By Glenn Baja

If high-impact exercise like running or high-jumps aren’t in your repertoire but you want to stay in shape throughout your senior years – especially if you live somewhere it’s hard to get outside in wintry weather – you don’t have to spend all your time on the stationary bike. Aquatic exercises give you an effective low-impact full-body workout and they are great cross-training for any activity or sport you enjoy. And yes, aquatic exercises will kick your butt and get you in shape fast!

You may not have thought of aquatic exercises as being “tough” enough for a great workout, or that they’re just for women. No, aquatic exercise is not just for women. They may look easy but these exercises, especially when combined, will kick your butt! You can challenge yourself with aquatics by adding reps and doing them at higher speed. The added resistance of the water simultaneously gives you a great cardio and strength workout while adding interest to a boring exercise routine.

Here are 4 aquatic exercises that will kick your butt. Alternate the cardio-intensive exercises with strength/balance exercises in the order below, and you’ll quickly burn fat and tone your whole body without putting strain on your joints.

These aquatic exercises are suitable for beginners, too. You can always modify the running parts to “walking” to start, and gradually work up to higher intensities.

  1. Pool Plank

pool plank

Image via YouTube

Planks are amazing core strengtheners on land, but if you don’t already have a strong upper body it’s hard to hold the plank for any length of time. It’s easy to get discouraged and stop doing it. It’s much easier – in a way – in the pool, and you get the same results. All you need is a pool noodle (a long, cylindrical floating foam “log” that’s available at any toy or sporting goods store)

  • Stand on the pool floor (the water should be about waist height).
  • Hold the noodle horizontally in both hands.
  • Press it straight down into the water.
  • Lean forward until your body is on an even incline (imagine a tilted plank in the water) – one straight line from heels to neck, and your arms are at a 90 degree angle from your torso. (Your head stays out of the water.)
  • Try to hold the plank for as long as you can: holding the plank for 2 minutes is very challenging. Noodles are notoriously “noodly” and hard to hold underwater. You’ll feel the burn in your core very quickly!
  1. Zigzags

zigzag pool exercise

Image via Everyday Health

Jogging is one thing… zigzags are another. By running in a zigzag pattern, you create currents and added resistance when you run through them. This exercise gradually moves you deeper into the pool for increasing resistance and a full-body cardio workout.

  • Starting in waist-high water, run in a zigzag pattern from the left side of the pool to the right
  • Then run in a straight line from the right side to the left, through all the currents you’ve just created.
  • Next, move a little deeper so the water is just below chest height. Repeat the exercise, first creating zigzag currents and then running back through them.
  • Then, move even deeper so the water is just below or at your shoulders and repeat the exercise.
  1. High Kicks

High kicks

Image via Shape

Leg lifts, cabaret-style, take on a whole new burn when done underwater! And for you men who don’t feel like doing cabaret kicks, imagine you’re the kicker at the Superbowl. Here’s your chance to score the winning field goal!

  • Stand in chest-deep water and hold on to the side of the pool for stability.
  • Begin by holding on with your left land, stand on your left leg.
  • Keeping your right leg straight, kick it as high and as fast as you can to the front: but never kick so high that you need to bend your standing leg, or to the point of pain!
  • Still straight legged, push your right leg back down as fast as you can.
  • Repeat 10 times and switch sides.
  1. Beach Ball Sprints

    Beach ball sprints

    Image via Live Strong

This exercise combines cardio with balance and core-strengthening. Use a beach ball for this exercise. The ball adds extra resistance, it constantly pulls you off-center. Your core muscles are constantly engaged to keep you moving forward.

  • Start in waist-high water.
  • Hold the beach ball with both hands directly in front of your belly.
  • Run as fast as you can across the pool, pushing the ball in front of you.
  • Turn around and run back the other way.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • This time, hold the ball at arm’s length in front of you.
  • Run as fast as you can across the pool, pushing the ball in front of you.
  • Turn around and run back the other way.
  • Rest for 30 seconds.
  • Now, tuck the ball under your right arm at your side.
  • Face your shoulders forward and without allowing them to turn toward the ball, run as fast as you can across the pool.
  • Switch arms, and run back.

Put It All Together

The real magic happens when you combine these exercises.

Begin with 5-10 minutes of swimming or if you prefer, walking through waist-deep to chest-deep water to warm up. A warmup is important because these exercises are intensive!

When water-walking, try to move your arms as you normally move them when you walk on land (back and forth) instead of always using a swimming motion. Do your best to keep your shoulders facing forward. This tones your arms and shoulders very quickly.

Then, do the exercises in the order you see above. This way you get a great mix of cardio and strength exercises. You can start with one set, and when that becomes too easy, add another set. To recap:

  1. Warm up with 5-10 minutes of walking through waist- to chest-deep water
  2. Pool Plank
  3. Zigzags
  4. Pool Plank
  5. High Kicks
  6. Pool Plank
  7. Beach Ball Sprints
  8. Pool Plank
  9. Cool down with 5 minutes of walking in chest-deep water

Aquatics Kick Butt and Get You In Shape FAST

These aquatic exercises give you a full-body workout that’s as intense as any land workout, without stressing your joints with high-impact activities. Whether you’re out of shape or in great shape, you’ll see fast results!

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