13 Swimming Pool Exercises To Try In The Water

Mermaid-style strength training.

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Swimming pool exercises you can do in the water, straight from trainers.
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While you could always swim laps if you want to work out in a pool, there are plenty of other exercises to do in the water that are just as beneficial. Think squats in the shallow end, push-ups against the stairs, and even weightless bicep curls that allow you to stay cool while strengthening your muscles.

Whether you’re soaking in the shallow end or suiting up at the gym, swimming pool exercises always make for a great workout, says Whitney Berger, a certified personal trainer and founder of WhitFit NYC. “Some trainers even believe that water workouts are better than a lot of out-of-water workouts,” she tells Bustle.

Think about it: When you’re in a pool, you’re constantly in motion and your muscles are always under tension due to the resistance of the water, Berger explains. Wading through water also helps you build balance and coordination in a way you can’t replicate on dry land, so you end up getting a full-body workout.

Floating is also easy on the body, which is a key perk when you’re looking for something extra gentle. In a pool, “there’s little to no impact on the joints,” Berger says — hence why water aerobics is appealing to pretty much everyone. “As a note, you can use the edge of the pool for more stability during the workout,” she adds.

Ready to jump in? Keep scrolling for 13 exercises to try in the pool.


Squat Jumps

According to Michael Hamlin, NSCA, CSCS, a personal trainer and founder of Everflex Fitness, squat jumps are a good go-to when you want to improve your leg power, glute strength, and cardio.

- Stand in waist-deep water with feet shoulder-width apart.

- Perform a regular squat by bending your knees.

- Lower your hips as if sitting in a chair.

- Explosively jump up as high as you can.

- Reach your arms overhead.

- As you land, go back into a squat to cushion the impact.

- Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps.



You know how it’s tough — and usually super ungraceful — to get out of a pool? Use that to your advantage with push-outs, aka an exercise that mimics the same motion to strengthen your upper body.

- Plant your hands shoulder-width apart on the side of the pool.

- Press into your hands as you hop up.

- Straighten your arms.

- Sink back down and pop up again.

- Repeat for 60 seconds.


High Knees

Berger notes that high knees are a safe way to incorporate some cardio into your water workout. “It’s also good for hip mobility,” she says.

- Stand with feet hip-width apart.

- Bring one knee up, like you’re marching in place.

- Push your foot back down and raise your other knee.

- Keep your chest raised and core engaged.

- Hold your arms in front of you for balance.

- March at a faster pace to get a harder workout.

- Do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

- Repeat four times.


Arm Circles & Pulses

Moving your arms in the water is a workout all on its own, thanks to the resistance. To add some structure, Berger suggests trying a round of arm circles.

- Stand in shoulder-deep water.

- Make a “T” with your arms.

- Keep a slight bend in your elbows.

- Make small forward circles in the water.

- Next, raise and lower your arms in tiny pulses.

- Make small circles backwards.

- To level up, stand on your toes and do calf raises at the same time.

- Do four 30-second rounds.



Regular squats feel brand new when you do them in water. According to Ronny Garcia, CPT, a certified personal trainer with Blink Fitness, they still work your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings — but they’re a little more fun.

- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the water level at your chest.

- Lower your body into squat position by bending your knees and pushing your hips back.

- Keep your back straight and chest lifted.

- Stand back into starting position and repeat.

- Aim for two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps.


Water Kicks

Kicks target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes while working on your stability and balance, Hamlin says. “This is an amazing exercise if you want to get your heart rate up as well.”

- Stand facing the edge of the pool.

- Hold onto the side.

- Extend your legs straight back behind you.

- Perform quick kicks keeping your legs straight and close together.

- For a bonus, bring your knees quickly in towards your core.

- Try for three sets of 30 to 50 kicks.



According to Hamlin, lunges in the water will work all your leg muscles while going easy on your joints.

- Stand in waist-deep water with your hands on your hips.

- Take a step forward with your right leg.

- Lower until your knee is bent 90 degrees.

- Do 10 to 12 lunges.

- Repeat with the opposite leg.

- Aim for three sets per leg.


Poolside Push-Ups

Not in the mood to do push-ups on dry land? Let the water guide you through pool push-ups. The water will make you buoyant so you’ll take some of the pressure off, but Hamlin says your chest, shoulders, and triceps will still get a good workout.

- Stand facing the pool wall.

- Rest your palms on the side of the pool shoulder-width apart.

- Lower your body towards the wall.

- Bend your elbows 90 degrees.

- Push yourself back up to the starting position.

- Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps.


Bicep Curl & Heel Curl

Physical therapist Alyssa Kuhn, DPT recommends this bicep and heel curl combo for a pool workout that’s challenging yet gentle. The resistance of the water takes the place of dumbbells to work your arms and legs.

- Stand up straight in chest-deep water.

- Start with both arms down at your sides.

- Bend your arms 90 degrees for a bicep curl.

- Shift your weight to one leg.

- Bring a heel up as close to your butt as possible.

- Lower your arms.

- Repeat this movement, now lifting the other leg.

- Continue to alternate for 10 to 20 reps.


Walking Backwards

To work your leg muscles in a brand new way, Kuhn recommends walking backwards in the water.

- Stand in waist- to chest-deep water.

- Hold onto the side of the pool.

- Begin walking backwards.

- Keep going for 60 seconds.


Pool Jacks

Use your pool noodle to do a quick round of pool jacks. This water aerobics-inspired move will get your heart rate up and work your arms.

- Wade over to waist-deep water.

- Hold your noodle in front of you.

- Lift the noodle above your head as you do jumping jacks.

- Jump your feet out wide, then back in.

- Repeat for 60 seconds.


Core Rotaters

Pushing against the resistance of the water makes for a good ab workout, too. This twisting motion works your obliques.

- Stand with your feet wide apart.

- Keep your hands together.

- Use your core to rotate your arms to the right.

- Come back to center and rotate your arms to the left.

- Repeat for 60 seconds.


Freestyle Swim

To keep things simple, go for a casual freestyle swim. Not only is freestyle swimming good cardio, but Hamlin says the strokes also work your shoulders, arms, back, and core.

- Push off the side of the pool wall with your feet to propel into the water.

- Extend your arms forward.

- Alternate your arm strokes while kicking your legs in a fluttering motion.

- Breathe by turning your head to the side when your arm is out of the water.

- Aim for one to 5 laps or 25 meters.

Studies referenced:

Alkatan, M. (2016). Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.151110.

Lee, BA. (2015). Effect of regular swimming exercise on the physical composition, strength, and blood lipid of middle-aged women. J Exerc Rehabil. doi: 10.12965/jer.150242.

Pieniążek, M. (2021). Body Balance and Physiotherapy in the Aquatic Environment and at a Gym. Biomed Res Int.vdoi: 10.1155/2021/9925802.


Whitney Berger, certified personal trainer, founder of WhitFit NYC

Michael Hamlin, NSCA, CSCS, personal trainer, founder of Everflex Fitness

Alyssa Kuhn, DPT, physical therapist, founder of Keep the Adventure Alive

Ronny Garcia, CPT, certified personal trainer with Blink Fitness

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