Whether you are trying to lose weight or are looking for a killer cardio workout, the pool is a great option. Low impact exercise in the pool means it's easy on your joints, keeping you active without aches and pains you might get otherwise.
Even if you aren't a fan of swimming laps the pool offers great options for aerobic exercise.
So I made the biggest list of pool exercises I can find for you to make your own aqua aerobics workouts.
This is the basic kick you would use when you're swimming. Except for your pool exercise, you can hold onto to pool's edge. One leg at a time will kick while the other recovers and gets ready for its turn. Watch the video to get a demo of how to do the flutter kick.
Flutter Kick on Back
When you flip over to your back you work different muscles in your legs. This is because you are pushing against the water differently on your back, than on your stomach.
If you feel like moving down the pool and want a little more deep water to kick in, grab a kickboard to do your flutter kicks.
Stand in the water with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean over to one side (think up and over) so that your lower elbow hits (or disappears) into the water. Switch to the other side and repeat. Be sure to really engage your core so you are only moving from side to side. No motion from front to back on this one.
This is the kind of kick that you will see swimmers use when they push off the wall. The great thing about the dolphin kick is how it engages your lower abs. You can choose to do these while having your face in the water or on your back so you can breathe the entire time. Watch the two videos to learn about the technique of the dolphin kick.
Scissor Kick - Holding Pool Edge
Scissor kicks can be done with a kickboard, with your hands extended out in front of you, or by grabbing onto the wall. It's completely your choice.
The scissor is like an exaggerated flutter kick. Where the flutter kick you don't want your knees to be involved in the kick at all, the scissor kick really brings the power to pushing the water around with your legs. This is the kind of kick you use when you're doing the side stroke. Watch the video to see the scissor kick in action. The whole video teaches the side stroke, but the video will start and show you how to do the scissor kick specifically.
In chest high water, squat down until your legs are bent at 90 degree angles and jump straight up. If your head will go underwater you can squat down less.
Stationary Jump - Jump bringing knees to chest, head is stationary
Similar to the squat jump, in chest high water you are going to jump up. This time you want to bring your knees up towards your chest and keep your head stationary. Most of your knees will remain underwater.
Put your back against the pool wall. Grab the edge of the pool with your arms and extend your legs out into the water. Make a circular motion with your legs, just like you're riding a bicycle!
Alternately to holding onto the pool wall, you can get a pool noodle for bicycles. With the pool noodle between your legs, sit down on it and "ride" it like a bicycle. From this position you can cycle your legs in front of you to work your bicycle motion.
Leg Extension Crunches (arms on pool, legs out in air, pulls knees towards you and back)
Normally for crunches you are going to be moving your body towards your knees. However, for leg extension crunches you will be moving your legs towards your body to work your abs.
Standing with your back against the pool wall, place your arms on the pool deck to your sides. Lift your legs up so that they are straight out in front of you. Now pull your knees towards your chest. Once your knees have come to your chest then you will push your legs back out until they are straight again.
Cross Country Ski-ing (jump lunge motion, but not lunging)
Cross Country Skiing is most easily described as a lunge, followed by another lunge. So from one lunge position "jump" and shift to lunging on the other leg. Keep repeating back and forth for the Cross Country Ski Exercise.
A classic exercise that you can bring to the pool. Jumping jacks in water are very similar to their dry-land counterpart. With one exception. Your arms will stay low to your sides so they remain in the water at all times. See the video for a demonstration on in-water jumping jacks.
In Water Outwards Leg Lift - Push Out, Pull In
The outer leg lift is also known by it's more clinical term, leg abduction and leg adduction. You will stand normally with your feet together. Raising one of your legs directly to your side. For the first exercise when you lift your leg you want to push against the water and then relax and let your leg come back to your body. Do a set of these before moving to the second part of the exercise.
In the second part you want to gently lift your leg to the side then pull it back towards your body pushing against the water. This way you work both directions of leg movement separately to isolate the muscle groups.
In Water Front Leg Lift
Similar in direction to the outer leg lift, stand with feet together and lift your leg, keeping your knee unbent, towards the surface of the water. Let it relax and gently come back down to your body.
After a few reps of these you can switch your focus to gently lifting your leg and pulling it back towards your body with some effort. Again you want to to work each direction of movement independently.
In Water Back Leg Lift
Just the same as the previous two leg lifts, except this time you'll be lifting your leg behind you. Again, keeping your knee unbent and your leg straight. Lift your leg behind you pushing against the water and then relax, gently allowing your leg to sink back down to your normal standing position. After a few reps, reverse the effort so you gently lift your leg behind you, then push against the water to bring your leg back to your standing position.
Combine all 3 of the previous leg lift motions together, pushing out front, out to the side then out to the back for one rep of "the blender."
Running in Place
This exercise is mostly self explanatory. While in at least waist deep water, begin a running motion, but don't move anywhere.
In the deep end of the pool lean your body slightly forward and beginning moving your legs as if you're running. For most people this can be a fairly challenging exercise to stay afloat by yourself. If you'd like to do an aqua jogging session that's a longer portion of your routine, I suggest you look into using an aqua belt. Sometimes your pool facility will already have these or they are available for purchase many places online.
Standing in place in at least waist deep water, lift one leg up towards your butt as if you're going to kick your butt. Once your knee is bent as far as it can go, without straining, relax and let it sink back down to the bottom of the pool. Repeat with the other leg. Optional: For added resistance you can wear leg weights for this exercise. For safety: be sure to use your leg weight in shallower water (waist high) where you can comfortably stand.
Similar to the hamstring curls, use the same motion as before, but combine it into a jog across the pool at the same time. Each time you take a step you are trying to kick your own derriere.
Bicep curls (arms sideways, pull inwards)
For this exercise you will be doing a similar motion as a regular bicep curl with a weight. But this time you'll use water for the resistance!
Extend your arm fully out to the side with your palm out. Pushing the water with the flat of your palm, bend your arm towards your chest to complete a bicep curl.
Tricep Extension (arms sideways, push outwards)
Hold your hands out in front of you as if you were pretending to play the piano. (Forearms straight out, upper arm near your side). With flat palms push down against the water below you until your fingers are pointed to the bottom of the pool. Bring your hands back to "piano position" and repeat for more reps.
Kick and Punch for Cardio
Preferably in the deep end of a pool you want to alternate between kicking and punching. You can create different patterns like left hand punch, right hand punch, left leg front kick, right leg front kick and repeat. Or make variations on this pattern by punching to the side, kicking to the side, kicking backwards, etc. Just be aware of the other pool patrons around you!
K-Treads - Deep End of the Pool Required
In at least waist deep water, squat down and bring the palms of your hands together. Holding your arms straight out in front of you, keeping your feet planted and stationary, twist your body from side to side, moving your arms from side to side. You can also hold onto a kickboard for added resistance if you really want to work your core with this one.
Check out this video from Pop Sugar Fitness that demonstrates the trunk twist. It also has a few other core workouts we'll come back to later so don't worry about having to learn them all right now.
Pool Planks (with Noodle or kickboard)
If you are in a waist deep pool, do the fly from a lunge or squatting position.
Reach your arms directly out to your sides as if to make a "T" with your body. With flat palms bring your hands together in front of you pushing against the water. In motion it looks like you are doing a very large clapping motion underwater.
Water Circles (best done in a group or small pool)
Water circles require a little bit of space to complete. As you might imagine, you want to move in a circle. By jogging in a circle continually in the same direction you will slowly build up the current on the pool in the direction you are moving. After a minute or so going one direction you change direction. Now you're going against the current you created!
If you have a small group of people to do this it is very helpful to build up the current of the pool in one direction.
Just as the title would suggest, you'll jog backwards in the pool. This is easiest if you know you have space behind you to move in a straight line.
With the side shuffle you want to be in at most waist deep water. You are going to squat down and stay in this position for the entire exercise. Keeping your head at the same level, shuffle your legs to the side. Go one direction for 3-4 shuffles then back the other direction.
Pool Pushups (holding edge of pool, go up and down, don’t let feet touch)
While you're in the pool, get to the edge of the pool. Place your palms on the pool deck (or grab onto the gutter if available). Push yourself up from the pool deck or gutter as if you are going to get out of the pool. When your arms are fully extended, lower yourself back down into the pool. Then repeat for more reps.
Tricep Dips (reverse to face out from the pool, go up and down)
Similar to pool pushups, you will be in the water at the pools edge. The difference is you will turn around and face into the pool then grab the gutter or place your palms on the pool deck. Lifting yourself up out of the pool will work your triceps. When your arms are at full extension you can lower yourself back down into the pool and repeat for more reps.
Pool Deck Leg Lifts
Sit on edge of pool with your legs in the water. Lift them up out of water to 45 degree angle and back dow
In Water Leg Lifts (In Water Roman Chair)
Similar to the pool deck legs lifts, except this time you will be in the pool. Your back is against the pool wall and arms are at your side, while holding onto the pool. Bring your feet off the floor of the pool and raise your legs until they are parallel to the pool. I.e. your body makes a 90 degree angle. Relax and let your feet drift back to the bottom of the pool and repeat for more reps.
Squashing Grapes -
With your feet shoulder width apart squat down as if you are "riding" a horse. From this squatting position alternate legs "stomping" the bottom of the pool as if you are squashing grapes. You won't be making any real wine obviously, but if it will help you pass the time you can pretend you are Ethel helping Lucy in the episode of I Love Lucy where they get roped into squashing grapes with their bare feet.
Leg overs are traditionally an exercise done while lying on the floor. However, since we're in the pool we can take advantage of the aid that the water gives us to do this one standing.
With your back against the wall of the pool and arms out to your side. Pick up one leg, keeping it straight and bring it all the way across your body until it is pointing to the opposite side it came from. I.e. if using your right leg bring it across your body until your foot is pointing to the left. Take a look at the video below to see what a "traditional" leg over looks like on the floor and you will get the idea of the motion to apply in the pool.
Straight Leg Bounce (calf work, calf raises)
Standing in at least waist deep water go up on the balls of your toes. From this position begin to bounce up and down. This will work your calf muscles.
A staple on dry land for runners, bounding works on strong muscles all the way from your toes through your butt. The video below illustrates the motion and how it differs from running best. The athlete is of course on dry-land, but the motion is the same in the water. The initial hop isn't necessary in the water.
Toe Raises (calf raises in place, no jump)
If the straight leg bounce is too much of a challenge, you can do regular toe raises instead. Stand in place in waist deep water. With straight legs go up on the balls of your toes and then relax your legs and allow your heels to come back to the floor of the pool.
Frog Jump (start in plie position, jump and return)
For the frog jump you want to start in the plie position (like in balet class). You'll squat down in this position, jump up and return to your squatting position.
Ladder Pull Up
If your pool has a ladder to get out of the pool: you can use it as a pull up bar. Stand facing the ladder and grab onto the ladder hand-holds without getting out of the pool. Pull yourself up until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees and lower yourself back down. *Note on this exercise: please be respectful of your fellow pool patrons in the event someone else is trying to get out of the pool while you're doing this one.
Sculling in place
Sculling is most easily done in a deep pool, but if you're in a shallow pool you can lift your knees up off the bottom.
With your arms at your sides, "scoop" the water back and forth to hold yourself in place without kicking your legs to stay in place.
Toes Up Sculling
Using the same arm motion as sculling, put your legs straight out in front of you while sculling to work your abs at the same time you are sculling.
The underwater sit-up can also be performed as a crunch, meaning your head will not dip underwater. You will usually want to use a towel to anchor your feet onto the pool deck to ensure you don't slip. Check out our video from Pop Sugar Fitness again on their suggestions about how to get into position and perform a crunch.
To do the full sit-up, simply lower your body all the way down into the water where your head goes under. Be sure to breathe out your nose! Going underwater and coming back out will ad both resistance to the exercise as well as some cardio work because you will have to control your breathing.
If you've ever watched the winter Olympics and Apollo Ono doing his thing skating on the ice, you'll get the gist of this exercise.
Speed Bag Punching Motion
If you're in waist deep water it's easiest to squat and do this exercise. Simply pretend that there is a speed punching bag in front of you and rotate your fists around in a cirlce as if you were "punching" the speed bag.
You don't have to grab any extra equipment to ski in the water. Simply place your feet together and jump from side to side as if in a skiing motion.
Another dry-land staple for running, high knees engages your hamstrings and glutes. In a running motion, lift your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
Just like on land you can do lunges in the pool. It's your choice whether to stand in place and do lunges or to walk and do lunges.
Instead of moving forward, you can move yourself to the side and lunge. Watch the video to see how to do side lunges.
Standing knee lift
Stand against the pool wall with both feet on the floor. Lift 1 knee up like you are marching in place. While the knee is lifted even with your hip, straighten your knee. Continue to bend and straighten your knee 10 times, and then repeat on the other leg. Complete 3 sets of 10 on each leg. For more of a challenge, try this exercise without standing against the pool wall.
Lateral Shoulder Raises
Lateral shoulder raises are great for working on your shoulder muscles. You can use a set of pool dumbbells or weights to assist you with these or start out only with the water as resistance. With your arms straight down to your sides you are going to raise them up, keeping them in line with the side of your body until you form a "T" with your arms and body. Adding weights into your hands gives more resistance to your shoulders than the water alone when you bring your shoulders up.
Front shoulder raises
Much like the lateral shoulder raises, you are going to start with your arms to your sides. This time however, you will bring your arms straight up in front of you until your arms are parallel with the bottom of the pool. You can also use pool weights in your hands to increase resistance with this shoulder exercise as well.