Swimming is one of the best forms of exercises you can do, but with great water weights, you can do more than swim in a pool.
Water weights are lightweight and made from an EVA foam, or similar foam materials, typically in the shape of traditional dumbbells. What makes them especially suited for water-based exercises is the fact that the foam is extremely buoyant. Because the water weights want to float to the surface, when you push them underwater, they push back, trying to float to the top and generating resistance that you can use for exercise.
Sometimes, companies will even take some of the guesswork out of water weights by telling you upfront how much the water weights “weigh” when underwater, so you can buy water weights with as much or as little resistance as you need. But if not, the heavier the water weight is or the more foam involved, the stronger the resistance will be.
Why use water weights instead of traditional weights?
Water weights offer benefits that you just can’t get out of traditional weights.
First, they’re much safer. They don’t weigh much outside the water, typically a pound or two at most, and you never have to worry about “dropping” or letting go of the weight. The worst thing that could happen is the weight pops out of the water, hitting and/or splashing you in the face.
There are secondary benefits from that too: Water weights are great for rehab, seniors and others with mobility limitations because the exercises are performed in water and generally put less stress on joints than traditional weights, which adds up to a stressful but ultimately low-impact workout.
Plus, because water weights are made from widely available foam, they’re a heck of a lot cheaper than just about any other kind of weight.
So if any of that sounds like it’ll meet your (or perhaps a parent’s or grandparent’s) needs, check out our picks for the best water weights below.
1. Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbells
For a great overall set of water weights, you can check out the Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells.
Simply put, these water weights get the job done at a price you can afford. They’re made from — yup, you guessed it — EVA foam, so they’re buoyant and don’t absorb too much water.
In terms of weight, the dry weight of each dumbbell in this set is about .66 pounds. The brand doesn’t say how much resistance to expect, but users guess you get around 5 pounds of resistance.
Of course, not every set of dumbbells will be perfect at this price point. Some users, rightly, said the quality was cheap and did have defective dumbbells that quickly broke. But most negative reviews dealt with personal preference (e.g. the weight was too heavy) rather than consistently shoddy, non-functional dumbbells. And some of the users who reported defective products had been using the dumbbells for years, which seems like a lot of use for exercise equipment less than $20.
So overall, you get what you pay for, which is a decent but not indestructible set of water weights that works for most aquatic exercise.
Trademark Innovations Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells
2. TheraBand Water Weights
For a lighter water weight, go with the light, red TheraBand Water Weights.
They appear to be made of some kind of foam material so you can count on reasonable buoyancy and low water absorption.
What makes these water weights ideal is the very low resistance needed to submerge them, 2.5 pounds. So if you’re new to water-based exercise or are coming off a severe injury, you’ll want to start small and work your way up.
On the downside, quality control seems to be lacking, with some users getting a perfect set and others complaining that one of the dumbbell bars was shorter than the other, which makes the weights imbalanced and prone to sliding on the bar.
But most users received functional weights and praised the low-resistance levels, so if that’s what you need, that’s what the light, red TheraBand Water Weights promise.
TheraBand Water Weights
3. Power Systems Heavy Resistance Water Dumbbells
For a heavier water weight, you can pick up a set of Power Systems Heavy Resistance Water Dumbbells.
Made from EVA foam? Check. Cushioned handles? Check. Lightweight when out of the water? Yup, you know it.
With the three rings of foam, this dumbbell will deliver about 10 pounds of resistance underwater. Just be sure you can handle that level of resistance before buying these dumbbells. If you’re rehabbing an injury or just getting into water exercises, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere first.
Aside from that, there’s one major potential issue to be aware of: shoddy end caps. Maybe it’s bad construction or maybe it’s just the heavy resistance, but multiple users said the end caps of the dumbbells fell off, rendering them unusable.
Power Systems Heavy Resistance Water Dumbbells
4. Water Gear Inc. Professional Aqua Cuffs
If weighted dumbbells aren’t up your alley or you’re looking to work on your legs, there are always ankle cuff water weights like the Water Gear Inc. Professional Aqua Cuffs.
These water cuffs use neoprene-coated foam to add buoyancy and resistance and softer fabric for less abrasion on your skin. Just buckle the cuffs closed, tighten the straps and you’ll have a medium level of resistance suitable for most people aside from absolute beginners.
Just by stopping your feet from floating up to the top, you work out your calves, thighs, quads and even your core and glutes, too.
As a bonus, these cuffs also feature adjustable foot straps to prevent the cuff from sliding up.
Water Gear Inc. Professional Aqua Cuffs
5. Speedo Aqua Fit Swim Training Gloves
For some added resistance to your upper body motions (as well as improved swimming), you could use webbed training gloves like the Speedo Aqua Fit Swim Training Gloves.
The gloves are made from neoprene and feature webbed fingers, adjustable wrist straps and a rubber palm for traction. The webbing not only creates additional resistance as you move your hands through the water but it also helps propel you forward more when you’re doing laps.
Speedo Aqua Fit Swim Training Gloves
6. AquaJogger Active Belt
Now, this isn’t technically a water weight. Not even technically not, it’s just not a water weight in that you don’t use it to create weight that you can use for exercise. But the AquaJogger Active Belt can do you one better. If you can’t go for runs due to bad knees or joints or have torn some ligaments and have a hard time staying afloat in the pool to exercise, this belt is your savior.
You just strap this belt on, and it’ll help keep you afloat while you water jog or swim laps, allowing you to safely get your exercise without worrying about not being able to swim or overstressing your joints.
AquaJogger Active Belt
7. All Pro Aquatic Exercise Belt
We’ve been focused on foam-based resistance water weights, but you can use specialized traditional weights in the water too, like the All Pro Aquatic Exercise Belt.
It holds up to 10 pounds of vinyl-coated weights spread across multiple narrow pockets, which means you can remove individual weights if the belt is too heavy.
While this belt doesn’t help you perform targeted exercises, it can add more weight (and resistance) to your body for water walking, jogging and swimming, if you can manage it.