A Simple Swim Spa Exercise Routine

Condition, strengthen and stretch

You come home from a long day at work, your back is aching and all you want to do is relax in your hot tub. But you haven’t been to the gym in over a week and you’re starting to feel guilty about your lack of exercise. Before you throw on your cross-trainers and head out the door, why not combine your two desires? A hot tub can be a great workout if you know the proper exercises.

Whether you own a hot tub or a swim spa, there are plenty of exercises you can do to get the full benefits of the hot water. The buoyancy of water decreases the impact that exercise has on your joints and the heat helps improve your range of motion and increases your muscles ability to stretch and relax.

For years, doctors and physical therapists have been using swim spas and hot tubs to help their patients recover from injury and surgery. It’s only been in recent years that this trend has taken off in the private sector. More and more people are now realizing that hot water exercise can improve their health, fitness and state-of-mind.

Rick McAvoy, who has his doctorate in physical therapy and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, has long been an advocate of using water to help people recover from injuries and surgeries. In 2005, he completed a study that found mixing water therapy with land-based therapy increased the knee flexibility and function on patients who had total-knee-replacement surgery.

“A lot of people use their hot tubs to chill out and relax,” McAvoy says. “They’re in this great environment that you can really benefit from exercising in, and if you bought this thing, why not use it? Why not get full use out of it with training and exercise?”

McAvoy had several patients in his clinic ask how they could use the exercises he was doing with them in their hot tubs at home. Because of those requests, McAvoy, with the help of Master Spas, put together a book and videos of exercises that could be done in spas.

“I think the thing about the water that I love so much is that it is very holistic,” McAvoy says. “I don’t think a lot of people really understand how powerful water is and what you can do in it.”

In water, you get resistance from 360 degrees around you, something that is not possible with any land-based workout. There’s an entirely different set of physics at play when you’re working out.

It’s a good idea to initially work with someone trained in aquatic fitness to teach you how to use your swim spa properly and to set up a workout routine. Manuals and videos are a great resource, but to get the most benefit out of your investment, get a program custom-fit to your body.

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Warm-up in the water by stretching, swimming against the current or with a swim tether, jogging/walking and doing deep breathing exercises.

Use treading water or jogging in the water to recover between exercises. For your cool-down, swim easy laps, walk and do stretches in the water.


Deep-water running in a swim spa is a great, no-impact cross-training activity for anyone who wants to build and tone the muscles in your lower body. But you can take the typical exercises, walking, jogging and running against the current, and amp them up.

  • Run against the current with your knees coming up high towards your chest.
  • Run with your knees pointing downward and your heels coming up high, kicking your buttocks.
  • Holding a water weight in each hand, run against the current while pumping your arms.


Exercising against the resistance of water burns more calories than working out on land and it is an excellent muscle-strengthener. Exercises with fitness equipment include rowing, lifting weights (there are weights made for use in the water), exercises with strength bands and using a kickboard will strengthen your core muscles and your ankles.

  • Keeping knees and feet together, jump straight up while pushing down into the water with your hands.
  • Jump up with both feet, your knees pointing downward and both heels coming up high at the same time, kicking your buttocks.
  • Standing on a kickboard submerged in shallow water, tuck your knees up toward the chest letting the kickboard come up under your feet, then push it back down.
  • Hold the kickboard with both hands. Use your abs to twist your upper body, pushing the kickboard against the current on your right and then on your left.
  • Face the source of the current and do jumping jacks while holding the water weights, bringing the water weights only up to just below the surface of the water.
  • Stand to the side and swing your hips and your arms, as if you’re swinging a baseball bat into the jets. You can also hold onto a tenser cord with both hands doing the same baseball swinging exercise only this time you’ll be resisting the tenser cord instead of resisting the jets.
  • Stand in a forward stance and do bear hugs, big open-armed bear hugs towards the jets, the bear hugs will work the chest, but in addition you’re also going to be stabilizing yourself the entire time against the jets so you’re going to add a little bit of core exercise in there.
  • Kick into the jets to work on your stability and your leg strength. It’s like you’re kicking down a door but you’re kicking into the jets.
  • If there is a bar above the swim jets, hold onto it and pull your knees through the water stream to your chest.
  • Tread water holding a weight or a medicine ball. If done with a partner, pass the weight back and forth.
  • Box in the water either holding a tenser cord or punching into the jet stream. Throw big forward swinging rights, swinging lefts and uppercuts, getting into a rhythm.
  • Depending on the setup of your swim spa, you have a few different options for rowing. You can sit and use a row bar or you can prop yourself up against the step or walls for stability and use tenser cords.


Just about any of the stretches you do on land can also be done in the water. When you’re finished with your toning, hold the side of the pool with one hand, stand on one foot, bend the other knee and grasp your ankle with your free hand to stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors.

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