Acrobatic Water Aerobics

Monday, June 22 2020

If you love exercising in water and moving in ways that could never be possible on land, this pool workout is for you. Unique to water, the upward forces of buoyancy allow for creative and challenging exercise options that could never be possible in a fitness studio.  Dive in and discover an acrobatic water aerobics adventure

Land Vs. Water
Exercise activities in a fitness studio are dependent upon interacting with the downward forces of gravity.  In water exercise, the majority of the body is submerged in water and therefore acted on by the upward forces of buoyancy.  Gravity and buoyancy are opposite forces and that makes land and water fitness complimentary of each other.  Pool workouts should maximize the water’s properties for optimal results.  One of those properties is buoyancy.

Buoyancy & Impact
The uplifting forces of buoyancy reduces or eliminates impact on feet, ankles, knees and hips during water fitness activities, allowing people to exercise more vigorously without pain or joint discomfort. This is a huge reason why many people choose water exercise as their preferred fitness activity.  Exercising in waist-depth water would mean that half of the body is still acted on by the downward forces of gravity and thus bearing 50% of body weight; better than land but still a lot of impact. The preferred position in shallow water exercise is chest depth, in which impact is reduced to 25-35% of body weight.  At this depth, form and alignment can still be maintained during exercise. Submerging to neck depth would completely eliminate impact, however buoyancy would lift the body up onto the toes sacrificing form and alignment.  Experienced exercisers learn how to lower their shoulders into the water from chest depth by flexing through the hips and knees while performing higher impact moves, such as jumping jacks and cross-country skis. This impact reduction technique is referred to as neutral or Level II position.

Buoyancy & Exercise Creativity
Thanks to buoyancy, more intense and athletic exercises, such as running, jumping and plyometrics are possible thanks to reduced impact.  The upward forces of buoyancy will hold a body off the pool floor for a period of time, providing creative options for water fitness activities.  However, all bodies are different, and some people may have more natural buoyancy than others.  Dense, muscular body types will struggle to stay afloat for longer periods of time.  WATCH:  How to maximize buoyancy in water fitness workouts.   

This 48-minute pool workout is broken into four segments and includes a warm-up and cool down.  Three water specific techniques are applied to nine different exercises in a timed interval format. 

Technique #1:  Power
Powering a move in the water involves forcefully tucking the knees and/or bounding the move off the pool floor.  In a jumping jack, the knees would forcefully jump or tuck in and out. This would be brutally high impact on land but doable in the water.  Water exercisers can consider performing the move in Level II position if the impact is still too much.  Powering moves uses more muscles and creates a much higher cardio response. 

Technique #2:  Elevate
Elevating a move requires removing the feet off the pool floor for a portion of the exercise.  This technique is similar to plyometric jumps on land, which is a training technique for athletes, but pretty much risky for everyone else.  Elevating moves in the water is much less risky thanks to buoyancy.  However, those with joint impact issues should take precautions or avoid them.  Elevating a jumping jack would resemble a straddle jump.  Think cheerleader!

Technique #3:  Suspend
Suspending a move requires keeping the feet off the pool floor for an extended period of time.  This technique would be virtually impossible on land.  Suspended moves are only possible in the water and should be included in pool workouts to create an authentic aquatic fitness experience.  However, participants who lack swim skills will want to avoid suspending moves.

The timed interval format for each exercise in this workout is as follows:
Base Move introduced:  15 seconds
Power:  45 seconds
Elevate: 30 seconds
Suspend:  30 seconds
After three exercises are performed in each segment, a “lighting round” is performed and each of the three base moves is reintroduced for 15 seconds of powering, elevating and suspending action.  The last segment features a grand finale, a fast-paced lighting round that includes a water-specific progression of all nine exercises for 15 seconds each.  Fasten your seatbelt, because this segment MOVES!

The Greatest HIITs of Water is a bit more advanced because of the acrobatic nature of moves.  Subscribers are encouraged to modify as needed.  As I resumed my classes two weeks ago at the YMCA after a 3-month hiatus due to COVID-19, I was inspired to develop a workout that would remind my returning students of their love for water exercise and how good it felt to be back in the pool.   Enjoy this splashy tribute to water fitness. 

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.