How to Work Out in the Pool

Five Methods:Shallow water walkingDeep water running or aqua joggingWater aerobics or "aquarobics"KickboardingA swimming workout

Working out in water can be the perfect answer for every age of swimmer, whether you're trying to improve your swimming technique, looking for cross-training solutions, seeking to rehabilitate an injury, trying to lose weight or just wanting to find a general, gentle exercise routine, such as when pregnant or recovering from illness.

In this article, you will find various different workout routine suggestions that make the most of water's ability to support weight, prevent injury and keep you cool.


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    Consult your doctor to see if swimming, or other water exercise, is appropriate for your current condition. The doctor can advise you on swimming strokes that you should avoid, or equipment that might be useful.
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    Take swimming lessons, if you don't remember how to do strokes, or if you have never swam before. This is also a great idea for anyone who is unsure of their form when swimming. Improper form can lead to non-balanced muscle mass, back and neck pain and uneven strokes.
    • Look for classes at a local recreational center, swim club or gym. You can either choose to take private lessons or a join large class. It may only take a few sessions to get you swimming properly.
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    Get a form-fitting swimsuit, swimming goggles and a swim cap. If you are prone to ear infections, you may also want to get ear plugs. Buy aquatic shoes, if you plan to swim in rivers or oceans.

Method 1
Shallow water walking

This is ideal for those who are rehabilitating from illness, for pregnant women and for anyone who feels that exercise might cause injury after not doing any for awhile.

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    Find a pool with ankle to knee deep water. This might be the children's pool or it could just be the shallow end of a local, regular pool. As you feel more confident, move to water that is chest deep.
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    Walk through the water.
    • Try to maintain your normal stride, and notice the resistance that the water provides. Moderate walking on land can burn about 130 calories per half hour, whereas walking in the water, against resistance, burns approximately 260 calories.
    • Make sure you are walking heel to toe, rather than just on your toes. The buoyancy of the water can make it harder to complete a normal stride. You may need to focus on foot placement when you first begin.
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    Start marching laps. Bring your knees up high with each step. Swing your arms to propel you. Flex your stomach and try to bring your thighs parallel to the water. This is a great exercise for the abdominal muscles as well as the thighs.
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    Walk sideways for several laps. Turn sideways in the water and move your legs directly sideways against the resistance of the water. After several laps, turn around and lead with the opposite foot.
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    Do forward lunges. Step forward with 1 leg and bend your knee to a 90 degree angle. Keep your hands at your sides, straighten your forward leg and then lunge forward with the opposite leg.
    • Try to do side lunges. When you are walking sideways, bend your leading knee to a 90 degree angle, rise and repeat. Make sure to do the same number of lunges on the opposite side.
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    Put on a water belt and cinch it at your waist before you move to deeper water. You can perform these same water walking motions, or you can choose to water jog. Water jogging mimics jogging on land, but the belt keeps your chest above the water's surface.
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    Concentrate on placing your heel down and then your toe. Try alternating jogging at slow speeds, high speed and doing high knees for a few minutes each. Although you will not go very far, very fast, you can burn about 100 more calories every half hour water jogging than you would jogging on land.
    • You can alternate your water jogging routine by kicking your feet in a bicycle motion. Keep your feet flat and move them in a circular motion, as if you were pedaling a bicycle. You can also stay still and move your feet up and down as quickly as possible, as if you were running in place.
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    Continue for as long as you feel okay walking in the water. The resistance of the water on your legs strengthens them, burns calories and helps to build water confidence for harder exercise stages.

Method 2
Deep water running or aqua jogging

This is a progression from the simple walking.

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    Find a suitable place to aqua jog. Many pools will set aside a lane either at a particular time or all times, for this activity.
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    Find a suitable buoyancy jacket or vest. Again, the pool might supply this.
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    Wearing the buoyancy vest, perform a free running action up and down the marked lane of the pool. The vest will keep you afloat and will prevent you from touching the bottom of the pool. Again, this builds up strength through resistance and burns a lot of calories.

Method 3
Water aerobics or "aquarobics"

This method of working out in the pool offers a chance to socialize with others and to get fit through regular classes.

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    Find a class at a time that's convenient to you. Be sure to talk to the teacher before booking, to reassure yourself that you're choosing the right class and that everything is a good fit for you.
    • Follow the instructions. The teacher will instruct you what to do; simply follow along. Be sure to ask questions if needed.
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    After you have memorized a whole routine from the class setting, you may be able to do it on your own; however, there is a plethora of moves that are used during a water aerobics class. Inform your instructor of any disabilities, so that the exercises can be modified if need be.
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    Begin by only submerging yourself up to your waist or chest in water. After you have the water aerobic moves down, you can go into deeper water. Find the place in the pool or lake where you can comfortably perform your exercises, according to your height.
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    Do a warm up that includes 5 to 10 minutes of stationary jogging, marching (high knees), jumping from 1 foot (0.3 m) to the other or doing jumping jacks. This cardiovascular exercise speeds up your heart and breathing for the rest of the routine.
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    Do arm circles and leg circles. Next do squats, lunges, side, front and back leg kicks and sideways walking to strengthen and tone your muscles. Add water weights or resistance gloves to increase the resistance of the water and increase the intensity of the exercise.
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    Note that many gym exercises can be modified and used in the pool. For example, you can do bicep curls, arm flies and balancing exercises in the pool.
    • Work out for 30 minutes to an hour.
    • Do a stretching routine against the side of the pool for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure to hit your major muscle groups, including the calves, quads, hamstrings, biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest and neck.
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    Participate regularly. The benefits of aqua aerobics include strengthening your leg and arm muscles, flexibility and resistance training, especially the faster you push and pull in the water. Of course, the best benefits will come from attending regularly.
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    Read How to do water aerobics for more ideas.

Method 4

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    Even top swimmers use kickboard workouts to strengthen the muscles in the legs and align their swimming posture. It's a great way to add in extra pool laps into your daily swim laps if you go to the local swimming pool daily/regualy, while concentrating on your stroke and breathing methods at the same time. As well as burning up calories.
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    Grab a kickboard. Many pools supply these for users to borrow but they're not expensive if you need to buy your own. Just be sure to put your name on it in case it gets "borrowed" by someone else!
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    Hold the kickboard out with your arms straight.
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    Kick your legs as hard as you can, doing laps up and down the pool. This exercise is fantastic for strengthening and toning legs and buttocks.

Method 5
A swimming workout

This workout is good done by yourself and not with a group. It is a basic workout for a swimmer who is looking to maintain fitness through swimming.

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    Do a warm up. Do this every time before you swim a different stroke. Do 6 laps (one lap is one way in the pool) of freestyle.
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    Get out of the pool and stretch.
    • Put your right arm across your chest and link your left arm around, then do the opposite.
    • Pick up your right leg and balance on the left foot, then do the opposite.
    • Try to put your hands on the ground and stretch your legs (don't bend them!).
    • Shake your entire body around and jump up and down.
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    Do a 100 individual medley (IM). This consists of one lap butterfly, one lap backstroke, one lap breaststroke, and one lap freestyle in that order.
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    Do a 200 IM. This consists of 2 laps butterfly, 2 laps backstroke, 2 laps breaststroke, and 2 laps freestyle in that order.
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    Continue with the following laps:
    • Do 4 laps of freestyle.
    • Do 4 laps of breaststroke.
    • Do 4 laps of backstroke.
    • Do 4 laps of butterfly.
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    Do drills for each of the strokes.
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    Do a cool down. Do this after every workout; 6 laps, 2 of each stroke – backstroke, butterfly, freestyle, and breaststroke.


  • Water workouts are great for people with back pain or injury, arthritis, joint problems, knee problems, etc. However, be sure to verify with your doctor first before doing any water exercise.
  • Any form of exercise in the pool is good for strengthening and burning up calories because water creates resistance, all while buoying you up (which helps to prevent injury).
  • Make your water workouts more fun by inviting friends to join you. Play water polo or basketball instead of swimming. When played vigorously, these are also great water-based cardiovascular exercises.
  • Always wear waterproof sunscreen if you are swimming or doing water aerobics in an outdoor pool or body of water. You may want to wear a hat and sunglasses, if you are doing water aerobics in the sun for an extended period of time.
  • A combination or even all of these methods are an excellent way of introducing cross-training into your usual exercise routine.
  • In the swimming workout routine, try combining the dolphin kick from the butterfly and the crawl of the crawl. It is faster than either one.


  • Don't try to do too much water exercise at once. Although the motions may feel easier, because they have a lower impact on your joints, the resistance provided by the water can lead to muscle soreness. Increase the time you do your water activity slowly and always stretch after exercising.
  • If you can't swim properly, ask someone to spot you until you feel safer. Let lifeguards at the pool know you cannot swim if you are working out and have nobody else to spot you. While you don't need to avoid the water, it's a good idea to get swimming lessons so that you can broaden your pool exercise possibilities.

Things You'll Need

  • A pool; ensure it is of a decent length if doing laps
  • A swim cap - if your hair is down, it is harder to swim; some protection from chlorine is also good for hair if swimming regularly
  • Goggles, so that you can swim underwater
  • Comfortable swimwear; fashionable isn't necessarily comfortable; put comfort and sound fit first
  • Towel
  • Pool shoes or flip flops
  • Aquatic shoes
  • Swimming belt
  • Water weights
  • Resistance gloves
  • Sunscreen (if outside)

Sources and Citations

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