Aqua Cardio, Flexibility & Strength

Monday, March 02 2020

Water Exercise 321 is like having your own personal training session in the pool!  Simple but powerful, this pool workout delivers triple results by improving stamina, strength and flexibility.  This 50-minute water exercise video guides you through six circuits/triads; each include 3+ minutes of cardio, 2 minutes of muscular endurance and 1 minute of flexibility. 

Looking for deep water ideas, I borrowed the 321 concept in fall 2019 to create Deep 3-2-1, which featured circuits that included 3 minutes of cardio, 2 minutes of muscular endurance and 1 minute of flexibility.  The video got positive feedback and I loved doing the workout myself in the pool.  Inspired by Deep 3-2-1, I knew I had to create a shallow water template. 

Every certified fitness instructor must study and understand the five physical components of fitness.  They include muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and body fat composition.  Results-driven exercise routines should always target one or more of these components.  Water Exercise 321 strives to improve stamina in daily activities by including cardiorespiratory segments that will get the heart and lungs pumping, not to mention also burning calories thus improving body fat composition as well. The muscular conditioning segment in each triad focuses more on muscular endurance with lots of repetitions using the water’s resistance.  Additional drag equipment could be added to create further strength gains (see Progressive Overload below).  Finally, dynamic stretching is included in each triad ensuring that ALL of the physical components of fitness are targeted in this workout.       

The cardio segments in each triad are powerful but very simple.  There are only 2 moves in each cardio segment.  Repetitive?  Yes.  Boring?  No.  The 2-move cardio segments maximize inertia with powerful travel that goes forwards and backwards and laterally.  All certified aquatic fitness professionals must study and understand Newton’s Law of Inertia and how it affects water exercise intensity.  Watch:  Overcoming inertia to increase intensity. 

This pool workout features a warm-up and six circuits/triads that include 3+ minutes of cardio, 2 minutes of muscular endurance training and 1 minute of flexibility. 

Segment 1:  Warm-up
The short warm-up in this workout serves as a preview for the cardio moves.  The cardio segments in each of the six triads features just two moves.  All 12 cardio moves are performed for just 15 seconds each in the warm-up. 

Segment 2:  Triad 1
The first triad establishes a 3-minute cardio template with two moves.  The two moves are both variations of front kicks. In all of the cardio segments, Move #1 travels forwards and backwards and Move #2 travels laterally.  The 2-minute muscular endurance segment plays off the kicks by targeting leg muscles - quads in the front and hamstrings in the back, followed by 1-minute of flexibility for the same muscle groups.  The stretching in this workout is dynamic so that movement stays intact and the body stays warm.

Segment 3:  Triad 2
The cardio in this segment is all about cross country skis and the total time expands to 3:30 as the kicks and skis are added together at the end.  The muscular focus switches to the upper body and targets the chest and back, followed by dynamic stretching for the same muscle groups. 

Segment 4:  Triad 3
Jumping jacks are the focus of cardio in this segment and the time expands to 4 minutes as the kicks, skis and jacks are added on at the end.  Playing off the jumping jacks, the muscular endurance training targets inner and outer thigh, as does the flexibility. 

Segment 5:  Triad 4
The cardio segment in this triad is all about jumps, side-to-side (moguls) and forward and backwards.  The muscular focus moves back to the upper body with 2-minutes of shoulder training, followed by a 1-minute dynamic stretch for the shoulders.

Segment 6:  Triad 5
Rear kicks are the focus of cardio in this triad and the total cardio time increases to 5 minutes.  The 2-minutes of muscular endurance targets the legs, as does the active stretching. 

Segment 7:  Triad 6
The last cardio segment is all about sprints and the total time increases to 5:30 minutes as the grand cardio finale adds together kicks, skis, jacks, jumps, rear kicks and sprints.  The muscular endurance portion targets the biceps and triceps.  This 50-minute workout concludes with dynamic flexibility for the arms and some final rhythmic stretches.   Since flexibility was introduced throughout the workout, a long final stretch is not needed.

Keeping with my preferred approach to pool workouts, the water’s resistance WAS the equipment. However, additional drag equipment, such as webbed gloves or the Aqualogix upper and lowers, can be added to create additional resistance and should be if the workout challenge starts fading.  Adding extra resistance is just one way to add progression for continued results.  Progressive Overload is a key physiological principle and all exercise professionals and participants should understand and adhere to it.  Watch:   How does Progressive Overload affect fitness results.

The Water Exercise 321 workout is ideal when there is enough space in your pool to travel in the cardio segments.  However, if your space is limited, simply perform the moves in place.  Over time, feel free to replace some of the moves in this workout with your own favorite cardio, muscle-conditioning or flexibility moves.  All segments are timed, which means you can easily substitute a different exercise.  Change is good!
 Enjoy the workout and lets us know your feedback.  

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.