Water Exercise, Standing (Aquatic Therapy) – Ask Doctor Jo

Hey everybody, it’s Doctor Jo! Today I’m gonna show you some aquatic therapy exercises standing
in one place. The best thing to do is get a set of weights for you ankles. If you don’t
have any weights and your in the pool, sometimes you tend to float up a little bit and you
want your feet to be on the ground. These are just 1.5 pounds each, so 3 pounds total.
That’s what you want to start off with something light, but if you get stronger, then you can
add more weight. So I’m gonna put my weights on, let’s get going.
The big thing to remember about aquatic therapy exercises is to have good posture while you
are doing it. If you’re swinging and you can see the sky and the pool, then you’re not
doing it right. You want your upper body to be nice and straight the whole time. So the
first exercise I’m gonna show you is just a hip flexion and extension together. You
want to pull your toe up tight. That’s gonna lock out your knee because you want to keep
your knee nice and tight. That’s going to give you some good resistance. So you are
going to bring it to the front and to the back keeping it straight the whole time, and
do that about 10 times. Remember if you feel yourself swinging, then you’re not doing it
right and you want to start over and not push quite as hard. Do 10 on one side, and then
switch and do 10 on the other side. You want to work both legs even if you only have an
injury on one side because while I’m swinging my left side, working that side, I’m stabilizing
with my right side. So you’re actually working both sides as you do it. The next one is gonna
be doing hip abduction and adduction going across your body. You really want to keep
your toes pointed forward the whole time. Many times when people swing out, they kick
their foot out this way. That is changing the muscle you are using. So try to keep your
feet pointed forward the whole time. Lock out that knee and kick out to the side and
across your body. Remember to do 10 on each side. Then you can work your way up from there.
The next one is going to be a hamstring curl. With the hamstring curl, you really want to
keep your hips in a neutral position. The hips aren’t moving. You’re just going to bend
at your knee and kick back like you are trying to kick your bottom. If you hip bends and
your knee comes up forward, that’s not the exercise that I’m looking for. So push that
leg back down, if you have to put your hand on it, that’s fine. Keep your upper body nice
and straight, and kick back. Remember to do it on both side. The next one, we call it
the Rockette kicks. Yes, we are testing your balance and your dancing ability. Keep your
upper body nice and straight. Bend your knee up towards you, kick your leg out, it’s really
going to stretch your hamstrings. Pull back in and come down. If you get too much of a
stretch or you can’t straighten out your knee when you’re kicking out, then don’t bring
your knee quite as high. Just about halfway bring it up and kick out, because this is
a big stretch back there and that’s what you want. Make sure you do both sides, kicking
out, coming back in. Now you are going to work your calves, and your anterior tib muscles
in the front. Spread your feet out about shoulder width apart. You’re gonna go up on your toes
as high as you can. Really stretch high, and then roll back onto your heels. Now, I’m not
sticking my bottom back, I’m really just pulling my toes up when I do that. So rock back and
forth. You can start off with about 15 of these. Up and back. And then finally, you’re
gonna do some squats. Now the squats are just as important in the pool as they are on land.
You want to spread your feet about shoulder width apart to give yourself some good balance.
If your knees come in front of your toes, remember that’s not what you want. You want
to keep your knees pretty much in the same spot. Stick your bottom back, bring your chest
forward and keep your feet flat on the ground. If you’re coming up on your toes, then your
not quite doing it right. And if you’re rocking back on your heels, then you don’t have good
balance. So keep the back straight, chest forward, bottom back. Just like you are going
to sit down in a chair. So try about 15 of those. Those are the simple exercises. If
those are easy, you can not hold on, kicking back and forth working on balance. Or if that’s
easy, hold on start off with your slow, do about 10 of them, and then do 10 fast. Not
quite as big movements, but a lot faster. That will give you more resistance. But remember
if you are swinging, that’s not what you want, and you are not ready for those yet.
Those were some aquatic therapy exercises. If you have any questions, leave them in the
comments section. If you want to check out some more videos, go to askdoctorjo.com. Don’t
forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Remember be safe, have fun, and I hope you
feel better soon!

Comments 84

  • Hi Dr. Jo,
    I just found your videos, they are great! I am an extremely out of shape woman who wants to start getting fit and your videos are just what I was looking for!

    One question about these water exercises – what is the minimum water depth you recommend? I think our pool is only about 3 feet deep (it's more to swim laps) – will this still work for the exercises?

  • It will!! That should take about 50% of gravity away depending on how tall you are. If you get a chance, check out some of my aquatic walking exercises too. Those are a great way to warm up!! Good luck!!


  • Usually with a chronic pain like that the aquatics really do help. You just have to make it a maintenance program and stick with it!! Good luck!!

  • Hi
    I dislocated my right knee two years ago wwhere the lower part pulled out to the right as I turned to the left. I did less badly 6 months later. I put on 35 pounds which I am trying to lose. This was in Greece and I was told to not move at all for 40 days. I now cannot bend my knee further than when I am sitting in a chair. They said an operation would not help and that I have loose joints. I was told I need to do patella tracking exercises. I want to ride my bike and bend easier. Thanks

  • If you have access to a pool, these are probably the best for you right now. You will be able to push yourself a little harder without worrying about the impact that might irritate your knee. Did you tear any ligaments when you dislocated your knee?

  • Hey Jo,
    Can these same leg exercises been done in deep water for no/low impact? I have very bad hip arth. and shallow water is OK but still hurts….I need to strengthen muscles in leg and around hip….will I get any benefit to my muscles in deep water?

  • Yes! I actually have a whole series of aquatic exercises including in the deep water if you want to check them out. You can go to my website, and click on the aquatic therapy tab. Good luck!!

  • No tears, they said "The bad news is you have loose joints and the bad news is you have loose joints". They felt surgery would not help in my case, but the fact that my knee went so far of joint without ripping was a good thing, though it means lots of work to get as much range of motion as possible. I will try the pool exercises. Thank you

  • I hope they help!!

  • why does my head feel heavy?

  • I am not sure. Have you been to a doctor? Do you have any other symptoms?

  • I have a neck stretching video that might help if you want to check that out. I would stop the weights if you feel like it is irritating your pain. Good luck!

  • Unfortunately that is a question for a medical doctor. I am a physical therapist, and that sounds like something that needs to be examined by a medical doctor. If you are having pain with it, you should not wait any longer. I think you were getting deleted because of spam. Many comments do unfortunately.

  • Have you even gone to a doctor to get it checked out? I can't diagnose it, so I wouldn't even know where to start. It could be an inguinal hernia, but you need to go to a doctor for that, and if it is, the only way to fix it is surgery.

  • An inguinal hernia does form in the pubic area, and it doesn't have to be big. They can start off small and grow if not treated.

  • It's not scary if you just go to the doctor.

  • @Cason Teng
    Just go get checked, it ain't so scary…..

  • Hi, Dr. Jo! What's "Jo" short for?

  • It's a secret 😉

  • Hey lovely @AskDoctorJo,

    How can I strengthen my meniscus?

  • Hey there! Well you can't actually strengthen the meniscus itself. You have to strengthen the muscles around the knee to protect the meniscus. Those muscles would be your hamstrings, quads, calves, IT band, and hip adductors! I have videos for all of those 🙂 Good luck!

  • Do you have some water exercises for the "bottom of the trunk" muscles?

  • These do! Especially the 4 way hip…it works the lower trunk area as well! I also have some deep water videos that might help too! Good luck!

  • @AskDoctorJo

    Great!!! Thanks 🙂

  • You're welcome!!

  • Great jump into the pool at the beginning Doctor Jo :). You must burn easily, Never seen someone wear so much in the pool. Don't those sneakers get ruined (or stinky)..lol? But great advice. Will try this out this summer 🙂

  • thank u for help ,,,i made an ACL and meniscus surgery ,,about a month ago ,,,,is there is any exercise of these should i avoid ? 🙂 ,,,,thank u 🙂 

  • Awesome thanks for the help :)! Is there any arm and hand therapy you can recommend to do as well?

  • i have done ACL and meniscus surgery 6 weeks ago ,,,is it ok for me to  this with weights ?..and if there any prohibited exercise or additive plz tell me,,,thank u :))) 

  • im not on weight bearing precautions 🙂 ,,,,i think i will take them with me now 🙂 ,,,,thank uuuuu dr jo

  • I am having TKR in a month. I want to strengthen my knees (and everything else) before and after the surgery. I am using your core and upper body exercises too. How often should I do each area of the body? Everything every day, or alternate days and should I have a rest day?

  • Hi Dr Jo, i just stumbled upon your videos as i was looking for shin stretches.Quick questions, I'm really out of shape and started walking. I'm looking to start doing some strengthening exercises and was wonder if it would still be beneficial to do this pool routine outside of a pool since i don't have access to one. Thanks! Hope to hear from you!

  • hi doctor jo. thanks for the videos.  id just like to ask if this is also applicable for senior aged people like around 70yrs old?

  • hi doctor jo i am an athelet from utah i am a football player. just a question i just recently tore my acl and mcl do to sports, would pool exercises be a good or bad thing for me to do to strengthen my knee? please let me kno thanks:)

  • Hello Dr. Jo, I suffered a stroke in 2012 which left me with left side weakness. Then in 2014 I was involved in a car accident, I was struck head on which shattered my tib/fib into 25 pieces just at my right knee. After 3 surgeries I have half of "Home Depot" in my right knee. I suffer from weakness in both legs but primarily pain and stiffness in my rt knee. Can the pool exercises help me at all with range of motion and pain relief? Thanks!

  • I suffered a Trimalleloar fracture to my left ankle five months ago, resulting in two surgeries, 11 screws and 2 plates. My doctor is a strong supporter of water therapy so for the last two months I was in Aquatic Therapy, which I have now completed. My doctor strongly recommends that I continue walking in water as much as possible on my own. Do you have any special exercises that will aid in my progress of healing? I feel that I need all over core and upper body, plus hip. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you.

  • So grateful to you for your Water exercises.  I cannot tell you what it means to me to be able to do no impact workout in the water.   I kept hurting myself every time I tried to do regular exercise.  I would end up unable to walk.  Discouraged.  (Old car accident, weight as a result of using a crutch daily.) Now I am doing every day exercises in the pool!  THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thanx for the videos doctor Jo, im wondering about the weights …are those special weights for water or may I be able to use what i use in land ….they are also 1.5 kg.

  • are there any exercises for strengthening of the knee cap? i have a condition of the ITB.

  • have access to both a pool and a hot tub.  I would like to do some stretching and core strengthening exercises that you do in your video as well as walk against the current in a lazy river and spend some time in the hot tub.  I don't know what the best sequence is to do these tasks.  Can you please advise me on the proper order?  Thank you.

  • Hi Dr. Jo

    I have CRPS and I just started my first aqua therapy with my therapist today. I have many other problems such as my back and neck and my neck is narrowing. Fibro, Stage 2 kidney disease and so much more I have been diagnosised with. Spondylosis. CRPS is in both legs and feet with some atrophy starting in my ankles and neck. I have had CRPS for 4 years now and the doctor says there is nothing more they can do for me. I have had injections, RF, steriod shots, Ketamine, and they say they can not put a SCS in becasue of my hypersensitivity even under anisthesia. Therefore they are considering a pain pump and looking for a doctor to do surgery for me on my neck other wise I am going to be paraylzed as the neck narrows more. It is chronic. I have many other diagnosis also. Sometimes I can't even get out of bed becasue of the pain and the numbness and tingling in my hands and wrist. I am better on some days and walk with no problem. We are looking to get a caregiver during the day to help me becasue we never know how bad I am until i wake up. My illness is also very unpertedicatble. I do not have assistance because my family works during the day. I am struggling all the way around. When I entered the pool today it was warm but the dressing room had vents blowing in them and affected my sensitivity. It hurts me sometimes when people walk fast around me and the air hits me. I also had to climb up approx 7 stairs to get to the pool in flip flops. Then use stairs to get into the pool. 🙁

    I started to have bone crushing pain when I started to exercise in the pool and burn. Meaning bee stinging. I have a physical exam coming up with them for disability too. For me being in the pool I felt alot of uncomfortable pressure on my lower back and legs and feet. I started to have bone crsing pain too. Is this normal? It did cause some other minor pain. We just did some small movements and I had problems keeping my feet flat and trying to walk on the treadmill. I am at home now and took pain meds. but have deep aching. Especially lower back and legs to toes with burning and deep muscle pain. May I ask what you suggest? I have another appointment on Thursday and I hope I will be able to make it. But I have a feeling I am going to be in bed tomorrow trying to recover. My eyes burn.. But again I am hypersensitive to everything. wind, lights, sound, ect.. In the vedios I am watching the people are moving MUCH faster than I can.. Really need to find somethng that will make it easier for me. I know what works for one will not necessary work for another.Thanks for being here and listening even if you have no suggestions. M

  • I ruptured my patella would this be good for therapy?

  • Do you have these Exercise tips on a PDF so I can laminate and use in the pool.
    Reason is I have a very bad memory with my condition. If you don't that's fine I will have to make my own.
    BTW you are awesome. 🙂

  • Would this be helpful for treating osgood schlatters disease?

  • Would it be helpful meniscus tear

  • Do you recommend these exercises for people who has knee arthritis please?

  • Dr. Jo..gearing up for again, another Lateral release and realignment surgery….any suggestions for pool rehab?

  • hello Dr Jo ..I have a L4/L5 disc bulge causing sciatica in both of my legs…will these exercises help in my case

  • Thanks for the great video Dr. Jo. I'm a PT student on rotation and a few of my patients would really benefit from aquatic therapy but sadly there's no pool to show them exercises (and you captured all of the exercises I wanted to show plus more!). I'll be recommending your video to them so that they can actually see of these exercises are performed with the buoyancy and resistance only water creates. Thanks so much for all of the great videos!

  • Nice exercises and explaining!

  • Why are you wearing sneakers in the pool?

  • askdoctorjo it'd make my day if you reply

  • hi thanks for your reply n the water shoes x (Belfast Ireland)

  • Thank you very much.
    I've got a Perthes (hip problem) and I was looking for these exercises. Thank you !
    If you can recommend some other exercises for my hip, I would appreciate it.

  • what kind of weight do you use? and where can i buy them?

  • what do I do if knees are bone on bone for exercises and up n down off floor. so glad I found your channel

  • hi doctor joe
    do u have any exercises for patients with osteoporosis.I am a male of 48 years.

  • Thanks for the videos doctor My graduation project is about the application of therapeutic exercises in the beach and the sea. I hope that I can get your mail to discuss some things with you. Thank you very much for these useful videos.

  • thanks for excellent video,
    could you please suggest some back strengthening exercise video in pool.

  • Are these good for hip tilt issues? I have knee problems and can't do the land hip tilt exercises. Thanks!

  • Hi Can you please tell me if I can do a Whole Aqua class exercises with the Ankle Weights on ?
    I do have a Slip disk L5, but find doing Aqua classes in my health Club is helping me lost weight also toning up my upper body legs. Am wondering how would Ankle weights in Aqua class help me . After seeing you wearing a pair, I have just ordered a pair 🙂 . I do find your videos very helpful . Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Thank you Jo! I am recovering from a stroke and you were very helpful!

  • Excellent video and explanation, thank you. Stoked to get started on these techniques for strength & balance. Blessings for your day 🙂

  • Would it help for Diabetic patients?

  • I can't afford ankle weights, and my pool doesn't have them, can I do these without them? I am a heavier person (265#)

  • I was wondering about a proper lunge in the water. Do you have any videos that show that?

  • Do u have any aquatic exercises for hip OA video ?

  • Thank you so much, God bless u

  • great job Dr Jo

    these exercises are very effective

  • Hello Doctor Jo. I was injured in accident 3 months ago resulting in a small acetabular fracture on the front part and spread acetabular marrow oedema. I started doing some aquatic therapy nearly 2 weeks ago, while still on weight bearing precautions (one crutch only), now I am about to end the therapy with the therapist and continue doing it on my own. Do you think these exercises are good for me or is it much? The oedema is partially still there even if it's improving. Thank you very much and keep up with your great work 🙂

  • Hi Doc, I have ankle weights I used for my knee replacement therapy. Can this be used in water.

  • What can I do for hip bursitis?

  • Hi Jo, Which ankle weights do you use?

  • Hi Dr Jo,
    I had a PCL reconstruction surgery done 20 weeks ago. I seem to have hit a plateau in my rehab. The swelling would not go down and it would get painful and really stiff by afternoon. I’m thinking of trying hydrotherapy. Do you have something for PCL reconstruction patients? Thank you in advance!

  • Hi! Would these exercises be good for my Mom (65) who has most of her spine fused with the exception of a small portion on top and bottom. She experiences a lot of pain during the winter due to inactivity and weather and I'm thinking the pool may be a good place to try to get her some exercise. Any other recommendations? Thank you!

  • Is water therapy good for fibromyalgia also. Have you made a video for this condition.

  • can u make a video for spinal cord injury aquatherapy rehabilitation and exercises ? 🙏

  • Can this be done with a DVT that’s being treated?

  • You know exercises after stroke for walk well again

  • Hi dr. Jo. I had a right hemisphere ischemic stroke a year ago less than 24 hours after that I also had an aneurysm in my cerebellum. I’ve recently completed 2 weeks of inpatient therapy for that. While waiting for my insurance to approve my outpatient therapy I’ve decided to utilize our local pool at the school to continue working on walking. I walk well on land with a hemi walker but my big goal right now is to be able to walk without assistance of any kind. I will definitely be starting with these exercises when I start working in the pool on Monday. In the meantime I’m having a hard time finding videos for exercises I could do by myself for my affected arm. It is paralyzed after my stroke although I do have a tiny bit of movement mostly from the shoulder but my hand still doesn’t do anything. I e also got tendonesis grasp. Any suggestions on where I could find videos for arm exercises?

  • Can these help with lower back pain or sciatica

  • Thank u

  • Hello Dr. Can you do exercise hydrotherapy for injured knees " bad cartilage situation ".

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