Jumping in the pool for a workout isn’t just for swimmers and senior groups. In fact, professional athletes like surfer Laird Hamilton, volleyball player Gabby Reece, and basketball superstar Tim Duncan regularly swap their gym time for the benefits of working out in the water.
“The pool allows you to work your balance, coordination, conditioning, strength, and speed, but without the wear and tear on your joints that you get on land,” says David Jack, a top Men’s Health training advisor.
Additionally, the pressure around your body from the water compresses your lungs and cools your body temperature—both of which makes your heart work harder and can increase calorie burn, says Jack.
Take your workout to the shallow end
When the water comes up to your knees, your lower extremities experience about 75 percent of the forces they do when you’re on dry land. That’s why Jack likes to go for a “run” in the shallow end.
Here’s how it works: Get in water that’s between knee and hip height. Run as fast as you can for 10 feet, pivot and run back against the current you just created. “The faster you move, the more resistance there will be going out,” he says. “That will also create a greater wake for you to run against on the way back.” Repeat this 10 times—that’s one interval. You may be surprised at how challenging it is.
Take your workout to the deep end
When you can’t touch the bottom of the pool, your entire body has to work to keep you upright—especially your core. And that makes doing simple moves unusually challenging. One of Jack’s favorite exercises is the 180-degree “squat.”
Here’s how it works: Grab a float to keep your buoyant. Clipping an Aqua Jogger around your waist is ideal, but straddling a couple of pool noodles will do the trick in a pinch.
Bring both of your knees up toward your chest, as if you were performing a deep squat. Now explosively press both your legs back down and twist your body so you turn 180 degrees in the water. “Try to ‘stick the landing’ without wobbling side-to-side or front-and-back,” says Jack. It sounds simple, but it will be harder than you think. Repeat back and forth.