Seven Easy Pool Exercises To Help You Slim Down In A Splash

Ditch the treadmill and sneakers – this summer is all about exercising in the pool!

With everything from “Ai Chi” and “Poolates,” to aquatic jumping jacks and leg lifts, these water-based workouts provide a unique way to beat the heat while becoming healthy and fit. In fact, according to The Guardian, water provides 12 times the resistance you would get from working out on land, making aquatic workouts more challenging than land workouts.

These seven simple exercises will get you in shape without even having to get out of your bathing suit.

Ai Chi (Pool Tai Chi)

Much like the ancient Chinese practices of Tai Chi, Ai Chi combines graceful, precise movements and breathing exercises to increase flexibility, balance and strengthen core muscles. This low-impact exercise is ideal for beginners and is performed standing in shoulder-depth water using a combination of deep breathing and slow, broad movements of the arms, legs and torso. Ai Chi helps strengthen the mind and body. The cardiovascular benefits have proven to be valuable for people dealing with stress, elevated levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure. Additionally, according to a study in the medical journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism, combining Tai Chi with hydrotherapy (think pool!) can help elderly people with severe arthritis experience significantly less pain in their hips and knees.

Reps: Most Ai Chi sessions last 30-60 minutes

Equipment: None

Suggested Frequency: 2 times per week

Targeted Muscles: Core, arms, legs, glutes, and back

Pro Tip: Set a portable speaker poolside and play traditional Tai Chi music. Water, movement and music encourage a state of relaxed awareness!

Bicycle and Double Leg Lift

The seemingly endless trend of combining stationary cycling with other forms of entertainment continues with this exercise. Lean back and rest your elbows on the edge of the pool, with your legs outstretched, perform the same bicycle/pedal motion as you would on dry land. The water resistance adds extra work for your shoulders, legs and core. Alternate the exercise with double leg lifts. Instead of a bicycle motion, keep your legs straight and together and raise them up and down through the water. The bicycle and double leg lift tone the whole body.

Reps: Perform as many as you can in 30-60 seconds, rest, and repeat

Equipment: None

Suggested Frequency: 2-4 times per week

Targeted Muscles: Abs, shoulders, legs, and core

Pro Tip: If the pool is crowded and you can’t get near the edge, rest your elbows on a pool noodle to complete the routine.

Aqua Jumping Jacks

A classic warm-up for middle school gym class, jumping jacks target just about every muscle in the body, including the heart. But performing this exercise on land can lead to joint and muscle pain, which makes it the perfect exercise for the pool. The water acts like a giant cushion, making jumping jacks – and swimming in general – one of the best exercises to avoid injuries. Aquatic jumping jacks are performed the same way that land-based ones are, but here’s the kicker, your natural buoyancy makes it challenging to balance. You’ll be fighting the pull to tip forward or backward while working your abs and legs at the same time.

Reps: Complete 10, rest, and repeat

Equipment: None

Suggested Frequency: 2-4 times per week

Targeted Muscles: All the body’s major muscles

Pro Tip: Head to the deep end and challenge yourself to try a fully-suspended jumping jack by completing the exercise without touching the bottom.


Poolates combines water fitness with the traditional principles of Pilates. It focuses on the development of core strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination while producing long, lean muscle. Poolates is soothing to the mind and spirit, and provides a healthy alternative to the land-based version.

Reps: Most Poolates classes last 30-60 minutes

Equipment: None

Suggested Frequency: 2 times per week

Targeted Muscles: Core muscles, particularly the abs and lower back

Pro Tip: Get together with friends and follow this Poolates routine from Women’s Health.

Bicep Curls and Figure 8s

Nothing looks better than toned arms in a bathing suit. In shoulder-depth water, use an aquatic dumbbell and do a normal bicep curl. Hold your arms to the sides of your body with elbows pointing towards the ground; extend your arms straight so that the dumbbell is near your thighs and curl all the way up to the shoulders. Specially designed pool weights allow users to adjust the amount of water resistance, and therefore, isolate different muscle groups. Alternate this exercise with a water polo ball routine. Maintain sturdy balance, push the ball under the water, and then move your arms in a figure 8 pattern.

Reps: Repeat figure 8s or curls 10 times, rest, and repeat

Equipment: Aquatic dumbbell, water polo ball

Suggested Frequency: 2-4 times per week

Targeted Muscles: Biceps, triceps, shoulders, back

Pro Tip: Don’t have a water polo ball? Use a beach ball or any type of ball that floats.

Wave Maker

The wave maker burns calories and works all the body’s trouble spots. In chest-deep water, hold onto the edge of the pool with your left hand and place your right hand, fingers pointing down, on the pool wall just below the waterline for stability. Extend your legs behind you and strenuously kick while keeping your knees and feet together at all times. The idea is to initiate the kicking motion in the abs and then stretch it to your legs and feet, similar to that of a fish (or mermaid). Don’t be fooled – making waves is harder than it sounds, especially when you try to keep it up for longer than 30 seconds.

Reps: Kick as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest, and repeat

Equipment: None

Suggested Frequency: 2-4 times per week

Targeted Muscles: Abs, back, glutes, and legs

Pro Tip: If you can’t make waves for the full 30 seconds, don’t stop! Separate your legs and do flutter kicks.

Aqua Jogging

You don’t have to be an expert swimmer to do this exercise. Aqua jogging simulates the “jogging” action, but without the wear and tear on the joints from repetitively pounding the pavement. In fact, aqua jogging was developed by physiotherapists in the 1980s to help athletes rehabilitate after an injury. While the average person burns 8 calories a minute running on land, jogging in the water can burn 11.5 calories in the same amount of time.

Reps: Aqua jog for 20-30 minutes

Equipment: None

Suggested Frequency: 2-4 times per week

Targeted Muscles: Full body workout

Pro Tip: Alternate between walking, jogging and running to maximize your workout.