Swimming exercises might bring up images in your head of little old ladies marching in unison and wearing flowered swimming caps while throwing their arms in the air, but swimming exercises are for everyone at any age. When my kids were smaller, and even to this day, playing games in the pool was a workout, and it helped to keep me in shape. We play a game they call "Train," where I'm the train. I grab the end of two pool noodle, one with each arm, and pull my kids through the water to their destinations, running, of course.

That's when I knew exercising in the water was no joke, and can get you in fantastic shape in no time. My thighs never looked so good! It might be a little bit of a hassle to get to the pool and get wet. It may take a bit more time out of your week to arrange swimming exercises, but it's well worth it.

What Makes The Swimming Exercises Great For Your Body

woman doing swimming exercises

To get the exercise your body needs, you have to have some resistance in your workouts. Water automatically supplies that. Every time you move in the water, you're pushing against it, and the water is fighting you. It's like carrying weights with you, even if you aren't. The resistance supplied by the water makes swimming exercises the best for torching calories and building muscle.

In addition to the muscle building properties, and aerobic exercise you're getting for your heart by your swimming exercises, you're also strengthening your lungs. Why your lungs? Because you have to breathe differently in the water, which exercises your lungs and makes them stronger.

Nowhere else can you get a workout that strengthens your muscles, heart, and lungs while taking it easy on your joints.

Who Should Exercise In The Water

people doing swimming exercises

In a word? Everyone.

Swimming exercises are simple for everyone to do, and they're low-impact, so literally every age group can benefit from exercising in the water. Even those who aren't strong swimmers will benefit from swimming exercises because they can be modified to fit every skill level.

Swimming Exercises You Can Do In The Pool

woman swimming

You might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, I've been in the pool, and I don't feel like I'm in any better shape." Remember that merely getting in the water isn't going to make you automatically stronger by osmosis, you have to use the water as resistance to get the benefit.

Like every other exercise routine, you have to plan what swimming exercises you're going to do once you hit the water. Once you complete your workout, you can hop on the float and relax, but training takes work and swimming is no different. You may start your swimming exercises and only be able to perform for a short amount of time. That's normal! You're exercising in a completely different environment.

Remember you're working both the inside and the outside of your body in a new way, so expect an adjustment period. If you do that and keep pushing yourself, you'll be banging out this new workout in no time, and have the body to show for it.

Lower Body Workouts

It might be easy for you to think of swimming exercises for your lower body because simply by swimming through the water, you're getting a lower body workout. Doing laps from one end of the pool to the other isn't the only thing you can do to work your lower body. You should spice it up to include other swimming exercises to keep you from getting bored. Using a variety of exercises will also work all the different muscles in your legs.

Kick It Out

The first lower body exercise anyone at any level can do are kick drills. To perform a kick drill, you need a kickboard. Hold the kickboard in your hands and stretch your arms out in front of you. As you're holding the kickboard, kick your legs to propel your body through the water. There are three different kinds of kicks you can do, which will work your legs in different ways.

  • Flutter kicks: moving your legs up a down individually
  • Frog kicks: drawing your legs up and out in frog fashion
  • Butterfly kicks: keeping your legs together and moving up and down

Try each type of kick to give yourself a complete lower body workout, and keep your toes pointed! The bonus is you're not only working your legs but your lower back and abdominals too.


Another lower body exercise that may seem obvious is running, also known as aqua running. The key to aqua running is not to stay in the shallow end. You want the water up around your shoulders to get the most benefit. Once you immerse your body in the deeper end to the desired depth, run like you usually would. You'll feel the resistance right away, and the deeper the water, the better resistance you'll get.

Running in place is sufficient for this swimming exercise, or you can move forward as you run. Either way, you're going to be working your legs, your torso, and your arms. Mainly you're getting a full body workout by running, but you're not pounding your joints. Aqua running is especially great for people who can't run on a hard surface because of joint problems or back problems. The water provides you with buoyancy to make the exercise easy on your joints because there's no jarring impact on the earth's surface as you run.

Upper Body Workouts

woman doing workout in the pool

Swimming exercises that work your upper body may be harder for you to think of beyond laps. No matter how you're swimming in the water, though, you're going to be using your arms. From traditional laps to treading water to the doggie paddle, if you want to move through the water or stay afloat, you are going to move your arms.

The good news is, everytime you use your arms in the water, you're fighting the water, and that creates resistance. The resistance works your muscles. Beyond arm over arm swimming and treading water, here are a couple more exercises that work your upper body.


Pikes work your abdominals and your arms. To perform this swimming exercise, stand in water up to your neck, and pull your knees up to your chest. Straighten your legs, so you create a "V" with your body, and your butt is pointing toward the bottom of the pool. To keep your body afloat, extend your arms out to your sides and move your arms in a backward circular motion. Hold for a few seconds and repeat.

Grab A Ball

To perform this arm swimming exercise, take an inflatable ball to the pool. Stand in water just above your waist, and hold the ball above your head. Bring your arms down and plunge the ball into the water in front of you, holding it under the water. While the ball is submerged, move it in a figure eight pattern. First, your figure eights will be one way, then switch and go the other way. At the end of the cycle, bring the ball out of the water and repeat.

Don't Forget Your Core

man swimming

Your core is your overall torso (front, back, and sides), including your hips. When you swim, keep your core pulled in tight, and this will automatically work your entire base. All of the swimming exercises mentioned above will also work your core, so you don't necessarily have to do additional activities in the pool to work in this area.

If you want more of a targeted workout on your abdominal area, you can do crunches. Hook your legs on the edge of the pool, and lie on your back. Same rules apply as on land with your neck, don't pull or you'll hurt yourself. Rest your head in your hands and use your abdominal muscles to lift your body up and out of the water.

How Long You're Going To Be In The Pool

people exercising in the pool

The thing about swimming exercises is that you can do your workout in less time than on land, and get better results. It's up to you how long you want to be in the pool exercises, but you might find that you have so much fun in there, you stay in for hours!

In the beginning, you may be able to only perform these exercises for a few minutes at a time. The more you're in the water, the stronger you will become, and the longer you will be able to exercise. Start out concentrating your efforts toward swimming exercises for fifteen minutes, and grow the time as you increase your strength.

Are Swimming Exercises Just For Your Pool?

women doing exercises in the pool

As long as you're in the water and moving, any water, you're giving your body exercise. You could be anywhere from the pool to a lake to the big blue ocean. Water that is moving, like lakes or oceans, give you even more resistance with their tides than pools do. Use caution, though. The same exercises you'll do in the still waters of a pool aren't the same as those swimming exercises you'll do in a lake or the ocean.

Take the tide into consideration and bring a friend for safety! Let people know where you are when you choose to swim at any time, not just when you're exercising.

No Time Like The Present

Do you think your swimming exercises are limited to the summer? Think again because you're not getting off that easy. Sure, it's easier to find a place to swim in the summertime, but in the off-season, you can swim too. Look for a local indoor pool, so your new found love for swimming exercises doesn't have to be limited.

Shake off any pre-conceived notions you have about exercising in the pool, and jump in! Plan your visit to the pool or other bodies of water, and take advantage of the excellent resistance that only water can provide. Burn those calories in a shorter amount of time, grow those lean muscles, and build the dream body you've always wanted.