Can a Swim Spa Replace a Trip to the Swimming Pool?
A swim spa is certainly convenient, but can it really replace a trip to the pool?
Just ask Team GB athlete Matt Richards, who won gold in the freestyle relay at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in almost world record time.
But 18 months before stepping on the plane to Tokyo, Richards was worried about coronavirus lockdowns ruining his Olympic build-up. So, he bought a garden pool to keep on training, attached some bungee cords to the garage wall to hold him in place, and swam for hour after hour in his wetsuit to keep a feel for the water and stay sharp while the traditional lap pool was out of action.
Richards’s make-shift swim spa is a lot less sophisticated than the models you’ll pick up at a WhatSwimSpa? approved retailer, but still propelled him to Olympic gold.
A swim spa can be an incredibly effective training tool even if you have easy access to a swimming pool or somewhere on your doorstep to go for an open water swim. Because its current holds you in place, a swim spa is a perfect place for your coach to analyse your stroke and help you improve it.
Of course, a swim spa can be used for a lot more than just swimming. Accessories like dummy oars that transform it into a rowing machine, underwater stationary bikes and treadmills, and waterproof free weights can turn it into a fully-equipped home gym.
Plus, the buoyancy of the water reduces the strain on your joints while you exercise in your swim spa, making it the perfect place to get in a low-impact workout. This can be invaluable if you’re looking to keep fit into your golden years, you’re recovering from an injury, or if you want to protect yourself from an injury ahead of a race or event.
The swim chamber of a swim spa is also a great place to perform a stretching or callisthenics routine, as the hot water helps warm up your muscles and reduces the strain on your joints.
And when you’re done exercising, you can hop straight into the hot tub section of your swim spa for a massage that will help you recover as quickly as possible.
A swim spa is a particularly effective training tool for triathletes. While you can always go on a run or bike ride from your front door, a trip to a swimming pool or an open-water swimming spot can be hard to fit into a busy schedule.
A swim spa makes getting your laps in as convenient as a run or bike ride, making it as easy as possible for triathletes to spread their training evenly – even when a trip to the pool is out of the question.
Through accessories like underwater treadmills and water bikes, your swim spa can become your one-stop shop for triathlon training – all from the comfort of your back garden. And because exercising in water reduces the impact on your joints, it’s a great way to stave off injuries and prolong your career as a triathlete.
Check out these top swim spa exercises to help with weight loss and improve your aquatic fitness:
Looking to add an extra challenge to your swim spa workout routine? Consider incorporating resistance training exercises with the help of resistance bands or dumbbells that often come standard or discounted with many swim spa packages.
With exercises like bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions, and side lateral raises, you can effectively isolate and strengthen your muscles while also burning calories thanks to the added resistance from the water and bands/dumbbells combined.
A systematic review paper published in 2022 has also recently found that a range of low-intensity, high-speed water resistance training methods, including the use of dumbells, can improve swimming performance more so than traditional land strength training among samples of adolescent swimmers.
Scientific research like the above only further highlights the power of water resistance training methods and their effectiveness in improving athletic performance such as swimming.
Water jogging is an excellent low-impact cardio exercise that can be easily done in a swim spa. Simply put on a flotation belt to maintain an upright position in the water and start jogging in place.
The water’s resistance provides an added challenge for your muscles and cardiovascular system, forcing you to work harder and further increase your overall calorie burn and cardiovascular fitness. Try varying or building up your speed throughout the session or maybe even opt to use a timed HIIT routine for your water jogging as mentioned above!
Aqua cycling, also known as water spinning, is a fun and effective way to burn fat in a swim spa. This exercise involves pedalling on a stationary bike that is specially designed for water use, allowing you to keep cool in the water while you work out.
Most Aqua Bikes sold on the market today are priced between £800 – £1,500, however despite the steep price, they offer a fantastic and fun solution to help you tone your lower body muscles by utilising the challenging resistance from the water while also torching calories.
Focus on engaging your core and keeping proper form to maximize your results.
Using a kickboard in a swim spa can provide you with excellent lower-body workouts to help build strength and endurance. Using your arms and upper body you can keep your top half above the water, allowing you to completely focus and isolate your leg muscles and focus on kicking your legs against the resistance of the water.
This exercise targets your glutes, quads, and hamstrings while also engaging your core. You can also incorporate different kicking styles such as flutter kicks and dolphin kicks to work different muscle groups and maximize calorie burn.
WhatSwimSpa? recommends the FINIS Foam Kickboard for all swim spa owners out there, a great value kickboard made from EVA foam materials that protect the skin from chafing or irritation.
Strengthening your core is essential for overall fitness and stability, and a swim spa is a perfect place to help give your core the strength and endurance it needs.
In a swim spa, you can perform a variety of core exercises, often using the handles on either side of the swim spa to stabilise yourself. The added buoyancy of the water makes every exercise a true test of your strength, burning calories, improving your balance and posture, and leaving you feeling fantastic.
One fantastic exercise to work both your abdominals and your obliques is core rotations, simply hold the handles at each side of the swim spa to stabilise yourself before rotating your core from right to left using your hip flexors. Keep your upper body tight and straight as you rotate, keeping your core tight and focusing on slow and controlled repetitions.
Various ranges of swim spas produced in 2023 and beyond can now come equipped with an underwater treadmill, with many retailers also now offering underwater treadmill packages as optional extras when you buy.
This innovative feature allows you to walk or jog in the water, providing low-impact exercise that’s perfect for those who love traditional workouts. With the ability to adjust the incline and speed of the treadmill, you can easily tailor your routine to achieve your desired level of intensity and raise your heart rate.
With rowing in a swim spa, you’ll enjoy a full-body workout that’s as rewarding as it is low-impact. And don’t forget the stretch cords! These handy tools can help you target the same muscles you would at the gym, minus the weights.
If you can row in the seated position then that is recommended, however, if not, simply keep your feet shoulder-width apart, tighten your core, and ensure you are rowing with equal power in both of your arms simultaneously using the row bar.
It’s a convenient and effective way to stay in shape and maintain your health, and best of all, swim spa rowing allows you to burn more calories than dryland rowing as your body works harder to fight against the extra resistance of the water.
Medicine balls are underrated exercise equipment tools when it comes to keeping fit and building strength. You can also utilise medicine balls when it comes to aquatic resistance exercises, with exercises such as the ball pass being very popular.
To conduct the exercise most effectively, stand upright and keep your legs shoulder width apart, passing the medicine ball behind your back and back around to your front, keeping good posture and your shoulders pinned back and down. Be aware of not rounding your shoulders forward throughout the movement, and perform the exercise in both directions for 30-60 second sets 2 to 3 times.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is a fantastic workout method that combines high-intensity exercises with short rest periods for optimal results.
In a swim spa, you can perform HIIT by swimming at maximum effort for a certain distance or time e.g., 3 minutes, followed by a brief rest period of lower-intensity resistance e.g., 1 minute, then repeat.
This type of workout helps you burn a ton of calories while also increasing your metabolism so that you can keep burning calories even after your session is over.
Water aerobics is a great way to get in a low-impact workout, often involving easy-to-do moves such as jumping jacks, leg kicks, and arm circles that allow you to work both your upper and lower body simultaneously. The best part? Since you’re in the water, your muscles get a great workout while remaining safe and stress-free.
If you’ll be the only one using your swim spa, then you’ll likely be best suited to one with a single chamber. If other members of your household might be using your swim spa at the same time as you, then you’ll be best off going for a dual-chamber model – budget and pace permitting. That way the performance of the swim jets won’t be affected if someone hops in the hot tub while you’re getting in your laps.
Another important decision to make is whether to go for a swim spa with a flow- or jet-driven propulsion system. This will affect how the current you’ll be swimming against is generated, which completely changes how it feels to swim in.
A flow-driven system better replicates the feeling of swimming against the current of the sea, whereas a jet-driven system produces a powerful stream of water that generally makes it easier to find and stay in the “sweet spot”. Neither is necessarily better than the other, but they do feel quite different, so it’s crucial you wet test both kinds of swim spas to find which you prefer.
More expensive models of both types come with more sophisticated electronics that give you complete control over the stream you swim against, so it’s well worth spending a bit more if your budget allows if you’re planning on using your swim spa for serious exercise.
Last but not least, it’s also important to get to grips with all the accessories and equipment that come along with any swim spa you have your eye on. This is another thing it’s crucial to run through as part of a wet test, especially if you’ve got plans to use your swim spa as a fully-fledged home gym.
Investing in a swim spa and going for a swim will become as convenient as heading out for a run or a bike ride. Plus, dedicated underwater exercise equipment can transform it into a complete home gym at the bottom of your garden.
And don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t be able to get a full swim in a swim spa. Instead, head to your nearest WhatSwimSpa? approved retailer and wet-test some models to find the perfect match for you. Once you’ve found one you like you’ll be able to slip into your swimming costume and head for a swim absolutely any time – no hassle required.
Absolutely! Exercising in a swim spa has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness in tens of scientific papers to date, in turn helping you burn calories and lose weight on the scales. Water resistance combined with a diverse range of targeted training methods and exercises can boost metabolism, promote weight loss, and enhance muscle strength.
How often should I exercise in a swim spa to see results?
The frequency of your swim spa workouts depends on your current health, fitness goals, and personal preferences. A great target and goal would be to aim for at least three sessions per week, and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts as your fitness levels improve.
Are swim spa exercises suitable for all fitness levels?
Yes, swim spa exercises can be adapted to accommodate different fitness levels. Beginners can start with gentle water aerobics or walking, while advanced individuals can incorporate high-intensity interval training or resistance exercises. Listen to your body and choose exercises that challenge you without causing discomfort or pain.
Can swim spa exercises help with rehabilitation or joint pain?
Yes, swim spa exercises are gentle on the joints and can be beneficial for rehabilitation purposes. The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on your joints while still providing resistance for muscle strengthening. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to determine the best exercises for your specific needs.
How long should a swim spa workout session last?
Aim for a swim spa workout session of 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your fitness level and available time. Remember to warm up before starting your exercises and cool down afterwards to prevent injury and promote muscle recovery.
Can I combine swim spa exercises with other forms of exercise?
Absolutely! Swim spa exercises can be combined with other forms of exercise such as strength training, yoga, or outdoor activities. Variety in your workout routine not only keeps things interesting but also allows you to target different muscle groups and achieve overall fitness.
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I am the Content Writer and Marketing Officer at WhatSwimSpa? Magazine. I recently graduated with Distinction from Northumbria University with a Master's degree in Occupational and Organizational Psychology. My role at WhatSwimSpa? is to ensure that all swim spa and hot tub lovers can easily access the highest quality and most up-to-date content, news and information from within the UK wet leisure industry. In my spare time, I love to produce music and DJ across the country, possessing a significant passion for all underground dance and electronic music genres.
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