Exercises to do in a hydrotherapy pool

Hydrotherapy pool exercises can help you rebuild muscle and strength without too much stress on your body. Hydrotherapy pools are great for rehabilitation and physiotherapy, so here are some exercises you can try!

Make sure you warm-up

This might seem odd to say considering that hydrotherapy pools are already warm, but it’s important that you do a little warm-up first to make sure you don’t injure yourself or the person you are exercising with.

If possible, spend about five minutes walking around the pool to acclimatise your body temperature and to loosen up your muscles. Spend another two or three minutes stretching your muscles and making sure you’re ready to exercise.

It’s good to repeat these stretches at the end of your workout to prevent any injuries or soreness.

A child wearing goggles in a pool with a float.
Warming up will help your muscles to loosen up so any exercises will be easier and there will be less chance of you causing yourself an injury.

Hydrotherapy pool shoulder exercises

Starting with some shoulder exercises, straighten your arm and gently reach forward, then upwards, and then out to the side. Repeat this rotation three to ten times per arm.

You can complete this exercise whilst standing or seated in the water. It will help to stretch out your shoulder joint and build strength and stability in your deltoids and surrounding muscles.

With your arms held underwater, start making small circles that gradually get bigger and bigger. Change direction and repeat the same number of rotations to work your deltoids, biceps, and scapula.

Arm exercises for a hydrotherapy pool

When sat in the pool, hold your arms straight down either side of your body. Then bend your elbow (either both at the same time or one at a time) and touch your fingertips to your shoulder and extend the arm back down.

Like a traditional bicep curl motion, this exercise will work your biceps and your triceps. It will also help loosen up the elbow joint itself.

Do three to ten repetitions with each arm.

Another exercise you could try if you don’t want to make too much motion but still want to work your arm muscles is to twist your wrists in small circular motions. Then bend them forwards and backwards and touch each fingertip gently to the thumb, and finally squeeze your hands into fists.

Repeat this motion to help mobility through the wrist and fingers.

These can also be carried out with foam dumbbells or other apparatus suitable for hydrotherapy pool exercises.

A lady using foam dumbbells whilst exercising in a pool.
Using dumbbells will help to build muscle tone by adding resistance to the exercise.

Leg exercises in a pool

Leg exercises can be a little trickier because you’ll need to be able to be supported in the pool to aid your balance. This can be done with another person holding you or by holding on to a handrail around the edge of the pool.

The first exercise to try will require you to hold on to the rail (or another person) with one hand and stand up straight. Then bend the knee of the opposite leg and raise your leg to a right angle from your body.

If you want to take this one step further, rotate your leg out to the side when it is bent up and this will work your abductor and adductor muscles. This will also build strength and stability around the tops of your legs and the hip.

Repeat the action as many times as necessary to loosen up your hip joint and work the surrounding muscles. Make sure you do the same number of repetitions on the opposite leg.

If you’re struggling to keep your leg up, then feel free to hold on around the knee or behind the thigh for some extra stability.

Whilst holding on to the rail or the pool wall, keep your leg straight and hold it for five seconds (or less if necessary). Then swing the leg back and try and hold it for the same amount of time.

Repeat on each leg the same number of times and try and increase the amount of time you hold the leg forwards and backwards if comfortable. This will help improve balance and work your gluteus maximus.

You can help to loosen up your ankles by rotating them slowly clockwise and anticlockwise in the pool. Then point your toes up and down.


These are a few simple exercises you can try in a hydrotherapy pool to improve your muscle strength and balance. There are lots of others, but it very much depends on your existing physical strength.

We recommend that you come up with an exercise plan with a physiotherapist to make sure you’re hitting all the right muscles.