Not Your Mama’s Water Workout

Summertime is the best time to hit the pool — but it’s also a great time to focus on your fitness. So why not combine both? That’s the goal of Melis Edwards, author of the new book Deep End of the Pool Workouts: No-Impact Interval Training and Strength Exercises. Melis has more than 30 years of experience as a running and triathlon coach, personal trainer, fitness instructor and athlete, and has participated in Ironman distance triathlons as well as the Western States 100-mile endurance run. Edwards holds a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion, a Bachelor’s in Health Education, and several teaching and training certifications. And she’s got a workout that you’re gonna want to try out the next time you have a chance to hit the pool!

Want killer abs, glutes and thighs? Hit the water!

Water workouts are not just for your grandma. I know, it can be hard to shake the image of a standard water aerobics class, but if you want a mega muscle burn and are tired of your same ol’ land-routine, try water. Now, we’re not talking the shallow end; this is going deep — the deep end of the pool. Working out in water allows you to push your muscles harder than you could on land and enjoy faster recovery times! This means you can work harder, recover faster, and do a kick a$$ workout in a shorter period of time. What’s not to love?

I suggest doing a water workout 2-3 times a week to change out your land-based training, and you don’t even need to know how to swim! Aside from a swimsuit the only equipment you’ll really need is a flotation belt. It might feel weird at first, but the belt will give you just enough buoyancy to really focus on your form.  

pool workout

A Workout for the Deep End of the Pool

Try for 3 rounds through of the following exercises, anywhere from 3 to 4 reps of each exercise. I like to aim for 15-30 seconds of each each at a 75-85+ percent effort, with a recovery 10-20 seconds between each rep. Change up the workout by switching the order of the exercises or create more intensity by decreasing recovery times. As you get stronger consider adding water gloves or resistance bells.

  1. Water Run with Resistance Bells: Long stride run works the entire bod … bells add an extra bang to your core. Keep your body vertical in the pool with a slight lean forward and move as if you’re running on land: opposite arm and leg movements. Don’t panic if your chin is in water, but obviously make sure you can breathe. Try to use a nice long stride to get the full benefit.
  2. Cross Country Uppercut: Broad sweeping motions with an upper punch takes your core, glutes and quads to a whole other level. With opposite arm and legs movement, drive your fist (palm up, like Rosie the Riveter) through an arm swing which starts from behind to the front of your body and crosses your midline, by about 4-6 inches. Moving your legs in a sweeping motion like a cross-country skier gives the  movement a torso rotation, activating your obliques.
  3. Karate Kick: Think of the movie Kill Bill and Uma Thurman knocking out two people with one motion; a kick to the front and back. Your quads, hamstrings and front shins (tibialis anterior) will thank you. Include a punch with your arms and your core will just not get a break. Your legs should stay bent as they travel under the body before each rapid kick. The quick interplay against the water resistance ramps the exercise intensity. Make it harder by throwing opposite punches (forward and back behind the body).
  4. Flutter Kick: Arms above, legs stretched out toward the pool bottom; core, quads and glutes have to hammer to keep your head ‘n shoulders above water. Think of propelling a paddleboard straight up; keep your arms straight up above your head to level up the difficulty.
  5. High Knees: The femme fatale is the High Knee; like playing hacky sack, but in the water. Think of running through tires, keeping your torso straight and pushing down with your heels. Arms above the head for an extra challenge; if you are not sinking for your life, you are not doing this correctly.  

Have fun- your body will thank you! —Melis

Workout adapted from Deep End of the Pool Workouts: No-Impact Interval Training and Strength Exercises. Check out for more info.

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