Swimming works your whole body: It’s good for the heart, strengthens muscles, maximizes endurance, betters posture, and increases flexibility—all at the same time!
One of the primary benefits of swimming is that it won’t take a toll on the body. That’s because the sport improves your body’s use of oxygen, without overworking your heart. On top of that, swimming works your body physically, without putting stress on joints or past injuries. As an added bonus, little impact means no uncomfortable shin splints, sore feet, or knee pain.
Another advantage to exercising in H2O is that unlike air, water is a constant source of resistance. To be exact, water actually has 12 times the resistance of air. So if you’re looking to up the ante while you exercise, submerge your workout in the pool.
Having swum competitively for a decade and taught the sport for a few summers, I’ve grown partial to a few workouts above all the rest. So if you want a better workout this summer, check out these exercises below:
To target the full body
Just treading water can obliterate 11 calories in one minute, which is the exact same as a six-mile-per-hour run. To make it harder, rely fully on your legs and raise your arms out of the water, holding them parallel to each other above the head.
To target the back, arms, abs, butt, and legs
With both hands, hold a kickboard out in front of you so that it’s vertical with the rounded edge up, and half of it is submerged in the water. Push off the wall with your feet, holding the kickboard in “tombstone” position, and kick as hard as you can toward the opposite side of pool. The kickboard will provide extra resistance.
To target the back, shoulders, arms, and abs
Standing with feet wide and holding each end of the kickboard, lean forward from the hips with a flat back and the board in front of your chest. Push the kickboard down diagonally under the water, extending arms and squeezing abs. Then bend elbows to bring the board back up to the chest.
To target abs and legs
Tread water with your arms out to the side and your legs beneath you. Engaging your core, squeeze your legs together. Bending your knees slightly, sweep your two legs forwards and backward, moving your limbs as one (like a dolphin’s tail). To keep from toppling over, sweep your arms through the water in the opposite direction of your legs.
To target abs, butt, hips, and inner thighs
Begin by treading water in the deep end, holding your arms above your head. Extend your legs below you. Flexing your feet, bend your knees to bring your heels towards your butt. Next, with your toes pointed, straddle your legs and then quickly press them together, sweeping through the water in the shape of an oval. Repeat.
To target triceps, abs, and obliques
Begin with your back against the side of the pool. Place your palms on the edge behind you, with fingertips facing forward. Straighten your arms to lift your body out of the water, and then drop back into the pool. These should resemble push-ups, just vertical, and with the arms behind your back.
The finger-tip drag
To target the back, shoulders, arms, and legs
Begin in the streamline position, on the stomach with both arms stretched out to the front and both legs extended to the back. Alternate the legs in a flutter kick, with one leg kicking downward while the other leg moves upward. The arms should alternate from side to side, so while one arm is pulling and pushing under the water, the other arm is recovering above the water. But rather than cup the hands (as one does in freestyle), drag your fingertips along the surface of the water to introduce greater resistance.