Many athletes think of water exercises as an alternative type of workout to be used only in the event of an injury. What most people don’t realize is that swimming is one of the best exercises you can do. Not only can you get an amazing workout for your legs, but swimming also provides no impact on your joints. Whether you want to swim like Olympic champion Michael Phelps or just want to strengthen and tone your legs, swimming is an excellent choice in exercise.
Because swimming works your entire body, the benefits include improved posture, cardiovascular functioning, muscle strength and endurance, lung function and flexibility. Doing leg exercises in water can work all of your leg muscles including your hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and calves and can increase your muscle strength and physical fitness.
One simple swimming leg exercise is treading water, which can burn up to 11 calories per minute, according to Fitness Magazine. To tread water, move to the deep end of the pool. Keeping your head out of the water, either kick your legs or move them in a circular motion. You can also engage your arms by moving them horizontally. One variation of treading water is called the K-tread. To do this exercise, position your body vertically in the water and keep afloat by making small circles with your cupped hands. Lift your right leg out in front of you to hip level and point your toes with both feet. Hold this pose for five seconds before quickly bringing your right down as your raise your left leg. Continue alternating legs every five seconds for 30 seconds.
A kickboard can also be used in the water to assist you or enhance your leg exercises. One way to use a kickboard is by laying it flat on the water. You can hold onto the kickboard and do single leg kicking in various styles across the length of the pool. Another way to utilize a kickboard is as resistance by holding it vertically in the water. If you’re working out with a partner, try the competition kicking exercise. Hold the board vertically in the water with one person on each side of it holding on with both hands. Then kick as hard as you can, attempting to move you and your partner.
Because water provides 12 times the resistance as air, according to Arthritis Today, a great way to exercise your legs is through aqua jogging. Stand in the shallow side of the pool, finding the right depth for you and jog from one end of the pool to the other. The deeper the water is, the harder your workout will be.
Working out in the water can include both aerobic exercise, such as aqua jogging, as well as strength-training exercises, such as K-treads. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults should do aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes three times per week and should do strength training with each of their major muscle groups two to three times per week. ACSM recommends waiting 48 hours before strength training the same muscle group in order to allow your muscles adequate time to repair.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.