8 Pool Workouts to Beat the Heat this Summer
From laps to leg lifts and flutter kicks, there are many ways to get fit in the pool. For people with joint problems, in-water exercise is a great alternative to dry ground workouts that could prove difficult, painful, or even result in injury. From beginner to advanced, the list of moves compiled below will help get you warmed up and working hard in the water.
One of the simpler but still very effective water exercises is the sidestep. Practice in water that’s up to your shoulders, with your back facing the pool wall. Bring your right foot over your left to step, move your left foot to the left side, making room for another move, and continue shuffling. You can do this exercise as long as you’d like, but we suggest at least 20 steps to the left, then switching to the right for the same amount of steps. Once you’ve got the hang of it, keep going! The sidestep is a good warm up in that it helps to open the hips and get the blood flowing.
Single Arm Reach
If back pain is your problem, there’s a set for that. Start in a lunge position with both arms to the side, lifting the arm opposite of your bent leg to a forward reach, then behind the back and forward again before resting it back at your side. Your opposite leg can lift off of the pool floor as you move through this exercise. Repeat the arm reaches a handful of times—10 should do the trick—then switch to the opposite leg and “reach” arm. The fluidity of the movement helps stretch the muscles in your back, with the lunge aiding the lower area and the arms sending some relief to the shoulders.
One of the oldest tricks in the water exercise book, the flutter kick makes for some serious burn in your abs and quads. Start with your arms extended, holding onto—and facing—the pool’s edge. For the most mileage, pull your stomach in parallel to the pool floor and keep your feet near the water’s surface. Give yourself enough depth and personal space to start kicking; alternate your legs so that one is kicking downward, almost as if you are kicking a ball, and one is turned upward. Make sure the downward kick start at the hip and slightly flex both knees as you go through the motions. Try this two times for 20 seconds each. For best results, keep your kicks streamlined and just under the surface of the water—otherwise, you’ll look like a sinking roadrunner.
This is not your standard hop. Start with your heels together and your toes pointed out to each side. Your knees should be bent, your hands should be on your hips. From this position, leap as high as you can—the higher you get, the better! Then, come back to earth and repeat as many times as you can, as quickly as you can, for 20-30 second intervals. Your inner thighs may hate you in the moment, but they will thank you later.
The lower the water, the simpler the squat (not that “squat” and “simple” are every truly synonymous, but you get the idea). Beginners should start in the shallow end and work their way toward mid-waist level, where the water pressure works as a push back, similar to a light weight. Start from a standing position, slowly bending your knees so that your glutes and butt become parallel with the bottom of the pool. Hold, jump to a standing position using the muscles in your butt and glutes, and repeat.
This an more advanced deep end exercise is a treading trick that tones your arms, butt, back, chest, abs… basically everything, everywhere. While you’re running circles in water (imagine you’re on an invisible bicycle), lift one leg and hold it there as your other leg points toward the bottom of the pool, for five seconds total before switching legs (continue alternating for 30-seconds). At the same time you’re working your lower body, cup both hands slightly, open your arms to your side and make small circles (this is where the letter “K” comes from, as your legs and arms should make the shape of one). While you’re at it, pat yourself on the back for your multitasking victory.
Maybe the most entertaining (and challenging) of the bunch, the Otter Roll requires the use of a beach ball. Hug the ball, and pull your body over its highest point so that you’re rolling over and over and over it again, just like an otter playing. While it’s a fun workout to try, it’s also a deceptively effective ab workout. Try this for 30 seconds one way, and 30 seconds the next. Then repeat.
Congratulations, your workout is now complete! Because an essential part of every routine is the cooldown, please proceed to kick your feet up (literally) and allow your body to become buoyant and weightless as you float on your back in the water. Bask in the sun and glory of all the good you just did for your body.
For more information on how to keep your fitness routine on track see how Independence Blue Cross can be a part of your plan for health and wellness.This is a paid partnership between Independence Blue Cross and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio