9 Pool Exercises For Weight Loss & Muscle Toning

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When most people think of working out, the first thing that comes to mind is a crowded gym, dumbbells, treadmills, and ergonomically not-quite-right workout machines. While hitting the gym and hitting your goals certainly go hand in hand, the total-body benefits of pool exercises are virtually unmatched. 

That’s right, literally jumping into your workout is one of the best things you can do for your body, inside and out, regardless of your age or fitness level—so long as you can swim. 

In the next couple of minutes, we’ll cover:

With that all said, let’s dive in. See what I did there?

Photo of a woman performing a water running workout, one of the pool exercises suggested by SkinnyFit low-impact resistance training.

Benefits Of Pool Workouts

With water providing more resistance than air, pool workouts are a great way to increase your cardio, strength, endurance, and flexibility, regardless of your age or fitness level. Water-based workouts are some of the healthiest you can do, and offer numerous physical and even mental benefits. [1]

  • Low-impact exercise for longevity. Nothing abbreviates an active lifestyle like injury. Luckily, the low-impact nature of swimming exercises and aerobic pool workouts take the load off your joints, allowing you to stay active and maintain a high quality of life throughout old age. [1] If you have arthritis, pool exercises can improve your joint mobility without increased pain. [2]
  • Excellent cardiovascular training.Most pool exercises are great for improving cardiovascular health and decreasing your risk of heart disease. So much so that, with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death, mortality risk is lower in swimmers than other athletes, even runners. [3]
  • Balanced physique & musculature. Diverse pool workouts help develop muscles equally from head to toe. Know that committed swimmers often see a broadening of the shoulders. So if that’s not your thing, incorporate exercises into your pool routine that focus on leg resistance.  
  • Mood-boosting. Swimming exercises have been shown to lift moods for swimmers of both sexes. What’s more, water-based workouts have also shown to reduce anxiety in people with fibromyalgia, as well as having positive effects on the mental health of moms-to-be. [4,5]

Who can benefit from pool exercises?

As mentioned, nearly everyone can benefit from working out in the pool. But let’s look at populations who may find water workouts particularly helpful for staying active.

  • People with joint problems will appreciate the load-reducing effect of working out in water vs. on land. [5] So it’s a good exercise option for people looking for knee-pain relief. 
  • Senior swimmers often see improved quality of life, according to the Center for Disease Control. The CDC also emphasizes that it can be particularly beneficial to post-menopausal women. [6]
  • Patients recovering from surgery or injury require a lot of low-impact rehabilitation, for which aquatic therapy (pool-based physical therapy) can be a huge help. Some of the exercises below are proven to optimize functional recovery programs. [7] 
  • Athletes. This almost goes without saying, but given the incredible cardio workout of most swimming exercises, athletes of all sports can benefit from adding water workouts to their routine. Swimming is also a great cross-training exercise when incorporated into strength-based weight training. [8]
  • Overweight individuals can burn pounds and increase their aerobic fitness with pool workouts. [9] The change of scenery, from gym to pool may also be a little motivation boost for people just starting out on their fitness.

Three women doing pool exercises in a gym pool. Anyone can benefit from pool workouts, and can see more results when combining Super Youth collagen with their pool routine.

How To Maximize Your Workout Results

From joint pain to weight loss, muscle recovery to muscle gain, collagen supplementation can help increase your success with swimming exercises, and pool workouts in general. 

Collagen is essential to optimum body function. In fact, it’s the “building block” of our soft tissue. This means collagen has the power to improve joint health and reduce joint pain [10,11]. It also makes it remarkably good for preserving skin health. If you’re an outdoor swimmer, you’ll definitely want to use collagen to undo some of the detrimental effects of sun exposure. [12] It even helps you develop firmer, more youthful skin (and hair, too!). [12] Later, wrinkles! ️

(Pssst… Curious about other ways collagen can help your skin? Check this blog out.)

SkinnyFit Super Youth collagen contains five different collagen types from four premium sources, which means you get a broad range of the highest-quality collagen nourishment in each scoop. Super Youth comes in unflavored and (ridiculously delicious) flavored options. Peach Mango and Tropical Punch are my summer time go-to’s.

Super Youth Peach Mango collagen sitting on the edge of an infinity pool. Super Youth collagen is the perfect way to get the most out of your pool exercises.

Equipment & Accessories For Pool Workouts

Far and beyond, the most important thing you need (besides being able to swim) is a pool. But I’m assuming you knew that already. Just like the gym, there’s no shortage of pool exercises or equipment. Here’s what we’ll be using for the following nine fat-burning, muscle toning exercises. 

  • Kick board
  • Ankle weights
  • Wrist weights
  • Pool noodle (A firm one… not too noodley)
  • Swim fins
  • Swim cloves
  • Foam dumbbells

Reality check: Not having your own pool is no excuse! Don’t forget about community and gym pools!

Pool Exercises For Weight Loss 

The list below are nine of my favorite pool and swimming exercises, and also highlight the diversity of motions and intensities you can get just by working out in a pool.

1. Swimming

Swimming is a very dynamic, total-body motion and resistance training exercise. It also pumps your heart and works your lungs. So it’s no shocker that swimmers tend to be incredibly healthy. In fact, Harvard Medicine School considers swimming the most healthy sport you can do—and you’ve probably been doing it since you were a child! [13]

Don’t stop now! Keep at it for life. And if you’re looking to swimming for weight loss, you’re in luck—it also tops this list for most calories burned.
Butterfly and freestyle burn the most calories of any stroke, with 900 and 600 calories burned per hour, respectively. Choose breaststroke for the best cardio workout. [14]

2. Water walking

Keep things varied by doing lunges, high-knees, and sideways walking. 

Depending on your strength and endurance, you can make water walking more challenging by adding wrist weights and foam dumbbells, or by increasing the speed and intensity of your motions. Keep in mind that water walking is also an excellent warm up to more intense pool exercises you may have in your workout. 

Pro tip: If you don’t wade through waist-deep water on the reg, try walking with a pool noodle extended outward for balance and control, at least when starting out.

3. Plyometrics (jumping) 

That’s right—jumping! Another exercise you’ve been doing since childhood that you didn’t realize is excellent for weight loss! Athletes use plyometrics to build strength, power, and explosive speed. Performing water-based plyometrics can work for you in two ways:

  1. Allows you to receive the benefits of plyometric movement, without the strain of landing on vulnerable or injured anatomy, like your knees or Achilles tendon. At the same time, it adds water resistance for muscle building.
  2. Remember how I said pool exercises can be great for physical rehab? Plyometrics are one of the exercises shown in studies to help reduce pain and swelling and improve range of motion. [5]

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a comfortable depth. (A good spot to start is at or slightly deeper than your belly button.)
  2. Squat slightly and thrust upward in a controlled jump. 
  3. Aim for 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps each.

Pro tip: You can add variations by adding ankle weights; by moving to shallower or deeper water; and by doing single-leg jumps. 

pool workouts

4. Pool edge triceps dips

If your legs are a little shaky after the plyometrics, it’s time to give them a rest while earning an unsuspecting, arm-toning burn in your upper body. 

  1. Facing the pool wall, plant your palms flat on the edge, or holding onto the gutter.
  2. Engage your arms, shoulders and core.
  3. Lift yourself as high out of the water as you comfortably can by pressing down through your arms, keeping your elbows in toward your torso. Try to extend all the way without locking your elbows. 
  4. Lower yourself down at a controlled pace, but don’t let your feet touch the ground. That’s one rep.
  5. Repeat for 10 – 20 reps.

5. Leg kicks

A great leg, core, and cardio workout! Leg kicks are one of the most common swimming exercises and will improve your swimming tremendously while also toning your belly! (Pssst. If you’re looking for pool workouts to add to your abs routine this summer, don’t skimp on the leg kicks.)

  1. Grab your kick board. (If you don’t have one, you can hold onto the pool edge with slightly bent arms.)
  2. Scissor-kick as fast as you need to keep afloat and moving at a sustainable pace, keeping your legs straight.
  3. Continue for 1 to 3 minutes. 

Pro tip: Switch things up with breaststroke and butterfly kicks, or by adding light ankle weights.

6. Back wall glides

A bit of a cardio break, but a great exercise nonetheless for your core and legs. 

  1. Start facing the pool edge, gripping it with both hands.
  2. Press your feet into the wall, crouching your knees into your chest. As a rule of thumb, the higher you get your legs, the more force you’ll be able to push off the wall with. 
  3. Push backward off the wall and glide on your back until your inertia is mostly gone.
  4. Stand on the bottom and run back to the wall.
  5. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Jumping jacks

A great leg and cardio workout, and one you probably thought you left behind in senior year gym class. 

  1. Standing hip to waist deep, jump your legs and arms out to the sides.
  2. As soon as your feet touch the bottom, jump them back.
  3. Try to keep a quick, yet fluid pace. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Pro tip: Add ankle weights for an extra challenge; and light wrist weights to work your arms a bit.

8. Water arm lifts

One of my favorite pool exercises for targeting arm muscles. Aquatic arm lifts are great for building both arm strength and stability.

  1. Standing shoulder deep, hold the dumbbells at your sides, palms outward.
  2. Slowly and controlled, curl your forearms to surface level.
  3. Rotate your wrists so palms are facing down.
  4. Lower your forearms back down to your sides.
  5. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps, one to three sets. 

Pro tip: Don’t have foam dumbbells floating around? No worries, you can use a pool noodle instead. It might be more difficult to control, but hey—extra stabilizer workout!

9. Water treading 

Similar to jumping jacks—but if you stop, you sink. That’s the deal with treading water; and that’s why it’s particularly successful as a weight loss exercise. Treading water requires constant movement and muscle resistance for your core and upper and lower body. All that nonstop motion and elevated heartbeat means treading water burns serious calories. 

Pro Tip: To tread effectively, you want to make sure your legs are kicking outwards in a semi-rotational way, and that your arms are working similarly on the surfaces. You should feel constant resistance in your movements.

A young woman dangles her feet in the pool, sipping a Super Youth collagen drink after her pool exercises.

The Bottom Line

Pool exercises are great for everyone. And with the sweatiest months of the year still ahead of us, they’re a great option for keeping cool while burning fat. Don’t forget to amplify your results by adding low-calorie, zero-carb collagen supplementation for joint health and weight loss support. 

As with any exercise routine, there are precautions you need to take. It’s obvious, but somehow still needs repeating: 

If you can’t swim, DO NOT go deeper than your waist and make sure a lifeguard is on duty. If you’re not a confident swimmer, use a floatation device. 

Just because you’re in the pool, doesn’t mean you’re not dehydrating. Make sure you drink plenty of water before and after working out. 

Don’t workout in water that’s too hot. 

Be mindful of any injuries you have and resist the urge to push through pain.

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