Water workouts offer a way to keep cool while you exercise in the summer and to take pressure of sore joints all year if you have access to an indoor pool. By its nature, water adds resistance to your movements. But when you're ready to add more resistance as a way to bump up your cardio workout or tone your muscles, water dumbbells can help. They look like regular dumbbells with a surprising twist -- they're light. Made of buoyant foam, the dumbbells rise to the top of the water, working your muscles as you force them under.
Start with small water dumbbells and work your way up to larger ones. The bigger surface area on the foam "weights" makes them harder to push through the water, equivalent to using a heavier weight on land.
Use the dumbbells for your in-pool cardio workout by holding them under water as you move. Stick to water that's at least chest-deep, but preferably shoulder-deep. Hold the dumbbells in front of your chest as you jog from one side of the pool to the other, or hold them in your hands as you move your arms up and down in water jumping jacks. For these jacks, raise your arms only as high as the top of the water; if the dumbbells break the plane of the water, they become lighter and lose their effectiveness.
Work your arms by doing the same exercises in the water that you do on land, but limit your range of motion, if necessary, to keep the dumbbells under the water. Perform biceps curls by holding the dumbbells in front of your hips and bending your elbows to lift the weights. Lean forward slightly with your elbows bent and the dumbbells beside your chest, and then press your arms backward for triceps kickbacks. Stand up and keep your arms straight as you lift them in front of your chest and out to your sides to shoulder level, or as high as your chosen water depth allows. You can also work your shoulders with underwater arm circles.
Add some leg and abdominal moves to your workout by using one dumbbell at a time. Place it between your feet and lift your legs, keeping your legs straight and your back against the side of the pool. Hold on to the side behind you or to a ladder rail, if necessary, to keep your body stable. Put the dumbbell between your knees and do knee lifts, trying to touch the dumbbell to your chest -- don't forget to keep the dumbbells completely under water. Shake it up a bit by swinging your legs side to side either bent or straight, working your waist.
- Keep in mind that the resistance direction is different under water. On land, gravity causes the weights to want to go down, making it harder to raise them. Under water, however, the weights want to go up, making it harder to lower them. This can work to your advantage by offering a different type of resistance for your muscles.
- Always have a spotter when you work out in the pool, even if you're an experience swimmer. It's easy to lose your balance when pulled by weights. Wearing a buoyancy belt can help, but it's safer to have a friend or lifeguard watching out for you.