When someone tells you that they work out, what do you think of first? Likely a gym membership, a pair of running shoes, or an exercise video. But exercising in a pool is just as beneficial as working out on land, and in some ways, it’s even better.
For one, it’s much easier on the joints (a fortunate fact for anyone who has arthritis or joint problems). It also tends to burn more calories due to the resistance of the water. And working out in a pool enables you to work muscles that are often otherwise missed.
The problem is, just as you might not think of a pool first when considering where to work out, many people aren’t aware that there’s a range of exercise equipment designed for swimming that can maximize the health benefits of your water-based activities. To introduce you to some of them, here’s a list of some of the most effective swimming pool equipment.
Fins, or flippers, are swimming aids that allow you to go faster when in the water. Divers use them all the time. But before you say, “wait, don’t they make swimming easier?”, remember that for the added power they provide, they also apply added resistance, and require additional effort to use.
Flippers are big, heavy, and they move more water with each stroke. Slip them on and jump in, and your legs will be burning in no time.
Just as fins add resistance to your legs, paddles (or webbed gloves) add resistance to your arm strokes. Worn on the hands, they function just like paddles, allowing you to move more water with each stroke. The added speed comes at the cost of added effort, and your shoulders will really be feeling it after a swim with these on.
If you’re looking to isolate your legs rather than increase resistance, a kickboard is an excellent swimming equipment choice. Held in the hands, it helps keep you afloat while occupying the arms so that your legs have to do all the swimming. It can be held close to the chest for comfort, or out at arm’s length to give your core a workout as well.
A pull buoy does for your arms what a kickboard does for your legs. Placing one between the legs forces your arms to do all the work, while still keeping you from sinking. It’s used between the thighs and requires you to keep your legs tightly together to hold it in place, so you’ll likely still feel a bit of a burn there, too.
If you’re just looking to make swimming harder in general, resistance socks are a good way to start. Worn on the feet, these simple devices increase your drag, making it more difficult to move quickly in the water. This forces your whole body to exert more effort to maintain your pace, and can really spice up your workout.
If you’ve been swimming a while and want something that’s a step up from resistance socks, go with a parachute. While swimming parachutes won’t save you from falling out of a plane, they will slow you down in the water. The added resistance from dragging what’s basically a small fabric bucket will have your muscles aching in no time.
Now let’s take a look at some swimming equipment that can also be used for activities other than swimming. First up are ankle and wrist weights. These small, wearable weights wrap around your wrists or ankles and usually fasten with velcro. While they can be used during a normal swim session to weigh you down a little, they’re also very useful while doing other stretches and exercises in the pool.
These devices are handheld rods that end in circular plastic fans. Similar in function to webbed gloves, they add resistance to your arm movements in the water. For a beginner exercise, try extending your arms to the sides and then attempt to clap with them, then repeat. It’s a great way to weight train without the weights.
Speaking of weights, water weights are a little different than normal dumbbells. Essentially a floatation device with a handle, these dumbbells are usually made of foam (or some other buoyant material), and exert force in the opposite direction of regular weights. In other words, while a gym weight might pull down, these pull up, allowing you to work different muscle groups than usual (like your triceps).
Lastly, resistance bands aren’t pool-only exercise equipment, but they tend to function just as well in the water. For a basic exercise, try standing on the band while holding the handles, and then stretching your arms out straight to the sides. It’s an excellent way to tone your muscles without adding undue stress on your joints.
For those who want to shake up their workouts, or for those who are looking for exercises that are easier on their body, water-based fitness can be an excellent option. And with the above swimming pool exercise equipment, you’ll always be able to get the level of intensity you need from each session.