If you're looking for a great workout that differs from the norm, try a water workout with dumbbells. The American Council on Exercise states that one of the best settings for nonimpact workouts is water. Water has several properties that make it an exercise medium of choice. Water eliminates the effects of gravity on your joints, creating a nonimpact environment. It also inherently provides resistance, creating a more effective workout than on land. Water has the same benefits as land-based programs and can improve strength, flexibility and endurance, as well as decrease body fat.
Many items can be used in the water to provide increased resistance including pool noodles, recycled milk jugs and water dumbbells. Most fitness centers or aquatic exercise centers will have foam dumbbells that are safe to use in the water. To devise your own program at home, you can also use recycled milk or bleach jugs, empty or filled with increasing amounts of water to increase resistance. Once you have the proper equipment, you can devise a program that fits your goals and needs. Remember any land-based activity can be translated to the water.
Strengthening exercises are the easiest to transition to the water medium. Any weight-training exercise that you do with free weights on land, you can do in the water. For upper-body exercises, you should be shoulder or neck deep to maximize water’s natural resistance. Try lateral raises, biceps curls, rowing and chest flyes to work the major muscle groups of the upper body. For lower-body exercises, you need to be at least waist deep in the water. Calf raises, squats and lunges can be advanced with the addition of water dumbbells
Water dumbbells can be beneficial to cardiovascular fitness and endurance training. Running with dumbbells in your hand is a great cardiovascular workout. Try mixing in jumping jacks with water weights and running backward for an increased challenge.
Water workouts are not just for old ladies in shower caps anymore. Many fitness centers are offering various water classes including poolates (pilates in the pool) and boot-camp-caliber fitness classes. Check one out the next time you want a change. Keep in mind that your heart rate is blunted in a water medium, so your target heart rate should be around 15 to 20 beats lower. It is also important to stay hydrated. Bring a plastic or stainless steel water bottle with you poolside, so you can rehydrate during your workout.
Mary Tolley Rhodes has been a practicing physical therapist since 2000, working in various settings across the southeastern United States. She serves as the chairwoman of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association's Education Committee. Rhodes holds a master's degree in physical therapy from West Virginia University.