Harness the power of the pool to switch up your next strength workout—or do it completely dry in your gym.

By Lauren Mazzo
August 09, 2019

When you add water to a cardio workout—whether you’re swimming laps or doing a pool boot camp—you turn it into a total-body resistance routine.

That’s because water is about 800x denser than air, says Dan Daly, a cocreator of Equinox gym’s EQX H2O pool class. Beyond added resistance, “this density offsets the compressive stresses of gravity as you jump or run,” he says.

“Water counters every move you make when you’re fully immersed,” adds exercise expert Lori Sherlock, Ed.D., at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “As a result, you work the muscle pair, not just a single muscle—for example, in a biceps curl, you work your biceps as you curl and triceps as you lower.” (Related: The Best Swimming Exercises You Can Do That Aren't Laps)

That adds up: In a recent study in Sport Sciences for Health, fit women who did water workouts twice a week increased muscle mass in their arms and core, dropped body fat, and improved their VO2 max (a measure of fitness) by 15 percent over two months.

You might be amazed at how quickly gym exercises like lunges become high intensity when you’re doing those reps in chest-high water. That’s part of the efficiency of pool classes such as Life Time gym’s WTRX, which combines strength moves—both on deck and submerged—with as-many-reps-as-possible pacing. (P.S. This isn't the only trendy non-swimming pool workout you can do btw.)

“This type of water workout is boot camp and recovery in one, with 90 percent less compression on the joints but the same intensity as land exercises,” says Jeimy Bueno Prisby, a studio and cycle manager at Life Time Westchester in New York, who helped develop WTRX. (Also check out these other pool workout moves.)

For our latest installment of the Shape Studio video workout, Bueno Prisby leads you through a circuit of key WTRX moves you can take to your pool for serious HIIT. Watch her demo the moves in the video above, then try the circuit for yourself on land or in the pool.

WTRX Bootcamp Pool Workout


Do each move for 30 seconds.

  • Deep Squat to Hamstring Stretch: Lower into a deep squat, reaching hands towards feet. Then, keeping torso down and knees soft, lift hips to extend hamstrings. Stand and repeat.
  • Plank Step-Out or Plank Jacks: Start in a high plank position. One at a time, step feet out to the sides, then back in. Scale up: Do plank jacks, hopping both feet out to the sides, then back in at the same time.
  • Reverse Lunge to Knee Hug: Start standing with feet together. Step the right foot back into a reverse lunge, knees at 90-degree angles. Press off the right foot to stand, balancing on the left leg, hugging right knee to chest. Immediately step back for another lunge. Repeat for 15 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
  • High Knees: Alternate driving knees up to chest, pumping opposite arm with opposite leg. To scale down, slowly step feet vs. jumping.
  • Forward and Back Run: Alternate jogging forward and back, as far as space allows. (You'll really feel this one in the pool!)

Circuit 1:

Do each move for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.

  • Squat Jump with Push Plate: Holding a Speedo Push Plate (or a TK in the pool or small dumbbell on land) between your legs. Lower into a squat, then explode to jump straight up. Land softly, then lower into another squat.
  • Triceps Dip: Start facing away from the edge of the pool (or a box or bench in the gym) with palms on the edge, arms straight, fingers pointing toward hips. Lower until elbows are bent to about 90 degrees, pointing straight back. Press into palms to return to start.
  • Mountain Climber: Start in a high plank position (on the deck). Alternate quickly driving knees in toward chest.
  • Plank Rotate and Hold: Start in a high plank position (on the deck). Draw the right knee to the left elbow and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

Circuit 2:

Do each move for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.

  • Split Squat Jump (with ViPR): Hold a ViPR or weighted body bar overhead (do this move with just your bodyweight if you don't have a ViPR at your pool). Step back into a reverse lunge, lowering until knees are bent at 90 degrees. Return to start. Repeat, alternating sides. Scale up: Jump from two feet into the lunge, then back to two feet, alternating sides.
  • Torso Rotation (with push plate): Hold a Speedo Push Plate or light dumbbell vertically in front of your belly button between both hands. (If you don't have a push plate, you can do this in the pool using a kickboard to create water resistance.) Keeping shoulders level, twist to the right, engaging core while pulsing to the right. Repeat for 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
  • Squat Slean and Press (with ViPR): Hold a ViPR, kickboard (in the pool), or weighted body bar horizontally in front of hips with an overhand grip. Lower the ViPR to shin height. Then, in one swift movement, lift chest and thrust hips forward, using the momentum from hips to pop the weight up toward shoulders. Shrug and bend your elbows and lowering into a front squat. Stand and press the weight overhead. Reverse the movement to return to start.
  • Upper-Body Push/Pull (with push plate): Hold a Speedo Push Plate or light weight plate vertically in front of your belly button between both hands. (If you don't have a push plate, you can do this in the pool using a kickboard to create water resistance.) Press the plate away from you to extend arms, then pull it back in to belly button. In the water, go for speed. On land, go slowly and focusing on the pushing and pulling movements.


  • Quad Stretch: Stand on one foot, bend ing the other knee back and grabbing your ankle with the same hand. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Start in a split stance with hands on hips. Tuck tailbone under, then lower into a quarter lunge until you feel a stretch in the front of the back hip. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
  • Horizontal Floating: In the pool, float on your back, placing a kickboard between legs if needed. On land, lay in Savasana (corpse pose).

Shape Magazine, September 2019 issue