Backyard pools aren’t just for fun. You can also get a workout in a small backyard pool, too!
Whether you have a permanent inground pool or a temporary above-ground pool, you can still turn your pool into a personal gym.
Don’t have a pool? We’ll cover some options for you to help you get set up for a relatively inexpensive cost.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trainers, coaches, or medical providers. These workouts and suggestions are only provided for informational purposes. Only those individuals who can safely complete these workouts should attempt them. Please consult with your health care provider if you’re seeking medical and/or exercise advice. Please see our disclaimer for more information.
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- Backyard Pool Safety
- Why You Should Workout in a Pool
- How to Workout in a Small Backyard Pool
- 1. Swimming
- 2. Water Aerobics
- 3. Aqua Jogging
- 4. Water Walking
- 5. Body Weight and Other Ideas
- Small Backyard Temporary Pool Options
- BONUS: How Do You Keep a Backyard Pool Clean?
- In Closing
- Bonus Content
- Want to Improve at the Pool?
Backyard Pool Safety
Before we start, it’s important to note that you should never work out in the water by yourself. You should always have someone nearby in the event something happens.
Accidents do happen. And though 3 feet (or less) may seem shallow, if you slip, pass out, or cramp up, it’s enough to drown you.
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For this reason, we highly recommend having a workout buddy. Or someone nearby who can assist if something does happen.
Some other safety items to note:
- Stay hydrated and keep a reusable water bottle nearby (never use glass near the pool)
- Have a well stocked first aid kit
- Check chemical levels before getting into the water
- Don’t workout after eating a heavy meal
- Avoid the water during a storm and get out of the pool if a storm blows in
- Keep your phone nearby in the event of an emergency
- Remove any covers completely from your pool
This isn’t an all-inclusive list and we encourage you to use your best judgment when you’re unsure. Consult a pool specialist as needed.
Why You Should Workout in a Pool
Water provides a great low-impact workout, which makes it great for the joints. While still providing a high aerobic workout that can also strengthen your muscles.
And as water is denser than air, you have more resistance to work through. This makes the body work harder without you realizing it.
How to Workout in a Small Backyard Pool
Most people think of swimming when it comes to working out in any type of pool. And while you can’t swim laps in a small backyard pool, you can still swim.
Related article: How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?
For small backyard pools, we recommend a depth that’s at least 3 feet deep. Any less may cause you to hit your fingers on the bottom of the pool.
- A swim bungee or tether, such as the YYST Swim Bungee or StretchCordz Bungees
- A sturdy anchor point, such as a tree or a well anchor pole
- Thick, durable rope (optional)
- Fitness tracker (optional)
Swim Bungees or Tethers
One of the best ways to swim in your backyard pool is by utilizing a swim bungee (also called a swim tether).
A swim bungee is a bungee or stretchy cable that comes in different resistances. It’s attached to a belt that goes around the waist. And the opposite end loops around a stable, stationary object. Such as a tree or a sturdy fence post or railing.
To get in a workout with one, swim out and against the bungee until you feel some resistance. Once you feel the bungee cord pull taunt, maintain your stroke and keep swimming.
Related article: How Many Laps is a Good Swim Workout?
It sounds easy but you’ll find that it’s more of a challenge than you think. Mainly because the bungee cord will keep pulling you back as you swim. And you’re constantly having to keep pulling against it.
Because of this, you’ll end up with more of a workout than regular lap swimming!
You can wear a fitness tracker to keep track of how many ‘laps’ you swam. And the distance that you swam.
Related article: 8 Best Waterproof Fitness Trackers for Swimming
Two options for good swim bungees are:
If you need more length between the pool and your anchor point, you’ll need a sturdy strip of rope. I’ve also used tie-down straps, which worked decently well 🙂
2. Water Aerobics
Despite what most people believe, water aerobics isn’t just for older individuals. It’s a great workout for any age and walk of life. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to do in a small backyard pool.
For any type of water aerobics, we do recommend a water level that’s at least 3-4 feet deep, depending on your height. Minimally, the water should come up to at least your hips for the best workout.
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- Pool noodle or Fitness Noodle
- Aquatic Dumbbells
- Aquatic Bar Float
- Water weights
- Aqua Gloves (Optional)
- Water Shoes (optional)
- Kickboard (optional)
- Bubble or Lycra Swim Cap (optional, to keep hair out of your face/eyes and protect it)
Here are a few workouts you can try that will work in a small backyard pool and still give you a good workout.
Leg Lift with a Pool Noodle
This exercise targets your legs and core. Along with your balance!
Bend a pool noodle into a U shape and place your foot on the curve of the noodle. Hold onto the wall to keep your balance.
With the foot on the noodle, lift your thigh up and then extend your leg out. Once it’s out as far as it can go, pull it back down to the bottom of the pool.
Repeat this for several repetitions for each leg.
Water aerobics can also work your core. This exercise is similar to a crunch you would do on land.
Loop the pool noodle in front of your body so that your arms rest on top of it. Let your body float to the surface and then bring your knees up to your chest in a crunch.
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You’ll want to use your hands to scull along the water to help keep your balance so you can stay afloat. Your bottom will sink some when you crunch but that’s okay.
Arm Workouts with a Pool Noodle
There are two variations of this workout. One uses a single pool noodle. And the other uses two smaller pool noodles (typically one that’s been cut in half).
You can also use water dumbbells for these if you prefer.
Let the long pool noodle rest on the surface of the water in front of you and place your hands on top of it. Press the noodle down into the water and then lift it back up. You can add to this exercise by pushing the noodle forward through the water and bringing it back to you.
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An alternative to this exercise is to use two short pool noodles. This exercise does work better in deeper water that goes up to your chest, at least.
Start by standing in the water with your arms extended and a hand on each pool noodle.
Press the pool noodles down in the water and bring them down to your sides. And back up again.
You should feel this in your core and up in your arms.
For this, we recommend using a hard shell kickboard, as it’ll give you the most resistance. However, please adjust your equipment as needed based on your ability. If a kickboard is too much resistance, stick with the pool noodle or dumbbells.
Stand or squat in the water and hold the kickboard out in front of you. The wide flat side of the board should face your body. Now press the kickboard back and forth for a set number of repetitions.
The deeper you press the board into the water, the more resistance you’ll get.
This will make your pool extremely wavy, so be prepared for some splashing!
3. Aqua Jogging
Much like water aerobics, aqua jogging isn’t just for older individuals. Professional athletes use this form of exercise to keep in shape while recovering from injury. Or to give their joints a break from the pressure of running on land.
Aqua jogging uses the same jogging motions as you do on land. Making it easy to transition the same motion into water.
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Adding a pair of aqua shoes adds to the workout, as it creates more resistance and drag while you’re working out. They can also provide some support and protect your feet from the rough pool bottom.
If you’re just starting, an aqua belt can help give you some aid during your workout by keeping you upright. Aqua belts can also support your lower back.
Depending on your pool size, you may not be able to run laps in your pool. And that’s okay! Stationary running as a workout is an option in small pools.
You can either use an aqua belt for this or opt to go without one.
When you run in place, try to follow the same motions that you would when running on land. If you need to, hold onto the side of the pool for stability.
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Try mixing up your workout by incorporating some high knees by bringing your knees up to the surface of the water. This will make the exercise more challenging, increase the cardio aspect, and keep things from getting boring.
Like a bungee cord, this device hooks to the back of your aqua belt and a stationary object. And you simply jog out against the resistance of the cord. It may look (and feel) silly at first but you’ll be surprised at how much of a workout you get!
4. Water Walking
Much like you would run or walk on land, you can do the same in the water. Of course, your distance is much shorter in a small backyard pool 😉
But don’t let that stop you from getting in a good workout. Some water walking or jogging workout options are
- Walk forward in one direction and then backward in the opposite direction
- If you have a circular pool, walk or jog in a circle until you get a current going, then turn around to walk against the current
- Increase your speed for two laps and then recover for a few laps
- Try adding water weights if you feel comfortable enough
- For more resistance, use a swim bungee or tether or aqua hitch and walk or run against the pull of it
5. Body Weight and Other Ideas
Exercising in a small backyard pool isn’t just aerobic-type workouts. You can also do some strength exercises to help tone and build muscle. Either with bodyweight or water-appropriate weights.
Wall Press Ups (permanent pools only)
Unless you have a deck built around the edge of your above-ground pool, this exercise should only be used for inground pools. Specifically those with a deck around it.
Wall presses are great at working your arms, chest, and back. To do wall press-ups, follow the below guide:
- Place your hands flat on the deck of your pool
- Push yourself up and out of the water so that your hips and legs are still in the water
- Lower your body down into the water as far as you can go and then press back up
If you can only dip down a short distance, that’s okay! Start at that amount and gradually try to go lower every few days or weeks.
Water Squats and Jumps
Squats help build and tone the muscle in your legs. However, they can be hard on the joints when done on land. Doing squats in the water can make it easier on the knees. And to keep your balance.
You can add some weight, such as a medicine ball if you’d like to increase the difficulty of your squat.
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Or, you can add a jump at the end of each squat you do. As you come up from the squat position, push yourself off the bottom of the pool and have your arms reach for the sky.
This will work your legs and your cardio if you do several sets in a row!
Small Backyard Temporary Pool Options
Don’t have a permanent pool? Above ground or temporary pools can still provide enough space in a small backyard to get in a workout for a price that won’t break the bank.
- An above-ground pool of your choice
- Foam mat for a cushion on the bottom
- Pump (optional)
- Chlorine (or another pool cleaner)
To start, you’ll want to identify an area in your backyard to place your pool. The area needs to be level with no debris. Anything sharp, such as sticks or rocks will need to be removed, otherwise, they’ll puncture the pool lining.
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A concrete base is the best option, as its level and grass won’t grow up under it. However, not everyone has this option available. If not, a level spot on the grass will work, too.
If putting your pool on the grass, we do recommend laying down a thick tarp, at a minimum. This will help protect the liner of the pool. And keep grass from growing up into the liner.
2. The Base
An optional but highly recommended step is to cushion the base of your pool. Not only does this make things more comfortable for you, but it protects your liner more than a tarp.
The connections on these might not be the tightest to workout out on. But for sitting under a pool, they should meet your needs.
Get enough mats so that the entire pool can sit on them. Ideally, you should have at least a foot extra of space outside the edge of the pool for additional protection.
3. Pick a Pool!
With your pool area cleared and ready to set up a pool, you just need to pick a pool.
There are dozens of different above-ground pool options to select from. Varying in depth and circumference size, along with budget. You don’t need a large party pool to complete a decent workout.
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A small pool about 14 feet wide should more than suffice for your needs. Just as anything around 4 feet will give you the depth to workout.
Three pool brands to consider are:
Another option is Fitmax iPool. It’s more expensive than the other pools listed above but meant to last longer and is built with exercise/rehab in mind.
It’s ideal for swimming and water aerobics, but its shorter size may make it difficult to run ‘laps’. However, you can still run/walk in place. Or you can utilize resistance cords or an underwater treadmill.
Most pools do require a few extras. And there are always optional extras to consider as well, based on your preference.
At best, you’ll need some type of pool chemical or saltwater treatment. You can buy chlorine as tablets or liquid, depending on what works better for you. Check with the type of filter included in your pool to see which cleaning system works with it.
Some optional extras are:
Once you have a pool picked out and ready to go, start setting up your pool. Along with any ground cover that you’re using.
Keep the bottom of the liner as smooth as you can, as this will make it easier to clean.
We encourage you to follow any provided instructions. And if the frame for the pool isn’t painted or sealed, it may be ideal to seal it so the frame doesn’t start to rust.
Typically, above-ground pools will be loose once you put everything together. But after it starts to fill with water, the liner and extra fittings will start to tighten.
Check that there aren’t any leaks as you go.
Once the pool has enough water, you’re good to go!
BONUS: How Do You Keep a Backyard Pool Clean?
You can go as high or low-tech as you like to keep your pool clean.
Aside from using a filter/pump and your preferred treatment (such as saltwater or chlorine), there are other options to keep your pool clean.
- Pool covers will help keep bugs, leaves, and other objects from getting into the water. And may also help keep the water warmer in addition to cleaner
- Use a skimmer to clean the pool if you decide not to use a pool cover. Or even if you do. They’re great for fishing things out that fall into the water without getting in
- Keep a little bucket or pan of water next to the pool to clean your feet off before entering. This can keep grass and dirt from getting into the water
- Wait at least 20 minutes or so after putting on sunscreen before getting into the water. Any less and the sunscreen will wash right off and can make the water cloudy
- Look at using an automated pool cleaner and letting it run at night so the pool is clean in the morning. This can be more expensive but is less hands-on
You don’t need a gym membership or a large lap pool to get in a decent workout in your backyard pool. Even the smallest of pools can allow you to exercise. You just need to be creative in your approach 🙂
As always, happy swimming!
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Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience in the pool. And although she fell into the sport by accident in her high school years, she still trains daily and competes throughout the year. She’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.