Noodle & Foam Dumbbell Workout

Friday, September 14 2018

Break out the noodles and foam dumbbells and get ready for a pool workout that combines upper body toning with core exercises.  Lightweight on land, foam equipment can pack a mighty punch when it is submerged under the water and interacts with the forces of buoyancy. 

The choice of equipment available for pool workouts is often limited to noodles, foam dumbbells and webbed gloves due to availability and affordability.  This 47-minute workout makes the most of noodles and hand buoys (foam dumbbells) by alternating them in an exercise circuit.   The circuits of hand buoy use are designed to target select upper body muscle groups by resisting the upward forces of buoyancy.  The noodle circuits are intended to train core muscles by providing neutral buoyancy so that the body can change positions to effectively perform spinal flexion, rotation and lateral flexion, the ingredients needed for a good abdominal workout. 

Performing exercises with foam hand buoys in the water is the exact opposite of performing the same exercises on land with weighted dumbbells.   When on land, the weighted dumbbells are interacting with the downward forces of gravity and thus all movement upward is resisted.  When in the water, the foam hand buoys are interacting with the upward forces of buoyancy and thus all movement downward is resisted.  This knowledge is CRUCIAL for effectively training with hand buoys in the pool.  The fact is that not all muscles can be targeted with foam in the pool.  If you perform arm curls with weights on land, the biceps are targeted with the upward flexion of the forearm at the elbow joint.  If you perform arm curls with hand buoys in the water, the exact opposite occurs as the triceps are targeted with the downward extension of the forearm at the elbow joint. The biceps will not be recruited when performing arm curls in the pool with buoys.   

From a vertical position, the posterior muscle groups of the body are best targeted with foam in the water as they depend on downward (extension) movements.   These muscle groups include triceps, lats, rear deltoids, hamstrings and glutes.  From a vertical position, the anterior muscle groups of the body are best targeted with weights on land as they depend on upward (flexion) movements.  These muscle groups include biceps, chest, anterior/medial deltoid and hip flexors.  Foam dumbbells and weighted dumbbells perfectly compliment each other.  Understanding these limitations supports the need for either cross training between land and water or using both weighted and foam dumbbells in the pool.
Cautions:   Consider skipping the use of hand buoys in this workout if you are currently experiencing acute or chronic pain or discomfort in your upper extremities. 

Noodles can be used for downward buoyant resistance, similar to the foam dumbbells.  However, in this workout the noodles are used for neutral buoyancy.  Placed behind the back, the noodle provides upward buoyancy to the entire body allowing for movements from both both vertical and supine positions.  The exercises in the noodle circuits are challenging and meant to be.  These exercises may not be suitable for all populations. 
Cautions:  Avoid the noodle exercises if you have spinal/lower back issues.  Some bodies are more buoyant than others due to body fat measures and placement.   If you have excess body fat please expect to work at a slower pace, as the body will struggle to regain vertical position in the water.



Segment 1:  This segment features a warm-up; no equipment is used.  The goal is to prepare the muscles and joints for the workout – particularly specific prep to ready the upper body for equipment use.

Segment 2:  The first two hand buoy combos are introduced in this circuit.  Each combination features two moves. 

Segment 3:  Switching over to noodles for buoyant support provides the hands a much needed break.   Two different core moves are taught using the noodle behind the upper back for support.

Segment 4:  Two more combinations are taught with the hand buoys and then all four combinations are added together.

Segment 5:  Two more noodle moves are taught and then all 4 noodle moves are added together.

Segment 6:  Cool down and stretch (no equipment)

Please consider using smaller foam dumbbells.  If you have not already purchased a set, please purchase the smallest set you can find.   Large foam dumbbells are simply to buoyant to manage the movements with good form.  Large dumbbells force the scapula and shoulder upwards which can be detrimental to nerves and the smaller, more delicate rotator cuff muscles.   When choosing a noodle, the cheaper, thin “Dollar Store” noodles work just fine.  In fact, I prefer them because they are less dense than the thicker, more expensive noodles.  Less density allows people to execute the moves more effectively. 

Equipment is not for everyone.  If you experience discomfort or pain in your fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck or back – please just do the exercises without the equipment or choose another PoolFit workout.

Enjoy and happy exercising!  Please share your experience following along with this workout in the pool.  Post a comment below or under the video.


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.