Water workouts aren’t just for synchronized swimmers or grannies in swim caps. These six routines will help you cool off and get toned from head to toeBy: Hollis Templeton
Instead of scratching a workout off your to-do list on a scorching hot day and penciling in a dip in the pool, submerge your workout in the water with you. From jogging to yoga, many dry-land exercise routines can be performed in the pool. The bonus: Water provides added resistance, forcing your core muscles to constantly work at keeping you upright and balanced. Plus, water is soothing and easy on your joints, making pool workouts perfect for anyone recovering from injury. Here, experts share six water workouts that will help you beat the heat while still feeling the burn.
More: It doesn’t take endless laps—or even getting your hair wet—to slim down at your local beach, pool, or water park. Try these 21 moves and see what we mean.
If your summer walking route is starting to feel routine, try taking it to the pool. Begin with a short water walking workout to see how your body adapts to the added resistance, then gradually increase the time and intensity until you can walk in the water for 30 minutes at moderate intensity. To get started, craft a workout from the following techniques provided by Julie See, president of the Aquatic Exercise Association. Pick an area of the pool where your arms and legs are underwater and your feet touch the floor. Wear water shoes for added support.
Heels Up Walk or jog forward, lifting your heels high toward your butt. Add variation by adjusting your tempo to two slow kicks followed by two quick kicks. Move your arms as if you were performing the breaststroke, keeping your thumbs up to assist your forward movement.
Knees Up Walk or jog backward, lifting your knees high in front. Add variation by adjusting your tempo to two slow kicks followed by two quick kicks. Move your arms in reverse breaststroke (as if you were giving someone a hug) to assist your backward movement.
Tightrope Walk Imagine that you’re walking on an underwater tightrope. Step one foot directly in front of the other, making your strides as long as possible and using your arms for balance. Make it harder by bending your elbows with your hands lifted out of water, as if motioning “I surrender.”
Jumping Jacks and Kicks Moving backward, perform one jumping jack followed by one front kick. Repeat, this time kicking with the opposite leg. Keeping your back straight, reach toward your foot with the opposite hand on each kick.
Side Step and Slide Step out to your right in a wide stance, dragging your left foot to meet your right. When you reach the end of the pool, repeat, stepping out to the left and sliding your right foot to meet. Arms should follow the legs out with each side step, then come behind your back as you pull your legs together.
Knee Swing Walk Swing your knee to the front, then to the back, then to the front again. Then extend your leg to take a giant step forward. Repeat on the opposite side. Use your arms for balance or make it harder by lifting your arms out of the water and keeping your forearms crossed at chest height.
Tuck Travel Drop low in the water, as if you were seated in a chair. Tuck both knees toward your chest as you push off the pool bottom to travel backward. Move your arms in reverse breaststroke (as if you were hugging someone) to guide your backward movement.
Football Drill Moving laterally, cross one leg over in front and then in back (in a grapevine pattern) for 8 counts. Then drop low in the water, as if you were seated in a chair, and run in place as fast as you can for 8 counts. Stay low in the water and run in place, this time moving your feet out-out-in-in, as if you were running through tires, for 8 counts. Stand up, then repeat all moves on the opposite side.
Cool down with 3 to 5 minutes of walking forward, backward, and laterally across the pool, then stretching your arms, legs, and torso.
More: Water washes off SPF fast—learn how often your should reapply with these tips for sun-proofing your summer workout.
If you haven’t swum since high school but are looking for a new way to stay fit this summer, go back to basics with this 30-minute 1,000-yard lap workout from Jane Katz, PhD, a Masters swimming champion and a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Performance Team.
Warmup (5 minutes)
Begin with 5 minutes of water walking, water jogging, or aqua aerobics and light stretching.
Workout (20 minutes)
Easy 200-yard warmup (8 laps in a 25-yard pool, for example)
2 x 200 yards front crawl, backstroke, side stroke, breaststroke, butterfly, or a combination of strokes
2 x 100 yards kicking
2 x 50 yard sprints (little rest in between laps)
Cooldown (5 minutes)
1 x 100 yard medley of strokes followed by light stretching
Video: Breathe like this to swim faster
Mimic the moves performed in your favorite cardio class—without stepping foot inside a stuffy gym—by working your way through these routines suggested by See of the Aquatic Exercise Association.
Cardio Combo 1
8 jumping jacks with arms crossing behind back when feet come together
8 wide steps (4 to the left, 4 to the right)
8 level II jumping jacks (start with your body in a neutral position in the water, as if you were sitting in a chair; hips and knees should be bent, with shoulders at the water’s surface)
8 level II jumping jacks with center knee tuck (bring knees up to chest as feet come in)
Cardio Combo 2
4 rocking horses (rock your right foot up and left foot back for 7 counts, then bring your feet together; that’s one rep)
8 wide jogs (jog with legs wide for 8 steps)
8 heel high jogs (kick your heels up toward your butt as you move forward for 8 steps)
Cardio Combo 3
8 cross-country skis (move arms and legs in opposition for 8 steps)
16 back kicks
16 skate kicks (kick diagonally to back corner)
4 jumping jacks
More: Fuel your fat burn further by eating foods that naturally fire up your metabolism. This book shows you which ones to pick!
If a summer vacation has whisked you far from your gym—and you’re not about to let free weights and exercise bands take up space in your luggage—find a pool and snag a 30-minute toning workout without leaving your hotel. Katz, creator of the Water Exercise Techniques (WET) Workout, shared these moves that target your upper and lower body as well as your core.
Warmup (5 to 10 minutes)
Jog in place in neck-deep water
Overhead triceps stretch
Main Moves (15 to 20 minutes)
Power walk/aqua jog: To get your heart rate up, power walk through the water, then speed up to water jogging. Land on the balls of your feet, pumping your arms but keeping them tucked in toward your sides.
Trunk turns: Keeping your arms underwater, stand with your feet hip-distance apart with knees slightly bent. Place your hands on your waist and twist back and forth. Increase resistance by holding your arms at 180 degrees and rotating like a propeller, keeping your chest out.
Push-aways: Hold on to the edge of the pool with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. Without moving your feet or legs, straighten your arms as you push away and come back in.
Push-ups: Place your palms flat on the deck and lift your body out of the water, then dip back in. Perform in sets of 5 reps, holding the final push-up for 10 counts.
Leg lifts: Hold on to the side of the pool with your right hand with your body perpendicular to the side of the pool. Raise your left leg out to the side, then lower it. Repeat on the other side.
Leg circles: Hold on to the side of the pool with your right hand and your body perpendicular to the edge of the pool. Circle your left leg, bringing it to the side, then diagonally forward, down, and back. Circle your leg in the opposite direction, then repeat on the other side.
Sit-ups: Stand with your back against the edge of the pool, reaching your hands out to the sides above your shoulders and holding on to the edge of the pool. Pull your knees in toward your chest, then push your legs out straight. Add variation by twisting your knees to either side as you draw then in.
Bicycle riding/flutter kicks: With your back to the wall of the pool, hold on to the ledge and cycle your legs, bringing your knees in toward your chest. Up the intensity by switching to flutter kicks: Keeping the same position, extend your legs and kick as fast as possible, keeping your legs straight and your core engaged. Then move back to bicycle kicks.
Scissors: With your back to the pool wall, place your elbows on the deck and bring your legs up to a 90-degree angle. Draw your legs apart, then bring them together, crossing right over left, then left over right.
Cooldown (5 to 10 minutes)
Cross-training step (place your left foot on the pool wall and extend your right foot back to the floor behind you, then switch sides)
Fencer’s lunge (holding on to the side of the pool, place both feet on the wall in a V; bend your left knee and straighten your right leg, then switch sides)
Arm and leg stretch (hold on to the pool edge with your right hand and bring your right foot to meet it; reach your left arm up and over your head toward your right arm; repeat on the other side)
Search: How to pick the right swimsuit for your body type
Strengthen your core with these “poolates” moves, also from Katz’ WET Workout plan.
Pilates side stretch: Hold on to the edge of the pool with one hand and bring the opposite arm up over your head and toward the wall, keeping your hip as far away from the wall as possible. Repeat on the other side.
Single leg circle: Stand in chest-deep water and hold on to the wall with your left hand. Bring your right leg straight up and circle 5 to 7 times in each direction. Repeat on the other side.
Double leg circle: With your back against the wall, hold on to the edge of the pool. Then lift your legs to create an L with your body. Keeping them straight, circle your legs clockwise and then counterclockwise 8 to 10 times each.
Leg scissors: With your back against the wall, hold on to the edge of the pool. Then lift your legs to create an L with your body. Separate your legs into a V, and then bring them back together, alternately crossing left over right and right over left.
100s with noodle support: Facing upward, place a noodle behind your back and another under your arms. Bring your legs up to tabletop position. Push your arms down, 10 pulses at a time, working up to 100. Make it harder by removing the noodles.
Bent-leg kick: Face the pool wall and place both forearms on the deck. Bring your feet alternately toward your butt by bending your knees.
Knee-ups: Stand in chest-deep water with your back against the pool wall. Inhale as you grasp your right knee and bring it forward toward your chest; hold. Exhale, returning to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Swimming with noodle support: In a face-down position, place one noodle under your arms and one under your hips. Move your arms and legs alternately up and down (right arm, left leg up, then left arm and right leg up), as if you were swimming in place.
Aqua lunge: Facing the pool wall, grasp the edge with both hands shoulder-width apart. Place feet on wall, beyond shoulder-width. Shift your body weight to the right by bending your right knee and straightening your left leg; then bend to the left.
Survey: Fuzz, fat, tan lines—what worries you most about baring all at the beach?
Take an already de-stressing workout and make it even more soothing. Katz suggests these moves as adaptations of asanas typically performed on a mat.
Roll down: Begin with your back against the wall. Lower chin to chest, rolling down the wall as slowly as possible. Pull your abs inward to help support your lower back. Only roll down to a point at which your tailbone maintains contact with the pool wall.
Child’s pose: Hold on to the edge of the pool with elbows bent, shins on pool wall, and knees bent. Relax your neck and let your head drop forward or rest it on the deck or on your hands.
Mountain pose: In waist- to chest-deep water, bring your hands to your sides, then extend your arms overhead with palms pressed together. Focus on squeezing your arms toward each other, trying to touch your ears with your inner arms. Hold for 3 breaths, then slowly bring arms back to starting position.
Cobra: Stand in waist- to chest-deep water and hold on to the side of the pool, facing the pool wall. Lower your head, back, and shoulders to the water’s surface. To make the move more challenging, move away from the side of the pool and hold on to a noodle instead. Slowly push the noodle down while you arch your back.
Downward dog: Face the pool wall, holding on to the edge with both hands, your feet pressing into the wall underneath your hands. Hold for 3 breaths.
Toe lock: Stand tall with your back against the wall. Lift your right leg up and grab your big toe, keeping your leg straight. Move your leg out to the right, then return it to the center.
Water warrior: Stand in waist-deep water with your feet 3 to 4 feet apart. Bend your right leg until your shin is at a 90-degree angle with the pool bottom, your knee stacked over your ankle. Extend arms horizontally at shoulder level with palms facing downward. Switch sides and repeat.
More: Manage stress, boost your mood, and firm your figure with these 15-minute yoga routines you can do at home, at work, or even in bed!
Copyright© 2013 Rodale Inc. "Fitbie" is a registered trademark of Rodale, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction, transmission or display is permitted without the written permission of Rodale, Inc.