Bored with your workout routine? Try these unique pool exercises

Healthy poolHave you already fallen off the wagon with your new year’s workout routine? It could be because you don’t have enough variety!

Doing the same workouts over and over can not only be boring, but detrimental to your fitness and weight loss goals.  Many studies show that increasing variety in exercise can lead to more enjoyment of exercise, improved fitness and burns more calories.  Furthermore, people who change up their exercise regimen are more likely to keep consistent with their working out — a positive cycle.  

As a former elite swimmer and experienced swim coach, I would like to share with you some new and unique pool workout ideas so that you can change up your swimming routine. Hopefully these ideas keep you happy, fit and always coming back to the pool!

For the readers who are not very familiar with the swimming strokes (freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke), there are plenty of exercises you can do in the pool using the water as resistance to build strength and increase your heart rate!  Check out this blog with a few tips on how to perform exercises like leg lifts, water running and jumps.

If you’re looking for creative ways to add variety to your swimming workouts, here are some ideas:

Mixing Land Exercises into Your Swim  

Include the following exercises at random into your swim.  One idea would be to swim for about 10 minutes, then do about two minutes of these “land exercises” to add variety but keep your heart rate up.

  • Shallow-water jumps:  Holding your breath, squat down to the bottom of the pool so that your knees are at 90 degrees and your feet are flat on the bottom (as you would squat in the gym).  Then explosively jump up, launching yourself out of the water.  You can do this with your arms by your side or with your arms in streamline position.  
  • Deep-water jumps with kicks:  Going to the deep end of the pool, go down to the bottom of the pool and jump off the bottom and immediately begin kicking freestyle or butterfly kick to propel yourself to the surface.
  • Pool press-ups:  This one is for upper-body strength, targeting the triceps (back of the upper arms).  Place both hands on the gutter or pool deck as if you were to get out of the pool.  Press up so that your arms are straight and your body is against the wall, then lower back down to make one repetition. For a lower level of difficulty go to a shallow side of the pool and for a harder exercise, find a deeper side of the pool so that your legs cannot touch the bottom.
  • Water running in shallow water: If your pool is shallow, simply run as you would on land across the pool.  If you plan to do a lot of water running, wear water shoes or old tennis shoes to protect the skin on the bottom of your feet.
  • Water running in deep water:  Using a flotation belt around your waist, run ‘in place’ in the deep water – using the same running motion with your arms and legs as you would on land
  • Bicep curls with a pool weight: Using a foam pool weight to add resistance, do bicep curls with your arms completely underwater.  
  • SwimJitsu:  SwimJitsu is a new sport that is basically an aquatic obstacle course for kids!  Mixing swimming with floating land obstacles makes for a fun and challenging experience that is sure to make your children happy and tired!

Partner Exercises  

While swimming alone is peaceful, exercising with a partner can be more fun and more challenging!   Note: many of these exercises can also be done solo.

  • Tug-of-war kicking: This is an incredible workout and very fun!  Facing one another with your arms outstretched, both you and your partner should hold one (one between the two of you) kickboard or noodle.  Be sure you are in the middle of the pool and then begin kicking towards each other with the goal of pushing your opponent backwards.  The person who has the stronger kick will win the kicking tug-of-war by pushing the other person to the other side of the pool.
  • Partner swimming:  One person swims two lengths of the pool as fast as he/she can while you rest on the wall.  Once he/she returns to you at the wall, you push off to swim two lengths as fast as you can.  Repeat until you are both good and tired!  To increase difficulty, tread water instead of holding on to the wall while your partner is swimming.
  • Treading water: If your pool has a deep end, begin by treading water with your arms and legs without touching the bottom, the wall or the lane-rope for as long as you can.  To add a level of difficulty, use only your arms or only one arm at a time.  Remember to stay in a vertical position with good posture!  If you are treading water with a partner, this is a fantastic time to socialize as your heads are above water.
  • Vertical kicking:  Similar to treading water and also in the deep end of the pool.  Begin in an upright, vertical position with good posture and then kick, freestyle or breaststroke kick, without using your arms or hands (hold your hands above the water).  This can also be a nice time to chat with your swimming partner while getting a great leg and cardio workout.

Sport-Specific Training  

Don’t forget that you can use the swimming pool for resistance training that is specific to your sport.  

  • Kayaking: Practice rolling your kayak in the calm water and safe environment of a pool.  Many pools have designated kayak classes.
  • Running: As mentioned above, water running is a fantastic way to keep your cardiovascular fitness and running muscles in shape.
  • Surfing: Many surfers will improve their lung-capacity with underwater breath-holding exercises.  Running along the bottom of the pool with a heavy weight, for example.
  • Gymnasts: Elite gymnasts will do sport-specific leg movements in the deep end of a pool to improve leg strength and flexibility at the same time.  Like “vertical kicking” as mentioned above, except they will do a variety large kicking motions into the splits.
  • Baseball: Many professional baseball players take a baseball-bat to the pool and standing chest-deep in the pool, they practice their swinging motion underwater since it adds so much resistance.  
  • Cycling: Some leaders in the fitness industry have begun to put spinning bikes in shallow pool water so make the cycling motion more difficult, thus increasing strength and power.

The possibilities are endless with adding variety to your swimming workouts.  If you would like more ideas for your specific swimming workout, please leave a comment or question below and I will be sure to respond with more ideas tailored to you!

And don’t forget that swimming is also meditative, relaxing and mood boosting.  Simply floating could be a very nice way for you to mix it up and add a little me time.  In fact, I think I’m going to go for a swim right now!

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Claire McDaniel

Claire is a swimming and nutrition expert who loves to educate and motivate others to healthier living. She swam competitively for 18 years, is a five time All-American, a Division I National Champion, was co-captain of Team USA at the 2007 World University Games and was named a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. She also has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. After swimming, Claire started coaching and has coached all over the US and even in Switzerland! Her experience and expertise about both swimming and health fuel her passion for Clear Comfort’s mission – to make swimming a 100 percent healthy activity for swimmers, coaches, lifeguards and pool staff.