10 Effective Pool Exercises for Mom


With the arrival of summer, hectic summer schedules can also arrive. We know how difficult it can be sometimes to squeeze-in workouts during the week. So, the next time you are longing for a mommy workout session, take the kids to the pool and capitalize on the opportunity to try some of these aerobic workouts. Water’s natural resistance is very conducive to a great low-impact, high calorie-burning workout since its natural resistance is 12x greater than air.(1) Water exercises are an outstanding way to have fun with your children, get fit, and work on your summer glow at the same time!

The following exercises need little to no equipment, besides a pool noodle or dumbbells, and can easily be done in a public or backyard pool. Each exercise can also be tailored to your situation.

10 Effective Pool Exercises

The following Cardio exercises are used to increase muscular endurance while strengthening exercises are used to increase muscular strength.


Cross country Ski:

Targeted Muscles: Core Stabilizers, Gluteus Maximus & Hip Flexors, shoulder flexors, shoulder extensors

  1. With legs and feet staggered, jump in scissor-like motions, switching legs with each jump.
  2. Imagine holding ski poles, and follow the same rhythm with arms either with or without dumbbells (you can also hold your hands in fists).
  3. Do five 2-minute intervals.

Jumping Jacks:

Targeted Muscles: Hip abductors (gluteus medius & minimus), hip adductors, quadriceps, core, ankle plantar flexors, shoulder abductors, shoulder adductors

  1. In waist deep water, stand with feet together and arms to your sides.
  2. Keeping arms underwater, move your legs simultaneously with your arms as if to make an “X”.
  3. Jump back into starting position.
  4. Try to do three 2-minute intervals.

Power Jumping Jacks:

Targeted Muscles: Hip abductors (gluteus medius & minimus), hip adductors, quadriceps, core, ankle plantar flexors, shoulder abductors, shoulder adductors

  1. In waist deep water begin with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
  2. Keeping arms underwater, move your legs simultaneously with your arms as if to make an “X,”  but without stopping in the “X” position as in traditional jumping jacks.
  3. Quickly move legs and arms back to starting position.
  4. Begin with two minute intervals and work up to 5 minutes or longer.


See this exercise done here.

Dolphin kick:

Targeted Muscles: Abdominal muscles, paraspinals (back), gluteus maximus, quadriceps, and hamstrings

  1. While on your stomach with arms on stairs or while holding a bar or wall, kick to make splashes like a dolphin or mermaid, holding your feet and legs together and beginning the kick from your stomach.
  2. Kick as hard and as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds when you first begin, and try to build up to three 2-minute intervals.


Rocking Horse:

Targeted Muscles: Hip flexors, quadriceps, hip extensors, hamstrings, pecs, upper back, abdominals

  1. Begin with your right leg in front and left leg behind.
  2. Jump from supporting your weight on your back leg to your front leg using your arms for momentum.
  3. Try 6 sets of 2-minute intervals: 3 with your right leg in front, three with your left leg in front.

Running in Place (High Knees):

Targeted Muscles: glutes, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, abdominals

(This one sounds simple, right?)

  1. Time yourself for 5 minutes and run in waist to chest deep water, while bringing  knees to the surface if possible, and keeping your arms underwater.
  2. Try to build up to running 10 continuous minutes.  This exercise can also be done while holding or supporting your child.
  3. For an extra challenge, hold water dumbbells below surface to strengthen your arms at the same time but be sure not to hunch your shoulders.



Side Leg Lift 

Target Muscles: Hip abductors, hip adductors

  1. In waist deep water, hold a noodle in the arch of your foot.
  2. Allow your straightened leg to float at the surface.
  3. Pull noodle underwater without bending your knee and pull noodle a full 90 degrees before returning it to the surface.
  4. Try 10-15 reps for each side (be sure to switch legs).


 Presses with Noodle

Targeted Muscles: Triceps, abdominals

  1. In chest deep water hold a noodle at your chest level with both hands.
  2. Pull noodle underwater and bring both legs up and touch shins with noodle.
  3. For an extra challenge, push noodle down further and jump over noodle without letting go, then jump back though the other way.
  4. Try 15-20 presses. 

Pike Sculling

Targeted Muscles: Abdominals, rotator cuff, forearm supinators & pronators, hand muscles

  1. Sit back into the water and lift your legs off of the ground together, making a “V” with your body.
  2. Tread water using only your hands moving them both in an “infinity” (or figure eight) motion, while keeping your head and toes above the water.
  3. This exercise can be done while remaining stationary, or while traveling the length of the pool.
  4. Time yourself for 5-10 minutes.

Water Crunches

Targeted Muscles:  Abdominals, rotator cuff, forearm supinators & pronators, hand muscles

  1. Leaning back as if to begin sculling (see above). Move your arms in the same motion as sculling, keeping yourself afloat.
  2. Pull your knees into your chest and then straighten them.
  3. Start with 25 crunches.


See this exercise done here.

Flutter Kick

Targeted Muscles:  Abdominals, hip flexors, hip extensors

  1. Lie flat on your stomach while holding onto a bar or pool wall.
  2. Kick straight legs with pointed toes in a scissor-like motion (your head can be either face-up or face-down in the water).
  3. For an extra challenge: while kicking, push off the wall with your arms as hard as possible, and kick back to the wall (try 5-10 repetitions).
  4. Have your child join in on this one and make it into a game or splashing competition.
For other great fitness posts check out our Thrive  category!

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If you are also looking for a great workout to do that is safe during pregnancy check out our Pregnancy-Safe Fitness post.

Photo credit: Kirsten H., Maria Johnson
Sources: https://www.livestrong.com/article/133611-water-aerobics-benefits/



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Kirsten is a military wife by day, an artist by night, and an around-the-clock-mommy to her (almost) two year old daughter and a son due in the Fall. She loves to travel and is always dreaming of her next adventure. Her interests include everything from extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing to languages and studying philosophy. As a Californian now living in South Dakota, there is no taking that golden sunshine out of this California Girl.