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5 Body Building Pool Exercises

Updated on April 5, 2011
Hand Paddle
Hand Paddle

I have to admit that I am a runner and therefore it is strange that I would be writing an article on swimming exercises. You see when I was hurt about two years ago, I resorted to pool exercise to keep my fitness levels up while I recovered from my running injury. During this time I played around and researched various swimming fitness ideas and tried them out in the pool. I was able to narrow the list of possible exercises down to five super ways to stay fit in the pool. Some of these five still remain in my repertoire despite that I am back to running in a big way.

  1. Hand Paddles: Invest in a set of hand paddles. See the picture above. I use the Speedo brand but there are lots of them and they are only about $15 on amazon. Here is why I became a believer. I lift weights on off days to increase the strength and enhance the look of my upper body. After my weight workout I don these paddles and head into the pool for the final step of my Upper Body Workout. This creates an all round exercise for working the muscles of your upper body when they are in motion. It works your shoulders, triceps, lats and biceps. Believe it or not! When you first put them on and swim your first lap you will doubt their efficacy. After you have gone 10 laps or so of an ordinary pool you will be surprised that you can identify those the muscle groups that are now working harder than they do when you swim without paddles. You will actually see the results over time as your shoulders square up and your Michelle Obama arms emerge.
  2. Water Running: So here is the second one that was a real natural for me as a runner. Water running. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. The first is to go into the shallow end chest deep or shallower and actually run around the pool. The water resistance gives you a great cardio workout as long as you really put yourself into it. Run as hard as you can pushing against the water hard. You can add hand paddles from #1 above to add the upper body element to the run but you need to be in chest deep water to make this work. Alternatively if you do not have hand paddles run and while you run, really churn the water with your arms bent and fists clenched with the same motion as when you run.The second way to water run is to wear a flotation belt and head for deep water. In this case you just run in place while the belt keeps you afloat. You actually use the same motion as you would if you were running outdoors. Really use your upper body and move your legs fast and hard against the resistance of the water. Surprising if you push yourself, just how demanding this can be,
  3. Flutter Board Leg Exercises: Most pools have flutter boards available in their equipment offering so here is the third extremely effective exercise you can do in the water. Grab a flutter board in your hands, and with arms extended float forward using only your legs to propel you. The secret here though is to use various kick types to work each muscle group to the point of fatigue. The point of fatigue is when you just cannot eke out another rep. So you see just how hard you need to work to make this a powerful exercise. Do a frog kick, switch to a flutter kick and then a butterfly kick. The idea is to push yourself to your personal limits but not to injure yourself. Work hard and resist the urge to take it easy.
  4. Foam Dumbbells: These light weights become fantastic heavy weights when combined with the resistance of the water. Grasp the dumbbells as you would regular dumbbells. Stand in chest deep water or deeper. (In the deep water you can wear a flotation belt and do these same exercises). The first move is to start with the weights out and to the sides almost at the surface of the water. Curl them inwards towards each other and then back out at a fast but steady pace. Consciously tense your muscles as you move the dumbbells inwards. The second exercise starts with the dumbbells out and to the side again almost at the surface of the water. Pull them both straight down to your sides to touch the outside of your thighs as you bring them down then bring them back up. Once again consciously tense your muscles as you move the dumbbell. The last move is like an underwater curl. You start with the dumbbells down and at your sides beside your thighs. Your hands should be holding the dumbbell and facing forwards. Curl the dumbbell upward towards your chest bending at the elbow as you bring it up. Repeat the movement until the muscle is fatigued.
  5. Leg and Core Toners: With your back against the side of the pool and your arms holding the side of the pool on each side pull your legs upward while keeping them together until they are extended straight out in front of you. Move your legs outward to a V-position and then quickly back inwards. Keep them together and move down to the starting position. The pull them up, out and in and down. Repeat to fatigue.

And there you have it. A truly great aerobic and full body resistance workout that rivals the weight room. For me it complements the weight room but does not replace it. I always find that being in the water takes my mind to a semi Zen state creating not only a total body workout but a mind altering experience. Regular lap swimming at a reasonable pace can burn 550 calories per hour just like running a 10 minute mile. So the fact that I was injured rounded out my training and gave me new alternatives that worked while I was healing but also continue now to be part of my workouts.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great tips!I just grab mine and hold them in front of me about an inch under water and try to flutter kick to the other end of the pool.

      Ouch!Don't very often make it all the way.But my burning butt muscles must mean something!

    • Midlife Magic profile imageAUTHOR

      Midlife Magic 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi Pixienot. Thanks for your kind words. Really it becomes about doing whatever you can and keeping on doing it. Lots of people with fibromyalgia would not even bother so hats off to you!

    • Pixienot profile image


      7 years ago from Clarksville, Indiana

      Dear Midlife,

      First let me say that you certainly do not look "midlife!" You are in good shape.

      I would love to do the above exercises and I will, to a point. I have Fibromyalgia and it will take me time to build up. I doubt I will ever go at your pace and that is not my goal. I simply want to be stronger and let my body work for me instead of against me.

      Great hub! Voted up and useful!

    • Midlife Magic profile imageAUTHOR

      Midlife Magic 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Surprising how swimming can be so powerful an exercise. I would never have guessed but I am now a believer. Thanks for your comment.

    • duffsmom profile image

      P. Thorpe Christiansen 

      7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Lots if good info. here--thanks


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