Low-Impact Water Aerobics

Tuesday, May 18 2021

Many health seekers choose water exercise because they want or need lower impact fitness activities.  However, those exercising in shallow water will still experience joint impact and it is important to understand how to reduce that impact.  Aqua HiLo provides an excellent opportunity to learn how to protect your joints while enjoying a fun and challenging aerobic workout.

Hi-Lo History
Long before HIIT there was Hi-Lo.  Hi-Lo aerobic classes became standard studio fare in the 80’s after it was discovered that lots of people were getting injured in high-impact aerobics classes, bouncing around in their leg warmers like jackhammers on the unforgiving hard surface of the aerobic studio floor. The fitness industry’s solution was to offer Hi-Lo classes that blended low-impact grounded moves with higher impact aerobics in order to maintain intensity while reducing impact. The premise of “lo” was to keep one foot on the studio floor at all times so that impact was eliminated.  Aqua HiLo simply adapts this same formula into the pool.

Hi-Lo in the Pool?  
Water aerobics is considered low-impact exercise and so you may wonder why there would be a need for Hi-Lo in the pool?   The fact is that there is still impact present in shallow water exercise.  When exercising in water at chest depth you are still bearing about 25-35% of your body weight.  If you attempt to exercise in water that is waist depth, the impact increases to 50%.  Traditional aquatic base moves will be affected by this impact.  One-footed moves, such as knee-high jogs, heel-high jogs, kicks and pendulums are executed with a transfer of weight from one foot to the other, which causes impact.  Two-footed moves, such as jumping jacks, cross country skis, moguls and tucks, feature substantially more impact because they are performed by a jump or transfer of weight onto both feet.  Knowing that many people choose water exercise because they have joint impact issues, it is imperative to understand impact reduction techniques.  One technique for reducing impact is to ground movement by keeping one foot on the pool floor at all times. 

Grounded Movement  
Aqua HiLo was my way of proving that aerobic training does not get diminished by adding in grounded moves and reducing the impact of a water workout by 50%.  Grounded movements use drag resistance to provide intensity and challenge.  The goal is to use more aggressive arm and leg patterns when executing grounded movement.  My hope is that subscribers will take away grounding techniques demonstrated in Aqua HiLo and use them in other workouts.  It is important for each individual to own their exercise experience. 

Aqua HiLo Workout At-a-Glance
The Aqua HiLo workout includes a warm-up and cool down, as well as five segments that are intended to train cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance.  This is good old-fashioned aerobic training that was designed to keep the heartrate at a steady state medium-high intensity for over 45 minutes, providing optimal fat burning and cardiovascular conditioning. 

HiLo #1:  Sagittal Plane – Short Lever
In this segment, the focus is on quadriceps, hamstrings, biceps and triceps with shorter lever moves that feature the joint actions of flexion and extension with movement directed forwards and backwards in the Sagittal plane.  Shorter lever moves are implemented in the first segment as a means of gradually increasing intensity in the workout.  Shorter lever moves are less intense than longer lever moves because they encounter less drag resistance. 

HiLo #2:  Sagittal Plane – Long Lever
The intensity dials up in this segment with longer lever moves that demand greater effort. The movements are still performed in the sagittal plane with flexion and extension, but this time the longer levers put more emphasis on hip flexors and glutes in the lower body.  The longer lever arm patterns in the upper body target the larger muscle groups of the chest and back with shoulder flexion and extension, while still involving biceps and triceps. 

HiLo #3:  Frontal Plane
Switching to side to side movements in the frontal plane, this segment features abduction and adduction of the shoulders and hips, as well as lateral flexion of the spine. Get ready to target different muscle groups in this block.  For lower body, the emphasis will be on inner and outer thigh. For upper body – the focus is on shoulders, as well as chest and back. 

HiLo #4:  Transverse Plane & Multi-planar
In this segment, movements are performed horizontally with transverse hip & shoulder abduction & adduction, as well as torso rotation. The main emphasis is on core training with movements that include spinal flexion and rotation.  This segment also includes multiplanar exercises which include circular, diagonal and spiral movements.  Multiplanar movement enhances joint flexibility and better prepares the body for the tasks of daily living. 

Final Exam
It simply wouldn’t be a workout without a grand finale.  In this case, we’ll call it a final exam as all of the movement combinations from the previous four segments are taught together with reduced repetitions.    The body moves briskly in all directions as the aerobic training comes to a dramatic and intense close. 

Webbed Gloves 
Equipment is not needed in this workout.  The water’s drag forces provide plenty of resistance.  However, if you want to add more resistance to your upper body, webbed gloves are highly recommended. 

Ready to take the hi-lo challenge in the pool?  Enjoy a shallow water workout that delivers full results with 50% less impact.  And if you are enjoying your Poolfit subscription please pass on the word.  Tell your friends and family about us, and if you haven’t left us a rating  & review, please help us out by leaving one on the App Store, Play Store or Facebook.  Poolfit is new and we could use your help letting people know about us. 

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.