: you can do these workouts with or without equipment. If you choose to add resistance, some of the more common ways to up the intensity of your workout are flotation belts, kickboards, water weights, and pool noodles.

As far as the types of classes or workouts to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Aqua cycling, deep-water running, shallow-water boot camp, and circuit-format group exercise classes are just a sample of what’s available. If you’re into classic lap-swimming, that’s always a solid choice too.

One of the more popular pool workouts is aqua jogging, or deep-water running. Performed with a flat belt around your waist, Aaptiv trainer Ed Hall tells SheKnows that this exercise mimics running in water but with the toes pointed to help keep your head above water. It is ideal for maintaining an aerobic base without the impact of running on land.

What are the benefits of pool workouts?

Pool workouts are a great option to add to your workout routine. Why? Well, according to Guise-Brogdon, “water workouts are arguably the most useful and difficult workouts to do.” She explains, “Every part of your body is moving to allow you to glide through the water. You may not even think about it, but you actually sweat while you are doing a water workout!”

On top of that, pool workouts are teach you important water safety skills that will serve you for life. “Whenever you do a water workout, your body is not just thinking about the workout, but also what it needs to do to survive,” Guise-Brogdon points out. Honing those instincts might serve you well if you end up in an emergency situation. (It’s a good idea to pass those water safety lessons on to your kids, too.)

There’s also the fact that pool workouts are just plain fun. A 2007 study found that participants enjoy exercising in the water more than on land. That’s good news, because when you enjoy a workout, you’re more likely to return to it consistently.

Plus, you can exercise longer in the pool, since the water protects your joints and muscles from a lot of the pain you may experience running or in a boot camp-type of class. “Water workouts are safe for most people, as the low- to no-impact movements and hydrostatic pressure can be therapeutic for those with injuries or other limiting factors,” certified personal trainer and AEA-certified aqua group fitness instructor Dr. Kelly Morgan tells SheKnows. But even as the water protects you from impact, it’s also adding a unique resistance to every movement you make. Even if you’re doing a cardio-focused pool workout, just being in the water adds a strength-training element to your routine.

Which pool workouts are the best?

Though most types of movement — in or out of the water — are better than nothing and good for your health, some pool workouts pack more of a punch than others.

If you are a weightlifter, Hall recommends a shallow-water boot camp class that uses noodles, float boards and pool dumbbells because it works your muscle concentrically and not eccentrically (less gravity). This means you are less likely to get sore, you can work harder and get the most out of your workout.

Classes that incorporate aqua jogging or pure water aerobics classes focus more on cardiovascular conditioning. But regardless of the type of workout you choose, the key is to “find your center,” Guise-Brogdon says. “It is about being able to calm your breath and your mind as you swim. Be like Dory and ‘Just Keep Swimming!’”

Should you join a class or try a pool workout on your own?

If you need that extra boost of motivation to work out or you’re looking for the social aspect a group class provides, joining an aquatic workout class may be right for you. However, there is no need to do pool workouts as part of a large group. All the workouts you do in a class can be done on your own.

If you’re new to swimming or water-based workouts, taking a few classes to familiarize yourself with the different exercises might be helpful.

“Someone can demonstrate the types of exercise to do and how to perform them correctly and in the proper order,” Hall says. Then you can take what you learned in the class and create your own workouts. Knowing how to do a water workout will come in handy if you’re traveling or on vacation and need to use the hotel pool to exercise.

Sample pool workouts

The best part about working out in the pool is that you have a variety of workouts to choose from. Here is a sample swim/strength plan Louise Love, assistant director of aquatics at Missouri State University, shared with SheKnows:

Swim/strength workout

Warm up 200 meters (one lap is typically 50 meters)

Tread water with your hands up for one minute, 30 seconds

Swim 100 meters

Tread water with your arms only for one minute, 30 seconds

Swim 100 meters

Tread water with arms and legs for one minute, 30 seconds

Swim 100 meters

15 push-ups (out of water)

15 squats (out of water)

Swim 300 meters (pace yourself)

Planks (out of water)

Center hold for 30 seconds

Side hold for 15 seconds

Other side hold for 15 seconds

Cool-down: Swim 200 meters, slowing heart rate down by doing easy strokes or swimming on your back

Cardio workout

Jog in place

Jog moving forward, back, right, then left

Jog with high knees moving forward, back, right, then left

Jog kicking your butt moving forward, back, right, then left

Low front kicks in place, to the front

Low kicks moving forward, back, right, then left

Waist-high kicks in place, to the front

Low front kicks in place, legs going out at a 45-degree angle

Waist-high front kicks in place, legs going out at a 45-degree angle

Kick to the back, lifting your legs as high as possible, in place

Jumping jacks, getting low and keeping your body in the water

Jumping jacks moving forward and backward (repeat two times)

Jog in place

Sprint in place for 15 seconds (repeat three times)

Cross-country ski — left arm goes forward, left leg goes back then right arm goes forward, right leg goes back. Ski to the right then left (repeat two times)

Low front kicks in place to recover

Repeat all above — you can wear aqua gloves to add resistance, but when doing so, keep fingers spread and hands open

So, the next time you think you can skip your workout because it’s too hot, head to your neighborhood pool and hop in — there are plenty of fun ways to exercise!

A version of this story was published May 2018. 

For more workout options, check out our favorite yoga sequences you can do from home:

Nous vous invitons…

Nous vous invitons à prendre rendez-vous avec un de nos psychologues, psychothérapeutes et psychopraticiens afin de faire un premier pas vers le changement que vous désirez. Si vous désirez obtenir de plus amples informations ou si vous avez des questions, n’hésitez pas à nous téléphoner. Vous pouvez prendre un rendez-vous par téléphone ou en envoyant un email au cabinet des Psychologues de Paris 9 (à l’attention du psychologue ou psychothérapeute de votre choix).