Add a splash to your workout routine with these water exercises from fitness expert Susanne Paynovich, founder of WaterGym [LINK TO: watergym.com], a water aerobics program based in Northern California. Whether you’re a diehard swimmer, water aerobics junkie, or prefer to sweat on dry land, these fun water exercises will tone you all over and ramp up your heart rate, too.
Before you start, you’ll need a flotation belt and a pool that’s deep enough for you to stretch your legs down without touching the bottom. Some exercises involve moving across the pool, while others are stationary. Begin and end each exercise in a vertical body position, with a straight spine, long neck, relaxed shoulders that are aligned over your hips, and abdominal muscles engaged. Do each of these water exercises for 30 to 60 seconds, and add more time as your fitness increases.
Bike and Stroke (forward motion)
Why try it? “This move is excellent for toning and strengthening your buttocks, hamstrings and muscles of the upper back,” Paynovich says. “The stronger you push your arms and legs back, the more you will maximize the benefits of this move.”
How to: From a vertical start, strongly contract your abs so your body mimics the letter C . Begin pedaling your legs as if riding a bike. Meanwhile, move your arms as if doing the breast stroke, starting with your hands at your chest and fingers spread (A). Push your arms to the front, sweep them out to the sides (B), and finish back at your chest.
Jog and Scoop (forward motion)
Why try it? “This high cardio move feels incredible because our bodies crave to stretch out and move,” Paynovich says. Try traveling forward for one lap with this move, and then backwards with the Flutter Kick (see below).
How to: From a vertical start, simulate a land-based jog with your legs, bringing one knee straight up towards your chest while your other leg stretches down towards the floor. Pull in your abs, lean slightly forward, reach your arms straight in front of you at the water level, palms down, fingers spread. Push your left arm straight down, deeply scooping it back toward your hip (A). Alternate arm scoops in opposition with your legs; when your right knee is up, scoop your left arm and vice versa (B).
Flutter Kick (backward motion)
Why try it? “This fun, high cardio move is a fabulous calorie burner that really strengthens and tones your legs,” Paynovich says. “Remember to sit up—don’t lean back—to work abs, and watch where you’re going!”
How to: From a vertical start, contract your abs to stabilize your torso, then jog your legs up to the water level in front of you. Once there, begin flutter kicking your legs to travel backwards (A). Make white water with your feet, but only if you can do it without leaning back (B). Otherwise, drop your legs below the surface to a comfortable position. Work up to a vigorous kick.
Ab Obliques (stationary)
Why try it? “For maximum results, emphasize the part of the move where you contract your abdominal muscles to bring your legs in, versus out,” Paynovich says. “For bonus points, see if you can keep your abs engaged for the entire move to target your transverse abdominus, which is your natural girdle!
How to: From a vertical start, lean your body to the right while stretching your right arm out to the side at water level (A). Then strongly contract your abdominal muscles to bring your knees to your chest, at the same time pulling your right arm straight down to tuck it under your legs, so you curl up into a ball. Keep your pelvis tucked under and your abs strongly engaged. Try to touch your opposite thigh (B). Repeat on the other side.
Leg Sweeps (travel backward or stationary)
Why try it? “You can really feel this move toning and strengthening your thighs, waist, and hips,” Paynovich says. “If it is too advanced, keep your knees bent, do smaller sweeps with your legs, and minimize any hip rotation.” How to: From a vertical start, contract your abs, bring your knees up to your chest, gently straighten your legs in front of you, and open your legs (A). Squeeze and close your legs, then rotate your hips slightly to the right as you sweep your left leg across to the right (B). Next, rotate your hips back to center, return your left leg back to center, and then open both legs again to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Scissor and Clap (stationary)
Why try it? “This moves works the muscles of the side body and is great for strengthening your core stabilizers and inner and outer thighs,” Paynovich says. “Keep your wrists stable on the up push, or your will fall out of position.”
How to: From a vertical start, straighten your legs, point your toes, and stretch your arms out to the side, with fingers spread and palms facing down (A). Pull your abs in to maintain and stabilize your torso, and simultaneously clap your hands down in front of your hips while opening your legs to the side. Keep arms straight and wrists stable, palms facing down (B). Return your arms up to the water level while squeezing your legs back together. Move your arms and legs in opposition; when your arms are open, your legs are closed and vice versa.
Scissor and Pike (stationary)
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Why try it? “This advanced and challenging move is fabulous for strengthening your abdominals and inner and outer thighs,” Paynovich says. How to: From a vertical start, contract your abs and bring your knees up to your chest, then gently straighten your legs in front of you so your body is in a V position (pike) with straight legs and pointed toes. Keep your abs strongly contracted, hips down, ribs dropped, and neck lengthened (A). Perform a scissor move by opening and closing your legs (B). Maintain your V position without wobbling. If this move is too advanced, bend your knees and lower your legs.