Swimming Exercises for Legs

Women in water aerobics class

Swimming is often recommended as an alternative to high-impact exercise, such as running, tennis or aerobics. You can get a complete workout without having to worry about pounding the pavement, which can result in damage to your ankles, knees and feet. In addition to providing a cardiovascular workout, swimming can also help you tone and strengthen various parts of your body. Your legs can get a workout from swimming laps, treading water and engaging in resistance exercises.

Swimming Laps

Whether you prefer the crawl, butterfly, breaststroke or backstroke, lap swimming requires you to kick and move your legs in even repetitions. Swimming to strengthen and tone your legs means not worrying about your speed in the water. Instead, you want to give your legs a workout and allow them to propel your body while you swim. Keep your ankles flexible and your toes pointed. Kick from your hips so your legs are able to move behind you and give yourself a good push off the wall. Do as many laps as you can before stopping to rest.


Wearing fins on your feet will increase your leg strength while you swim. The blades on your fins will increase the amount of weight on your legs while you swim, causing your muscles to work harder. Kick your legs while wearing fins by stretching out on one side and placing your arm in front of you. Kick on your side without allowing your legs to break the surface of the water. Keeping the fins under water will utilize the natural pressure of the water to make your legs work harder.

Resistance Exercises

Toning the cellulite on your inner thighs and eliminating saddlebags can be achieved by doing resistance exercises in the water. Hold onto the edge of the pool and kick your legs behind you. You can also do side leaps by standing in the water and jumping from side to side, bringing the leg you do not land on up to about the height of your hips. Perform squats in the water by quickly raising one bent leg at a time up to your chest and lowering it back into the water.

Treading Water

Treading water in the deep end of the pool can tone, trim and strengthen your legs. Try a K-tread exercise, which involves raising one leg at a time to hip level in front of you while keeping it straight. Keep your back straight and raise the opposite leg as the first one is coming back down. Do this for 30-second repetitions. Another way to increase the effort of your leg muscles is to let your arms and hands go limp while you tread water, forcing your legs to keep you afloat.

Water Safety

Remember to be careful while exercising in the water. Even an experienced swimmer can become fatigued and disoriented in the water. Avoid swimming alone, and give yourself plenty of rest between exercise cycles. If you have trouble breathing or you get a cramp, stop swimming. When you swim in a public pool, do so only when a lifeguard is present.