Hot summer months signal the arrival of a favorite Texas season: pool season! One of the best pastimes for counteracting sizzling temperatures, a cool pool is perfect for all manner of activities, from lounging to exercising. A pool workout can go far beyond swimming laps! Next time you’re thinking of hitting up a high-intensity exercise class … dive into one in the water.
Aquatic workouts aren’t just for Olympian swimmers. Water-based fitness classes are effective ways to work all major muscle groups at the same time, building stamina, strength, body awareness and cardiovascular health, all while staying low-impact. These workouts are completely personalized to the amount of energy that’s put in, making it the perfect workout for people from all walks of life.
Want to pack in a serious strength workout without using a single weight-training machine? Water is about 800 times denser than air, so an underwater workout automatically adds a whole new level of resistance. Any movement is fighting against water pressure. The faster the movements, the more resistance encountered, thus building intensity. The muscles engage more fully, more calories are burnt in a shorter amount of time, and the heart rate elevates as effectively as it would on land.
“No matter the move, there’s constant resistance,” says Jeremy Sims, former U.S. Navy combat swimmer and Personal Trainer and Water Fitness Instructor at Castle Hill Fitness, “For example, on land, a bench press primarily focuses on the pecs. Whereas the same move in the water activates the pecs while pushing up, and the back while pulling back. It essentially turns a chest press into a chest press and row, working opposing muscle groups.”
Water fitness classes include many of the same exercises and props that you find in “on-land” fitness classes. Standard bodyweight exercises become more intensified underwater by default. Props like foam dumbbells and pool noodles add on even more targeted strength work. For example, using dumbbells underwater also forces the core to be engaged at all times. With exercises like chest flies, the water current shifts the torso forward and back. The core is activated to stabilize the torso while pushing and pulling.
On the opposite hand, being in the pool provides immense support and therapeutic effects, especially for the joints.
The water’s buoyancy reduces stress on the joints and surrounding tissues by decreasing the weight-bearing amount. Without a little thing called gravity, all movements become low-impact, even jumping! The minimized effects of gravity mean that blood requires less effort to flow back up to the heart, helping reduce blood pressure. The constant support can help increase the range of motion and flexibility of the joints. The water’s pressure also applies a hydrostatic squeeze, acting as a brace around the joints that squeezes out inflammation, and aids in circulation.
There’s also the added benefit of staying cool and refreshed in the water while you’re busy lighting it up! A gently heated pool can make swimming comfortable beyond the summer months as well.
The low-impact nature of water-fitness classes makes them accessible for those recovering from injuries, pregnant people, and people with osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, heart issues, high blood pressure, and balance issues. Exercises in the water are easy to modify, and you might not even realize how tough the workout was until your feet get back on land!
“Aquatic fitness has the added advantage that it can provide “selectable resistance” to movements. The workout can be made easier or harder by adjusting speed, how deep or shallow the water is, and how constant movement is,” according to Michele Melkerson-Granryd, Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor. These workouts also provide the perfect cross-training for athletes – all the cardiovascular, endurance, and mobility gains, without impact or risk of injury.
Take your pool hangs up a notch, and dive into a deeper end of fitness!
Castle Hill Fitness offers a full schedule of water fitness classes in their heated pool at their 360 location. Classes are included with specific membership types or are available a la carte. This locally-owned gym offers a free 7-day All-Access trial for new clients, including unlimited in-person and virtual classes, gym access, and access to their On Demand library!