Examples for Aquatic Exercises for the Upper Extremities

Sculling to stay afloat is an effective arm exercise in water.
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Paddling around on a raft in a pool is not only a fun way to relax but also a good exercise for your arms. If you do exercises while submerged in water, you enjoy the added benefit of water resistance. Because the impact of gravity is reduced, you can move your arms through a full range of motion without putting as much stress on your shoulder joints. However, the momentum of arm movements in water can tug your body out of alignment. You’ll have to work that much harder to keep your torso stabilized in aerobic activities.


    In the same way that you swing your arms when you walk on land, exercise your arms by walking in a pool. Begin the exercise in the shallow end, keeping your back straight. Avoid leaning forward or sideways as you swing your arms through water. Wear hand webs, or specially made gloves that increase resistance. You can advance the exercise by walking or jogging in the deep end. Use a flotation device, such as a water noodle looped between your legs.

Exercise Examples

    Various stretching and strengthening arm exercises performed outside of water can be done in a pool with the added benefit of water resistance. Examples of low-intensity exercises include the press-down, press-out, elbow flexion and extension and trunk rotation holding a ball. High-intensity exercises include rowing or paddling on a kick board, figure-eights, shoulder rotations and jumping jacks. For a vigorous workout, you can combine resistance exercises for the arms with leg exercises. For example, perform a biceps curl or triceps push with hand webs while simultaneously executing frog jumps, scissor jumps or lunges in water.

Special Weights

    Use foam barbells to do weight training, such as biceps curls or triceps push-downs, for your arms in water, according to MayoClinic.com. Begin with your arms at your sides, gripping the barbells with palms turned up. Lift your forearms until they almost reach the water’s surface. Rotate the barbells so your palms turn down. Press your hands down until your arms are fully extended and by your sides again. Repeat the curls 12 to 15 times or until you reach muscle fatigue. If the weights are too difficult, wear hand webs to perform the same exercises.


    Perform exercises in situations monitored by a lifeguard. Stabilize your body in water first before you start an exercise. Control your motion during the exercise, placing the limb in the desired spot with clearly defined starting and stopping positions. Avoid flinging your arms, which can quickly destabilize your body. Limit arm exercises out of water, according to Terry-Ann Spitzer Gibson’s “Water Aerobics for Fitness and Wellness.” When you lift your arms out of water, you can lose control and strain your back. Slow arm movements developing your shoulders’ range of motion can be executed during the warm-up and cool-down phases of the workout.

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