A StrengthBuilding Water Workout

By Yael Grauer |

Many people hear the words “water workout” and think, “Oh, my grandma does that.” Well, that might be true, but Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson also likes to hit the pool.

That’s because water workouts can provide demanding full-body exercise. Johnson, a mixed martial artist, swims laps, runs pool sprints, and participates in various group drills with fellow fighters.

Since water provides resistance from all vectors and angles, exercising in it can be more challenging than working out on dry land. It’s far more difficult to slog the length of a pool than it is to sprint through air, after all.

At the same time, the water’s buoyancy provides extra support for your muscles and joints. Running on land can be jarring to joints because the full force of each step resonates through your body. Running in water, on the other hand, reduces the impact of each footstrike, minimizing wear on muscles and joints. This helps prevent injuries — and allows those who are already injured to continue working out and building strength while they heal.

Ready to dive in? Try the following workout, designed by exercise physiologist and owner of the Strong Made Simple gym in San Diego, Brian Tabor, CSCS. Tabor, who has led injured San Diego Chargers football players in similar water exercises, says this simple routine will help you build conditioning and explosiveness, and it will take less than 30 minutes.

The workout is based on time rather than reps, so you can easily increase or decrease intensity. You can also make the exercises easier by moving into shallower water, or by shortening your stride or the width of your stance. Make sure to rest for 30 seconds between exercises.

Pools are shared spaces, so be sure to pay attention to your environment. Practicing good pool manners begins with being aware of those around you. Carve out a small space for your aquatic workout and avoid sprinting in the same lane as a lap swimmer or splashing unsuspecting swimmers.


Simply jump into the pool and do a slow march in place. Swing your arms while bringing your knees up, keeping your core muscles engaged. March in place for 45 seconds, followed by a 15-second break. Repeat three times.


1. High Knee Sideways March









  1. Duration: Continue for 30 seconds in one direction to complete one set. Take a 15-second break, then reverse direction. Complete two sets in each direction for a total of four sets.

2. Carioca






  1. Duration: Complete two 30-second sets in each direction, for a total of four sets. Make sure to rest for 15 seconds between sets.

3. Sideways Broad Shuffle







  1. Duration: Complete two 30-second sets in each direction, for a total of four sets. Rest for 15 seconds between sets.

4. Rotational Wake








  1. Duration: Complete four 30-second sets, with a 15-second break between each.

5. Break Your Wake








  1. Duration: Repeat the activity for a total of five minutes, resting as needed between sprints.

6. Split-Stance Fly







  1. Duration: Complete four 30-second sets with a 15-second break after each one. Switch legs for each set.

This article originally appeared as “Workout With a Splash” in the March 2014 issue of Experience Life.


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