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Aqua Pilates Exercises

author image Tim Petrie
Tim Petrie is a Physical Therapist and an Orthopedic Certified Specialist working in Milwaukee, Wisc. When he isn't working, he loves distance running, Packers football, and traveling with his wife and his energetic three year old daughter.
Aqua Pilates Exercises
Aqua Pilates challenges many muscle groups throughout the body. Photo Credit Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

For many people, aqua Pilates is the perfect marriage of a challenging exercise system that is also comfortable to perform. Not only does it allow you to strengthen your body and to improve your flexibility, but it also harnesses the many benefits of working out in water.

Regularly exercising in the pool has been shown to improve stiffness, cardiovascular function and pain levels in women with chronic pain. In addition, aqua exercise can be appealing for individuals with osteoarthritis, as it limits the pressure placed on painful joints. For a well-rounded aqua Pilates routine, try these exercises.

Read More: Swimming Pool Exercises Using an Aqua Noodle


The frog is a great technique for toning your quadriceps and calf muscles while minimizing the stress on your joints.

How To: Stand in navel-level water with your legs positioned just wider than shoulder-width apart and turned outwards. Begin with your knees slightly bent in a squat and your arms extended out to the side. Take a breath in and rise up onto your toes while remaining in a squatting position. Then, exhale as you extend your knees without letting your heels drop down. Repeat 10 repetitions of the exercise before resting.

Begin the leg circle exercise with a pool noodle wrapped under your arms and behind your back.
Begin the leg circle exercise with a pool noodle wrapped under your arms and behind your back. Photo Credit Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

Leg Circles

This exercise uses the resistance of the water to target your abdominals and multiple muscles in your hips.

How To: While in a deep area of the pool, rest your arms on a pool noodle that has been threaded under both arms and behind your back. Begin with your legs together and beneath you. Inhale and slowly raise your legs in front of you until they make a 90 degree angle with your body. Then, exhale as you separate the legs and circle them back to the starting position. Complete this motion 10 times before taking a break.

Arm and Leg Flutters

Flutters provide a great challenge to the rotator cuff and core muscle groups.

How to: Stand in shoulder-level water with your arms held at your side in the pool. Inhale as you simultaneously swing both arms backwards and kick your right leg forward. Then, exhale and reverse the motion by bringing your arms forward and extending your right leg behind you. Continue these motions like a pendulum making sure to keep your elbows and knees straight. After about a minute, take a break before repeating the exercise with the left leg.

Side slides utilize a pool noodle to work your hip muscles.
Side slides utilize a pool noodle to work your hip muscles. Photo Credit AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images

Side Slides

This technique activates your gluteus medius. This muscle sits on the side of your hip and stabilizes the pelvis.

How To: Stand in chest-level water with a pool noodle under your right leg. Take a breathe in as you move your right leg away from your body and simultaneously extend your arms to your side at shoulder-level. Then, breathe out as you bring the right leg and both arms back to the initial position. Do 10 repetitions before switching to your left leg.

Front Slides

Front slides give your butt and shoulder blade muscles a great workout.

How To: While standing in shoulder-level water with a pool noodle under your right foot, extend your arms out to your side. Inhale as you slowly slide your right leg forward and bring your arms together in front of you. Then, exhale and bring your arms and legs back to their starting positions. Be sure to keep your elbows straight the entire time. Repeat this 10 times before alternating legs.

Body Swing

This challenging exercise forces the muscles in your stomach, back, arms and legs to stabilize against the instability of the water.

How To: Lie on your back in the deep part of a pool while holding a pool noodle in each hand. Keep your elbows bent at 90-degree angles. Begin by drawing your breath in as you flip onto your stomach and extend your arms and the noodles over your head. Then, exhale and flip back onto your back as you return to the initial position. Do this continuously for 30 to 60 seconds before resting.

Read More: Pool Exercises to Get Rid of Belly Fat

Recommendations and Precautions

To maximize the benefit of these aqua Pilates exercises, complete a 35-minute workout session at least once per week. Working out in the pool can be deceptively challenging, so it's important to stop exercising if you feel faint or lightheaded and to stay hydrated throughout. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about beginning an aqua Pilates routine.

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