Your Complete Pool Workout, No Laps Required

Do this total body workout in the pool without swimming a single lap

Photo: Smiling woman in swimming pool

On a hot summer day there’s no better place to be than in a pool. Why not take your workout to the water as well? Try this workout from Stephanie Thielen, an Aquatic Exercise Association training specialist in Omaha, Nebraska. All of the moves can be done in the shallow end of the pool (have the water come up to you between your belly button and your chest).

Do the following moves for one minute each to complete one circuit. Rest no more than 30 seconds between moves. Rest for one minute between circuits.

If you’re uncomfortable in the pool, recruit a friend to work out with you or work out in a pool where a lifeguard is on duty.

High knees running: Run in place for one minute, bringing your knees up as high as you can without leaning forward or backward. To make it harder, run back and forth in your shallow end. You can also run from side to side, moving to your left and right while your body still faces forward. Just don’t cross your feet over each other.

Cross country skis: Start with feet together, then alternate your arms and legs as if you’re on skis. When your right leg comes forward, your left arm comes forward, while your left leg and right arm go backward. To make it harder, push the water with your palms instead of slicing the water with your thumbs.

Jumping jacks: Start with feet together and your arms at your sides. Jump and land with your feet apart, and bring your arms up without bringing them out of the water. Jump and bring your feet and arms back to the starting position.

Tuck jumps: Instead of doing tuck jumps in place, pretend you’re jumping over something tall like a fence, Thielen says. Jump up and forward, bringing your feet to your chest and landing on the other side of the “fence.” Jump up and backward to land on the other side of the “fence.”

Chest fly and reverse fly: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and bring your arms out to the sides without lifting them out of the water (you should be making a letter “T” with your body). Sweep your arms to the front as if you’re sweeping something off a table, but without hugging your body. To do the reverse fly, sweep your arms back to the starting position. Keep your palms turned inward and focus on using your chest muscles to move your arms inward and outward.

Front kicks: Kick your leg forward, keeping your leg straight and knee facing upward. Then, kick it backward, keeping the leg straight and your knee facing downward. Hold the side of the pool for support, or keep your arms out to your sides without lifting them out of the water for balance.

Side kicks: Lift your leg to the side, keeping your knee forward (in other words, don’t rotate your leg so your knee faces the surface of the pool). Return to start and kick your other leg. Hold the side of the pool for support, or keep your arms out to your sides without lifting them out of the water for balance.

Standing rotation: With your arms straight out in front of you but still in the water, put your palms together, with thumbs on top toward the pool’s surface. Use your core muscles to turn your body 90 degrees to the left, and then 180 degrees to your right. Think of your arms as the hour hand on a clock, turning from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock.

Helpful hints

  • Give yourself 30 seconds of rest between moves, but as you get used to exercising in water, you can move from one move into the next to intensify this workout.
  • Be sure to land on your heels when doing any jumping moves. Staying up on your tiptoes will mean extra sore calves the next day.
  • Water shoes can help protect your feet from the bottom of the pool and prevent you from slipping while exercising.

Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.