Cool Off & Get Fit: A Swimming Pool Workout

by | Read time: 5 minutes

Laying by the pool this summer? When you start feeling hot and sweaty, jump in! Take advantage of the opportunity for a heart-pumping workout, no matter where you are. Any body of water will do – swimming pool, lake or ocean. The first step is just getting your feet wet. Once you’re in, you’ll quickly realize water is such a forgiving environment. In fact, all ages and fitness levels can enjoy aquatic exercise and reap its body-sculpting benefits. Here’s how…

Woman in Swim Cap & Goggles Doing Pool Exercises Outside |

Why you should try water aerobics?

To put less stress on the joints: Water-based exercises, such as water aerobics, have shown to relieve pressure placed on joints and muscles. The water acts as a cushion for your body’s weight-bearing joints, which helps reduce stress on muscles, ligaments and tendons. Not only can you work out longer at such a low impact, you greatly reduce the risk of injury. This is also great news for women who are pregnant and trying to stay active.

To build strength: Water-resistant exercises are more natural to the body, because you are pushing through the resistance instead of against it. In a pool, the resistance may range from four to 42 times greater than air, causing muscles to work harder during exercise. On top of that, water moves in numerous directions, creating even more of a challenge for your muscles. If that’s not enough, you can always add a weighted vest, floats, ankle weights and/or webbed gloves to increase resistance.

To burn calories: With water’s resistance, you get a combined cardio-and-strength workout that targets your entire body. The average man or woman may burn between 400 and 500 calories per hour doing an aquatic workout. For even more calorie burn, don’t forget those weighted water accessories!

To increase flexibility: The body’s joints naturally increase their range of motion by adjusting to the push and pull of the water. And thanks to the water supporting your bodyweight, you can stretch muscles deeper and move joints more fluidly.  

Who should avoid water workouts?

People of all ages, shapes and sizes can benefit from a water workout. However, if you have a fever, infection or severe heart issues, avoid exercising in a pool (or any other body of water). Also, feeling dizzy, nauseated, too hot or too cold are signs you need to steer clear of water activity.

What do you need to know before jumping in?

  • Know your swimming pool or body of water, so you’re familiar with its changes in depth. The shallow end can feel a lot further away when you’re tired from the workout.
  • Make sure your workout complements your swimming level. If you’re not a comfortable swimmer, it’s perfectly fine to stay in the shallow end to exercise.
  • However, if you can, keep the water between waist and chest height. The shallower the water, the greater the impact on your joints. This could also cause you to lose your balance and form.
  • Start slowly and progress gradually. It’s always important to listen to your body’s limits.
  • Protect your feet with water-appropriate shoes.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. You may not feel thirsty or know that you’re sweating while in the water, but those electrolytes need to be replenished, regardless.

How do you exercise in water?

Now that you understand the benefits of aquatic exercise and know how to set yourself up for success, you’re ready for these muscle-building pool exercises. First, warm up with a few laps up and back to get the heart rate up and blood flowing.

Double leg lifts

Learn back on the pool edge, keeping legs perfectly straight. Lower legs together, and then raise them back up as high as you can.

Trainer tip: You can modify this exercise by sitting on the edge of the pool to create less resistance.


Flutter kicks

Hold onto the edge of the pool, a paddleboard or noodle and extend legs straight behind you. Kick legs up and down quickly like a swimmer.

Trainer tip: Keep legs under the water while focusing on moving them faster, not higher.


Frog jumps

In the shallow end, start from a plie position (heels together, knees bent outward and bottom tucked under). Jump as high as possible out of the water and return to plie position.

Trainer tip: When sinking into that plie squat, try to get as deep down as possible to work those glutes even harder. You’ll also feel the burn in your inner thighs if you move quickly, without resting at the top or bottom of the movement.


Ladder pull-ups

Grasp the pool ladder (or boat ladder in open water), and use your arms to pull yourself up and out of the water. Slowly and with control, lower yourself back down. This is a great exercise to help you progress to a strict pull-up.

Trainer tip: Change your grip to work different muscles. For instance, you’ll get more out of your biceps when palms are facing you. With palms facing out, as in a traditional pull-up grip, you work more of your shoulders and lats (back muscles). You could also use a wider grip to put the load on your back or a closer grip to shift the work to your arm muscles.



Sit on the pool deck so your bottom is as close to the edge of the pool as you can get it. Place hands on either side of your hips and get a good grip of the ledge. Hold tight as you slowly lower your legs into the pool, bending elbows to 90 degrees. This is similar to a bench dip, but you should be able to do more with your bodyweight supported by the water.

Trainer tip: Keep elbows close to your body, so you really isolate those triceps.



Face the edge of the pool, placing hands on the pool deck for support. Push down into the palm of your hands to lift your body out of the water. Fully extend your arms at the top. Slowly and with control, lower yourself back into the water – or jump down if needed.

Trainer tip: Try not to jump up and out of the water, letting your upper body do the work. Again, keep elbows close to your sides.