Too hot to train? Get out of the heat and into the pool.

It’s the coolest place to exercise on a hot summer and you don’t have to be a swimmer to reap the benefits of a pool workout. Water-based calisthenics and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts have just as much potential for improving cardiovascular fitness as those done on land, making them the perfect option if your pool is larger. for fun than for swimming laps.

Another benefit of training in the water is that you can jump, jog, and sprint with less impact stress than in the gym. But to get the full benefits of high-intensity aquatic training, you need to know how to take advantage of the unique properties of water. In the water, depth, temperature and resistance make the difference.

Deeper water displaces more of your body weight than shallower depths. At chest height (at the nipples), approximately 60% of body weight is offloaded by buoyancy, making some exercises more suitable for shallow or deep workouts.

The density of water also comes into play (water offers more resistance than air), which slows down movement. Used strategically, this resistance is what makes aquatic workouts so challenging and is one of the more understated benefits of moving your workout to the pool, lake, or ocean.

Temperature also makes a difference. Colder water (18-25 degrees C) lowers your heart rate, so you can’t use it as a measure of intensity. Instead, use the simple method of perceived exertion: if you feel like you’re working hard, you probably are. The same goes for the recovery part of the workout: if the workout looks easy, it probably is.

For other strategies to make aquatic workouts more effective, check out the tips below. Keep in mind that it takes some getting used to sweating in the water, but once it kicks in, you’ll end up spending more time in the pool than in the gym during the scorching days of summer.

Try Intervals

Popular HIIT workouts can be easily integrated into an aquatic environment, alternating between short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by longer periods of active recovery. Start with 20-30 seconds of work (running or jumping in place or in motion) followed by 60-90 seconds of easy movement (walking or light jogging). Repeat 10 times, warming up for 5-10 minutes before starting intervals. Remember, the key to good HIIT workouts is to maintain the intensity through the tough interval, so if you need a longer recovery, go ahead and take it. Or if you prefer, increase the duration and decrease the intensity of your work intervals (30 seconds to two minutes) and shorten the recovery period. Both options will help you achieve your fitness goals.


Moving against water resistance increases the intensity of your workout, so cover as much ground as possible. If you’re short on space, change direction frequently, including returning to the current you’ve just created without losing speed. If possible, stay at a depth between the hips and chest so you can maintain bottom contact and easily adjust speed, direction, and range of motion. Too deep and you’ll start to float. Too shallow and you won’t take full advantage of the water’s natural resistance.

Go big

Large, strong, and controlled running, walking, and jumping movements will engage more muscles and create more resistance, which will get your heart rate where you want it. Put your arms into the action as well, keeping them underwater as much as possible, swinging them at your sides, around the body or thrusting them forward and back exposing as much surface of your body as possible (remember to push against the water against slicing though it).

To mix together

Alternating between large and small, fast and slow, stationary and moving movements prevents training from becoming boring. Big, fast movements will get your heart pumping while slower movements are better choices when you need to slow it down. Alternate 20 seconds of side-to-side big jumps with your knees almost breaking the surface of the water, followed by 60 seconds of recovery in a slow jog at knee height. Or sprint the full width of the pool with your arms pumping at your sides as many times as you can for 20 seconds, followed by a minute of easy walking. Repeat as many times as possible for 20 minutes. Training done.

Going deep

If deep water is your only option, grab a pool noodle and get moving. Wrap the pool noodle around your back and under your arms, resting your forearms along the full length of the noodle and maintaining an upright posture. Jog in place, move your legs cross-country or cross-country, or move them side-to-side bringing both knees to the surface of the water with each sweeping motion of the legs toward the left and to the right. If you have room to move, straddle the pool noodle and start running through the water, alternating between fast and slow intervals.

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