Pool Workouts: Exercising and Losing Weight in Your Backyard

When you think about toning your body or losing weight with the help of your swimming pool, the first thing that comes to mind is swimming laps. Swimming laps is a very efficient way to burn calories while being easy on the joints, and the cardio effect will continue for some time after you finish. Yet, what if you’re the lazy-river-type swimmer? Or you have a smaller pool that makes swimming laps impractical? Or you are afraid of deep water? You can still get huge benefits from moving in the water.

All muscle groups can be toned by choosing the right exercises. Working out in the pool increases the movement’s benefit because of the resistance of the water, the buoyancy of the water helps to protect your joints, and the muscle strength required to remain stabilized in the water strengthens your core. Plus, how much more fun is working out in the water, outside, in your backyard pool?

You can get a great workout without any additional equipment, but, if you could add any pool accessory, a ladder can be used for some of the movements. The only other pool accessories would be pool noodles and, as you reach an advanced level, you may want to add pool weights to your workout routine. So, change into your swimsuit and try these 12 pool exercises to start off.

Legs and Cardio:

  1. Walking. Just walking back and forth across your pool will give your legs a good workout. The deeper you go, the greater the resistance. Add arm movements as you move into the deeper water.
  2. Skiing. Ready to add to your walk? Hop from side to side with knees and ankles together, as if you are skiing moguls.
  3. Running. Try running from side to side in your pool. Change up your run by using a wider stance, or lift your knees higher to work different muscle groups.

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Arms and Shoulders:

  1. Tricep Lift. With your back to the side of the pool, hold on to the edge of the pool with both hands. With elbows tucked in and feet off the bottom, straighten your arms to lift your body up, and then return to start position. As you become good at this, try extending your legs while lifting with your arms.
  2. Pull Ups. You will use your pool ladder for this one. Hold the ladder above the waterline and pull your body up. No legs allowed. The position of your hands will determine which arm muscles are doing the most work. Try pull ups with your palms facing in, and then face your palms out.
  3. Arm lifts. In water that is shoulder deep, start with arms straight at your sides. Raise your arms until they are straight out from your sides. Repeat. As your arm strength improves, add pool noodles held in each hand. The resistance of the water against the pool noodle will give you a harder workout. If you get really good, you could increase the difficulty by adding pool weights. This is a great workout for your shoulders.


  1. Bicycle. With your back to the side of the pool, rest your elbows on the side. Move your legs like you are pedaling your bike. Your core muscles will get a workout trying to keep you stable at the side of the pool. Raise the difficulty level by replacing the pool deck with a pool noodle.
  2. Leg lifts. With your back to the side of the pool, hold on to the deck and raise your legs, keeping your legs together and straight, until your legs are perpendicular to your torso. If the resistance of the water is too much for you, start by sitting on the side of the pool, with just your legs in the water.
  3. Scissor Kicks. Not only is this a good leg workout but your abdominal muscles will be working to keep you stable. With your back to the side of the pool, rest your head back on the deck. Spread your legs into a V-shape, and then bring your legs together with one ankle crossing the other. Repeat, and alternate which leg is on top. Your abdominal muscles will get a workout keeping you stable so you don’t float away and so your legs don’t drop to the bottom.

Pool Noodle Exercises:

  1. Crunches. Use the pool noodle in deep water by placing it around and under your shoulders. Hold both ends with your hands. Tighten abs, point toes, and extend legs until straight down. Then, with abs still engaged, pull knees to chest and hold. Repeat.
  2. Noodle swimming. Straddle the noodle in water deep enough that your feet don’t touch the bottom. Using only your arms in a wave-like motion, move from side to side in the pool—or switch it up and use only your legs in a bicycle motion.
  3. Plank. In waist-deep water, push down on the noodle, keeping toes on the pool bottom, until your body is in a straight plank position. This is easier in the water than on land, so be prepared to hold the position for longer.

Pool noodles can be used as a floatation device in the water, or they can be used to increase the intensity of a move by dragging them through the water, causing resistance. Experiment with moves that you use when working out on land. Most can be adapted to the water, and most will be even more effective in water. It certainly will be more fun!

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