These 10 Pool Exercises Make For A Surprisingly Difficult Full-Body Workout
Finding new (and fun!) ways to mix up your workouts will keep your muscles guessing and you from getting bored and bailing on your fitness routine—both of which are super important if you want to see gains. One of the best ways to do this might just be adding water to strength or high-intensity interval training moves.
You see, working out in water dials down the impact of moves without decreasing their ability to sculpt your bod or help you burn calories. How? The H2O serves as a form of resistance similar to the way a dumbbell, ankle weight, or mini-band would.
In case you’re skeptical, research shows that pool exercises are totally effective. In fact, aquatic HIIT has similar training benefits to that of land-based HIIT, per The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
You just have to take the right approach. The key is to incorporate different speeds and body positions (think jumping, floating, partially submerged, and standing tall), as well as full ranges of motions in multiple directions, according to research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine. Do this, and you’ll boost both cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
The low impact but legit benefits of pool workouts are particularly handy if you’re recovering from an injury or have another medical reason (like pregnancy) to go easy on the high-impact sweats, says trainer Melody Davi, CPT.
Sold on taking your next sweat to the pool? All you need is your bodyweight and hip- or waist-deep water to do the following 10 pool exercises—no swimming required! Chances are, you’ve already mastered some of these moves in the gym, but the water totally changes the game.
Time: 15–20 minutes.
Good for: total-body
Instructions: Choose four or five exercises from the following list. Perform each for the prescribed number of reps, then immediately continue onto the next. Once you’ve completed all four or five moves, rest for 30 seconds and repeat twice more for a total of three rounds.
1. Triceps Dip
Muscles worked: triceps, core
Why it rocks: As you lift and lower your body in and out of the water, your triceps start burning fast.
How to: Start sitting on edge of pool with feet in water and hands at sides, gripping the ledge with fingers facing body. Slide body forward and lower into water, bending arms straight back until they form 90-degree angles. Then, push through palms to re-extend arms so seat hovers just inside edge of pool. That’s one rep. Perform 15.
2. Incline Pushup
Muscles worked: triceps, shoulders, chest, core
Why it rocks: “You’ll get a little help from the water in the starting position, but this move quickly requires more from your upper body as you press out of the water and fight that resistance,” Davi says.
How to: Start in water facing side of pool with hands on edge, just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep arms and legs straight, so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Bend elbows to 90 degrees (or until chest touches edge of pool), then push back up to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10–12.
3. Jumping Jack
Muscles worked: glutes, quads, upper back, shoulders
Why it rocks: Working against the water makes jumping jacks so much more exhausting. You’ll get your heart rate up in no time, as this move is excellent cardio.
How to: Stand with feet hip-distance apart and arms at sides. Then, raise arms out to the sides and overhead, while simultaneously jumping feet out to slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Without pausing, quickly reverse the movement. That’s one rep.Perform 20.
4. Squat Jump
Muscles worked: quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core
Why it rocks: Squat jumps have less impact on your joints in the water, but still offer the other benefits of high-intensity moves, like building muscle and spiking your heart rate.
How to: Start in a low squat with arms extended straight forward at shoulder height. Explosively jump off the pool floor. Land back in starting position. That’s one rep. Perform 10–12.
5. Mountain Climber
Muscles worked: core, back, legs, shoulders
Why it rocks: Mountain climbers performed in the pool might be easier on your upper body, but they up the ante for your core and lower body as you drive those knees through the H2O.
How to: Start in a plank position with hands on edge of pool and body forming a straight line from head to heels. Drive knees toward chest one at a time, as quickly as possible. That’s one rep. Perform 15.
6. Tuck Jump
Muscles worked: Full body and cardio
Why it rocks: This high-intensity move not only builds strength, but it also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which means you’ll burn major calories even after your workout, says Davi.
How to: Start standing with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Bend knees slightly and extend arms out at shoulder height, elbows bent and wide, palms facing water. Use legs to bend deep and then jump straight up, lifting knees to touch hands. Land softly with knees bent. That’s one rep. Perform 10.
7. Scissor Kick
Muscles worked: core, inner and outer thighs, glutes
Why it rocks: Hit your core from all angles as you work to stay stable in the water and maintain that kicking pattern. Holding onto the wall gives you extra support so you can focus on your abs, according to Davi.
How to: Start leaning with shoulders on side of pool and arms out wide, holding onto the edges on either side of body. Extend legs out straight so body forms one long line. Engage core, lift feet up off floor of pool and perform quick, short, alternating kicks underwater with legs long and toes pointed. Every two kicks equals one rep. Perform 15.
8. Knee Lift
Muscles worked: core (specifically obliques)
Why it rocks: This move challenges your balance and fires up your obliques in a way that few other core moves do.
How to: Start standing with feet wider than hip-width apart. Bend arms and place hands behind head. From here, bend and lift left knee towards left elbow. Reverse the movement, then repeat on right side. That’s one rep. Perform 10–12.
9. Reverse Fly
Muscles worked: Upper back, core, quads, glutes
Why it rocks: Working against the resistance of the water in this move allows you to strengthen your upper back without weights, Davi says.
How to: To start, stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, hinged forward at the hips, torso tilted forward, arms hanging straight down, palms facing body. Raise both arms out to the sides until they reach shoulder height and squeeze shoulder blades together. Return to start. Perform 15.
10. Lateral Lunge with Balance
Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, core
Why it rocks: Performing underappreciated lateral lunges in water makes them easier on your balance, but still challenges your lower body as you push through the water.
How to: Stand standing with feet hip-width apart and hands at sides. Take a big step to right, pushing hips back and bending right knee to lowering seat until right knee forms 90-degree angle. Push back to an upright position, lift right knee, and pull it into chest with arms. That’s one rep. Perform 10 per side.
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