Bikes, kettlebells, and SUP boards are just some of the unconventional pool toys that are turning your dip into the freshest and fiercest of total-body routines.
There's nothing cooler than a pool in summer, and thanks to the latest trends, the options for getting a killer H20 workout abound. One major reason: Water is just about the most versatile training tool out there. Every move you make when you're submerged is like an extra strength rep, since water provides more resistance than air does—and that's from all sides, as opposed to the one-directional (i.e., downward) pull of gravity, says exercise physiologist Mary E.Sanders, Ph.D., at the Universityof Nevada School of Medicine.
"You definitely use more core stabilizer muscles," she says. In fact, exercisers who trained in the water improved their ab strength more than those who used resistance bands on land, research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found.
The water-resistance effect can crank up your cardio too. "As speed increases, the work increases exponentially—more so than against air," Sanders says. When a group of women did intervals like jogging, kicking, and jumping in the shallow end, their heart rate averaged 72 to 90 percent of max—in the vigorous to high-intensity exercise zone—according to a study in the journal The Physician and Sports Medicine. That's right where you want to be to burn big calories.
Even taking your routine atop the water surface triggers benefits. Just keeping yourself steady on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) can work stabilizing muscles from abs to calves. And now, yoga isn't the only SUP hybrid in which you can net that tightening effect. (Here's a beginner's guide to SUP.)
Meet the new wave of pool-based classes that will definitely be your favorite summer fitness fling.
Badass Water Boot Camp
Now there's a way to do full-tilt circuits without getting over-heated. In the just-launched WTRX (a.k.a. Water Xtreme) class at Life Time fitness clubs nationwide, you'll go above and below deck for 30-second sets of boot camp standards—mountain climbers (poolside), push-ups (or "muscle-ups,"where you press up to briefly sit on the pool's edge), split squats (in water)—and also moves using a variety of both old-school equipment like kettlebells (for under water swings!) and aquatic props such as Speedo Clutch Paddles. "You get all the benefits and calorie burn of a HIIT workout," says Rob Glick, a senior director of programming and innovation at Life Time. "Plus, you may play Marco Polo between circuits." Win-win. Not a Life Time member? Up your pool drills with the same Speedo tools (at speedousa.com).
A Smooth Ride
You know that swimming is a zero-gravity way to get in your cardio while babying over pounded joints (like hips and knees), but there's another stress-free option that doesn't require nailing proper stroke form. Aqua cycling—a submerged version of Spin class in waist-high water—is winning devotees from New York City to Los Angeles. (Google "aqua cycling" to see if there's a studio near you.) "You get a natural massage from the water against your legs while you pedal," says Esther Gauthier, the founder of Aqua Studio, in Manhattan. Instead of cranking the resistance dial on a Spin bike, you use your pedaling speed to dictate the challenge level of your leg work. During class, your feet stay strapped to the pedals, but you'll occasionally float behind your Hydrorider for some treading-water arm exercises. The result is a dose of moderate cardio with no achy after effects. (This writer tried out the trend with Ryan Lochte.)
SUP Meets Cardio Strength Training
You'll feel muscles you didn't know you had the day after a CardioWave class. (We tried the HIIT workout here.) This newest iteration of the SUP craze is getting buzz for its allover firming. Picture a fleet of SUP boards (actually rectangular floating GlideFit boards) tricked out with resistance bands and tethered together in a pool. Expect reps like rocking planks and squats (hold your pose as you shift your weight from side to side) on the board and pull-ups from below it. "On board, you'll have to use your stabilizers—often overlooked, underused, or misused muscles—to maintain your balance," says fitness director Tiffany Harrison of GlideFit. "The more active the water gets, that brings another level of stability challenge." Got dunked? Still fun! (Find classes at GlideFit.com.)