Water Aerobics : Build Muscle And Lose Fat


Aqua Aerobics

If you are an athlete, and a self-described “water person,” water aerobics is the perfect way to burn fat, increase muscle mass and enjoy your favorite environment — the water!

A study published in 2006 in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that participants who engaged in aqua aerobics for 40 minutes per day, four days per week with their work out schedule, lost the same amount of weight and body fat as the participants who land-walked for the same amount of time and frequency.

All told, the water and land-based participants lost an average of 12 pounds, as well as 3.5% of their total body fat.

Fat Gone With Water Aerobics

The more a person weighs, the more calories he or she will burn in the water doing aqua aerobics. Water provides natural resistance for your muscles (in addition to low, to no impact to your joints). Because of the increased resistance (remember, water is thicker than air), just about any movement you make in the water is going to result in more calories burned than if you performed the identical movement on land.

That’s right: Caloric expenditure per unit of time is higher in the water due to water’s resistance, and gravity’s landing or loading forces are reduced because of water’s buoyancy properties. In other words, resistance trumps gravity!


Don’t Forget The Diet!

You get in a great workout, and then go to a junk food restaurant and overeat because you are so hungry from the exercise. It’s well documented that it doesn’t help if you work out but don’t eat right. Take care to eat moderately, and add a lot of vegetables to your diet. Just cutting down on food portions by a small amount, while getting enough exercise, can lead to fat loss.  Think about things like

Think about things like late night snacking – cut them out of your life if you want to really get fat loss and build mass. Get a great blender and use kale to make yourself a smoothie instead!

Water Aerobics Exercises With Weights

As with any land-based resistance training with weights, aqua aerobics combined with hand-held water dumbbells or ankle weights will further challenge muscles. In combination with a lean easy diet plan and regular cardio workouts, the outcome will be an increase in muscle mass.

The basic rules of lifting weights should not be ignored in the water. These include:

  • Do not bend or stretch any further than you would on land
  • Maintain good balance  and alignment between upper and lower body (this will become easier over time)
  • Keep abdominals engaged and “pulled in” to support lower back muscles

Water Aerobics Exercises

Arms (biceps curl)

Standing in chest-deep water, with an appropriately-sized water dumbbell in each hand and palms facing forward, let your arms relax at your sides. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Slowly bend at the elbow, one arm at a time, raising the dumbbell to your shoulder and back down. Alternate hands, doing ten reps on each side. Repeat three times. Not a massive arms workout, but should give you a nice pump.

Arms (triceps extension)

Standing straight in chest-deep water and arms bent at the elbows (forearms should be parallel with the bottom of the pool), hold dumbbells at the surface of the water, with palms facing down. Slowly push the weights down until your hands are next to your hips. Rise slowly to the starting position. Do three sets of ten reps.


Legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes)

Standing in waist-deep water, get into the same position as for the bicep curl above. Instead of curling your arms up, let them remain at your sides, holding the water dumbbells. Bend knees into a squatting position, with your weight back on your heels, as if you are going to sit down in a chair. Squat slowly and rise slowly, maintaining your balance and alignment between shoulders and hips the entire time. Do three sets of ten, with a minute of rest between sets.

Legs (calves)

With ankle weights strapped to each leg, stand in waist-deep water, lightly holding the edge of the pool for balance. Raise heels together and lower back down slowly for a calves workout.


Think Function

In training for losing weight or for building muscle mass, a basic concept to keep in mind is functional fitness. If you just build mass, and don’t think about what you’ll use it for, the fitness might not be very effective. You have a great workout in the water and increased both your repetitions and the amount of weight you worked with. .

The next day you have to carry a heavy suitcase down the stairs, and throw out your back. It’s important with water workouts to think about real life uses for the work you’re doing. You want to train to build a body that will take care of real life activities in real life positions. If lifting your child out of his car seat causes you back problems, you might want to adjust the workout.

Work Together For Aqua Fitness

Functional exercise is a buzzword at the gyms and in the water these days, for a reason. You want to focus on make the muscle groups work together. Conventional weight training typically isolates muscle groups, but to be functional, you want the muscles to work with each other. For instance, in waist deep water, to perform a bent-over row you take a water weight, lean against the site of the pool with one arm, and pull the weight with your arm hanging straight down. You pull the weight up until your upper arm is parallel to the ground.

This work will blend effort for the muscles of the back, shoulders, and arms – and in effect work your whole body. Doing this exercise will translate into real life – whether as a nurse transferring a patient from a bed, a carpenter sawing wood or a mechanic hanging over the fender of a car.

Note: In a water workout, remember not to compromise form for speed; don’t ramp up the speed of your reps unless you have complete control of your form. Your balance and coordination in the water will gradually improve over time and as your body adjusts to the effects of buoyancy.


Kaitlin Gardner started AnApplePerDay.com to further her passion for a family friendly, green living lifestyle. She is married to her college sweetheart and lives in Pennsylvania. She and her husband enjoy going for long hikes, to get out and enjoy nature. She is working on her first book about ways to live an eco-friendly, healthy, natural life.

Guest Blogger

Kaitlin Gardner



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