Best Workouts for Scuba Divers to Get in Shape

Last Updated: February 7, 2023

It is important to exercise your entire body to prepare for scuba diving, focusing on:

  • Legs
  • Core 
  • Cardio
  • Upper body

In this article, I look at why it is so important to work on these parts of your body before digging deeper into the best ways to stay in shape. I also look at how you can stretch and warm up before a dive, how you can use your scuba gear to enhance a workout, and how scuba diving affects your overall fitness.

exercise to prepare for scuba diving

Scuba Diving Fitness Requirements

While scuba diving may seem less intense because of the buoyancy difference in water, this does not excuse the demands on divers.

When diving, you need to carry around a full set of equipment that weighs over 40 lbs (before adding weights for buoyancy). When you are standing on land and carrying it around you are bound to feel this in your back and shoulders, and your core works to balance out the work being done.

In the water, you need to move your legs constantly to move around and even stay in place. Wearing fins forces your legs and feet to work in ways they don’t on land, and you are bound to feel it once you surface.

People use more energy in the water, and you can easily burn 400 to 700 calories per hour when diving. This number varies depending on water temperature, currents, and how much you move.

Any open water diver certification will require a medical questionnaire before you can move forward along with two in-water assessments. Your body should be able to handle a 200 m swim and 10 minutes of treading water or floating to ensure that you can handle emergency conditions when underwater.

As long as you are not obese and maintain a proper level of fitness, carrying around equipment and completing these tests should not be a problem, and you will feel much better during and after your dives.

Best Leg Exercises for Scuba Divers

lunges exercise

Most of your movement when diving relies on your legs, and you need to have the strength to kick in strong currents when needed.

Your legs should be strong enough to transition from sitting to standing with gear on, and that strength should last the duration of the dive to get you up a ladder at the end.

In emergency situations, leg strength is essential for towing and carrying other divers to the boat or to shore. It is always better to be over prepared in these situations, and there are plenty of exercises to help.

From monkey toes to lunges, you can do all these exercises from the comfort of your own home or increase the challenge in a gym.

Monkey Toes

Even if you are used to wearing some kind of fins in the water, you may experience discomfort or pain over time. Monkey toes exercise helps you strengthen your toes and limit cramping or other effects of wearing fins while you dive.

Start by putting something on the floor that you can pick up with your toes. Start with larger objects, such as socks, before moving to slimmer items, like pens.

Using your toes, pick up the item from the ground. Hold onto it for as long as you can, but aim for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Repeat the exercise 3 to 5 times per side, and aim to practice at least twice a week.

Calf Raises

Calves are essential for directing the force of your legs when moving through the water, and most divers complain about pain in this area at least once. Without proper exercise, cramping in your calves is inevitable.

Calf raises help stretch and strengthen the calves.

Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart, then slowly raise your heels and stand on your toes.

Hold this position for a few seconds, and then slowly lower back to the original position.

You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by holding weights or squatting instead of standing, but try to do 15 to 20 lifts at least 3 times a week.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do Calf Raises

Single Leg Deadlift

Single leg deadlifts work your entire leg muscle, and these are difficult to do when starting out. You may not be able to complete a full set at first, but keep moving forward until you reach that point.

Choose one leg to use for support, and then slowly lean your upper body forward. Let your other leg raise as you lower your upper body, and focus on keeping legs and back straight.

Touch your hands to the ground, and hold the position for a few seconds before returning to standing position.

Aim for 10 to 15 repetitions about 3 times per week.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do a Single Leg Deadlift


Squats will work on glutes, thighs, and hips, balancing out work done on the lower legs and strengthening these areas that work alongside your back.

Set your feet between hip and shoulder width and then bend your knees to settle down like sitting in an invisible chair. Aim for a 90-degree bend with your knees, keeping your lower back neutral.

Once you reach your limit, come back up slowly before repeating.

You should do 15 to 20 squats at least 3 times a week.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do Squats


Lunges are another simple and popular exercise that works well for scuba divers and helps you balance the fitness of your legs.

There are many variations of lunges, including those with weights, but focus on keeping proper form as you work out. Start with feet hip width apart, then step forward while bending both knees. Both legs should reach a 90-degree angle.

You can alternate or reverse the lunges, but move slow enough to maintain control and keep an effective form. Make sure you do not step too far to reach that 90-degree bend.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do Lunges

Best Upper Body Exercises for Scuba Divers

lat pulldown

Your upper body bears quite a bit of weight when moving scuba equipment around, and you need to have enough strength to carry oxygen tanks and other equipment. Exercising these areas is also essential for a strong back.

Your upper body becomes even more important in emergency situations when you need to hold onto another person, whether you are towing them along or the one being towed.

You can do upper body exercises at home with minimal equipment.

Overhead Press

For an overhead press, you can use an elastic band for resistance. You can step on the middle of it with one leg to start, eventually increasing the resistance by using two legs.

Hold the handles and bend your arms to 90 degrees at the elbow, bringing the handles up above your shoulders. Keep your breathing steady and extend your arms straight up towards the ceiling.

Slowly return to the starting position before repeating the press. Aim for 15 repetitions about 2 or 3 times a week.

Lat Pull Downs

Lat pull downs will work your arms and your upper back, and you need to have a door anchor for your resistance band.

Sit on a chair or stability ball and engage your core as you lean back, then pull on the handles of the band and bring your elbows straight back. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together to engage all the targeted muscles, and hold for a second before returning to starting position.

It should only take about 10 to 15 repetitions to get your muscles burning, and you can fit this in 3 times a week.

Bicep Curls

Bicep curls need some sort of weight to create resistance. You can use a dumbbell or your equipment to help target the muscles at the front of your arms.

Start with your weights in hand with your elbows resting at your sides and forearms facing out. Bring the weights up to your shoulders by bending your elbows, then slowly reverse the curl. Try to repeat 5 times per bicep for a total of 10 reps when starting out.

Best Core Exercises for Scuba Divers

doing planks

Because muscles work in pairs, core-based exercises are one of the easiest ways to strengthen your back for carrying equipment on land and in water.

Your core muscles are also essential for maintaining trim position, allowing you to arch your back with feet and head up. Plenty of divers report pain in their back after diving, and core exercises work against this pain.


Planks do a fantastic job of engaging your entire body while focusing on strengthening your spinal column. Plank exercises help increase the strength of your abdominal muscles as well, and they improve your ability to endure underwater pressure.

There are two main variations of planks.

High planks involve taking a stance similar to push-ups with hands and feet touching the floor and your body in a straight line. Low planks are similar, but you rest your forearms on the ground with your elbows underneath your shoulders.

Either way, make sure you engage your abdominal muscles and keep your body straight. Try to hold the position for as long as you can.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do Planks


Superman exercises are great for engaging your core muscles, and they involve more movement than planks to enhance flexibility.

Start by laying with your face on the floor with arms and legs straight out. Raise your arms and legs a few inches off the ground and hold that position for a few seconds.

Bring them down slowly, and focus on keeping breathing steady as you repeat the exercises. Try to get in 10 repetitions at least 3 times a week.

WATCH VIDEO: Superman Core Exercise


Stomach crunches and situps are a quick and easy way to work on your core, and you can adjust the decline position to target different muscle groups.

Depending on how you do your crunches and how long you go, this is also a great opportunity for improving stamina and focusing on controlling your breath. You should also work on keeping your head and neck relaxed as you run through your crunches.

Aim to do as many as you can in one sitting and fit them in about 3 times a week.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do Crunches

Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks work your abs and lower back, but they also mimic the kicking motions you make when scuba diving.

Start by laying on your back with your hands underneath you or at your sides. Lift your legs a few inches off the ground, then alternate kicking them up without letting either leg touch the floor.

You can have a goal number of flutter kicks, or you can aim to keep up with the motion for a certain period‌.

WATCH VIDEO: How to Do Flutter Kicks

Best Cardio Exercises for Scuba Divers

cardio exercise

Cardio exercises are often intense, but these are essential to keep your heart and lungs ready for the physical toll of scuba diving. You have plenty of options for effective cardio workouts, including:

  • High-intensity interval training
  • Machinery
  • Outdoor activity

Find a method that works best for you.


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most efficient methods of cardio exercise because:

  • You can do it anywhere
  • Sessions are often shorter
  • It combines intense exercise with rest

HIIT programs work well for increasing lean muscle mass that is essential for diving. They also improve your oxygen consumption and reduce your resting heart rate and blood pressure – all key steps forward for scuba fitness.

Using Gym Equipment

If you have a gym membership or access to similar equipment, you can easily create a routine that works for you. Popular cardio machines include:

  • Treadmills
  • Cross trainers
  • Static bikes
  • Rowing machines

You can also use weights to increase the cardio effects of other exercises mentioned in this article.

Heading Outdoors

Getting in motions outside (and out of the water) is one of the best ways to improve cardiac fitness, improve breathing, and engage your entire body.

Go for a morning run or bike ride, or take a weekly hike for a more intense workout. The fresh air combined with sustained movement should get your heart rate to the required level and strengthen your cardiovascular system.

Before a Dive – Stretches and Warm-Up Exercises

stretching by using yoga

One of the best ways to stretch and warm up before diving is using yoga techniques.

Yoga works to stretch your entire body without being too intense, and you learn to connect with your mind, body, and spirit during the process. It also helps you breathe deeper, allowing you to use oxygen at a slower rate.

Yoga benefits scuba diving by:

  • Improving body and lung strength
  • Improving flexibility
  • Enhancing balance
  • Calming your nerves
  • Enhancing awareness

Sun salutations are a simple and easy routine that you can use to warm up, and they run you through a series of asanas (singular poses) that help with flexibility, strength, and breathing.

You start in mountain pose, standing tall with your hands at your heart, and move through particular poses, focusing on muscle control and keeping your breathing steady. Sun salutations help you stretch your back and legs, preparing your entire body for the task ahead.

How to Exercise with Dive Gear

If you have your own dive gear, you can use it to enhance your workout. This gets you comfortable moving around with the gear, and it lets you exercise without needing to purchase dedicated equipment.

The gear most beneficial to modifying exercises includes:

  • Weight belt
  • Dive leads
  • Scuba BCD
  • Fins

You can use dive weights and scuba fins in place of dumbbells to increase resistance when working out, and wearing a scuba BCD helps you get used to physical effort while wearing the gear.

Can You Lose Weight Scuba Diving?

Because you burn more calories while scuba diving, you are likely to lose weight. It is essential to keep your body in top form and treat it to nutrient-rich foods.

Muscles face constant resistance when moving in water, and you usually will not notice how much energy you have burned until you surface. Staying in shape keeps you safe in the water and allows scuba diving to remain an enjoyable experience.

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