Aqua Training Workouts – Burn Calories with Water Aerobics


Determined to keep that bikini body, but that nagging knee, foot, and/or low back injury is keeping you off the track? Well, don’t fret! Put your swimsuit back on and take your workout into the pool.

Whenever I tell people that I do aerobics in the pool for cross training, I get the same reaction, “How many laps do you swim?” to which I answer, “None. I do aerobics in the pool.” For some reason, when we think of aqua aerobics, we envision a pool full of grannies bobbing around in flowered bathing caps and skirted swimsuits. Not so anymore! Go to any primetime aqua fitness class and you’ll find a pool full of fitness enthusiasts and former athletes looking for a challenging workout that’s easy on the joints.

Because buoyancy offsets the downward pull of gravity, the primary force acting on the body, in chest-deep water, is the water’s horizontal resistance. During aqua aerobics, the horizontal resistance does two things: it decreases the stress on your joints and increases the workload on your muscles. Former NFL Rams player, Frank Johnson, discovered aqua aerobics after total knee replacement. After surgery, Frank gained 60 pounds from his new sedentary lifestyle and started getting low back pain. His physical therapist said the back pain was from lack of exercise and the extra 60 pounds he was carrying; Frank knew it was time to get back into the gym! Frank’s therapist recommended he try an aqua aerobics because it would simultaneously give him the cardiovascular conditioning and resistance training he needed without causing more pain to his back or knee. After Frank’s first class, he was smitten, “I can’t believe what a challenging workout aqua training can be! It’s an awesome conditioning program for any sport.”

Aqua Training Workout #1 – Tips for Success

  • Workout Wear: Appropriate workout wear will streamline you in the pool. T-shirts and baggy shorts will cause too much of a drag and may fall off! Wear a one-piece or a two-piece swimsuit designed for beach volleyball.
  • Foot Wear: Although the impact is less in the pool than on land, there is impact, so you might need arch support. Many athletic shoe manufacturers make aqua sneakers that have arch support and strategically placed holes for water drainage; however, since you don’t need full support in the pool, I recommend wearing an old pair of athletic gym shoes. Just make sure to wash them before you bring them into the pool, and only use them for the pool!
  • Water: Bring a bottle of water with you to the pool. Even though you are surrounded by water, you will need to hydrate your body with plenty of fluids.
  • Stretch: Just like any fitness program, perform a total-body stretch at the end of your session. It is common to get calf soreness after aqua training, so remember to do extra calf stretches.

Warm Up – Perform Each Warm-Up Drill for 1 Minute

  • High Knees (forward motion/short levers)
  • Side Knees (side motion/short levers)
  • Pendulum (side motion/long levers)
  • Side Knees (side motion/short levers)
  • High Knees (forward motion/short levers)
  • Cross Country (front-back motion/long levers)
  • Hamstring Curls (back motion/short levers)

Cardio – Perform each cardio drill 3x

DrillTimeLegsArms30 Sec. RecoveryTips
Run Forward30 sec.RunPump arms front-backNo recovery!Use your "wake" for resistance.
Run Backward30 sec.RunPump arms front-backNo recovery!Use your "wake" for resistance.
Leap forward30 sec.Alt. LeapsBreast strokeNo recovery!Push hips up and out of water. Pull abs in.
Pike Backward30 sec.Ext. both legs forwardReach for toesNo recovery!n/a
Traveling Jumping Jacks30 sec.JJ travel forward½ Jax ArmsNo recovery!Keep arms under water.
Traveling Jumping Jacks30 sec.JJ traveling backward½ Jax ArmsNo recovery!Keep arms under water.
Run in Circles30 sec.Run in a clockwise circle.Pull yourself thru water.No recovery!n/a
Run in Circles30 sec.Run counter clockwise.Pull yourself thru water.Jogn/a


DrillTimeLegsArms30 Sec. RecoveryTips
Breast Stroke (forward & reverse)15 secSprintCircle BackJogOpen chest, squeeze back
repeat15 secSprintCircle ForwardJogSqueeze chest, keep hands in view
repeat30 secSprintCircle BackJogn/a
repeat30 secSprintCircle ForwardJogn/a
repeat45 secSprintCircle BackJogn/a
repeat45 secSprintCircle ForwardJogn/a
Sprint1 minSprintOpt.Jogn/a
Jacks, No Jump15 secSliding Jacks½ Jax ArmsJumping JacksGet low, use hips and thighs. No jumping!
repeat30 secSliding Jacks½ Jax ArmsJumping JacksKeep shoulders under water.
repeat45 secSliding Jacks½ Jax ArmsJumping JacksKeep hands under water.
Sprint1 min.SprintOpt.Jogn/a
Scissor Kicks15 secAlt. High Kicks w/hopReach opp. arm to leg.High KneesSqueeze hams & glutes.
repeat30 secAlt. High Kicks w/hopReach opp. Arm to leg.High Knees"Slice" legs thru H2O like a hot knife thru butter.
repeat45 secAlt. High Kicks w/hopReach opp. Arm to leg.High Kneesn/a
Sprint1 minuteSprintOpt.Jogn/a
Karate Punches15 secHorse StanceCross PunchWide JogEngage abs & pelvic floor.
repeat30 secHorse StanceCross PunchWide JogKeep knees over ankles.
repeat45 secHorse StanceCross PunchWide Jogn/a
Sprint1 minuteSprintNoneJogn/a
Abdominal Crunches30 secBoth knees to the chestTouch outside ankleSlow crunchesUse abs to lift legs to chest, keep shoulders
repeat30 secBoth knees to the chestTouch outside ankleSlow crunchesUnder water, DON'T jump-lift your legs
repeat30 secBoth knees to shouldersTouch inside the ankleSlow crunchesDuring your 30 sec.
repeat30 secBoth knees to shouldersTouch inside the ankleSlow crunchesn/a


DrillTimeLegsArms30 Sec. RecoveryTips
Skate Board3x, 30 sec. ea. leg,"skate board"Slow pump front-backn/aNote: not for speed, trunk stability
Obliques30 sec. ea. SideTouch wall with 1 footHold on w/ 1 handn/aSpeed, not accuracy.
repeat30 sec. ea. SideTouch wall with 2 feetHold on w/ 1 handn/awaistline.
repeat30 sec. ea. SideTouch wall with 2 feetHold on w/ 1 handn/aTouch higher up on the wall.
Jack Knife3x, 30 sec. per setTouch wall with 2 feetHold wall w/ 2 handsn/an/a

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About Author

Sandra Augustin

I am a 20-year veteran of the fitness industry. I am a master trainer for 24 Hour Fitness and a MET-Rx sponsored fitness competitor. I instruct continuing education fitness classes for other 24 Hour Fitness group exercise instructors. See my profile page for more information!

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