Toned Arms Water Workout

Sunday, September 16 2018

Arm your pool workout with 7 different approaches to upper body training.  Target the upper body with various training techniques, including submersion, combat, ROM and HIIT, while also training cardio, balance, muscular strength and endurance. 

This 44-minute workout features 7 segments that target the upper body while also training cardio, balance, ROM muscular strength and endurance.  Aqua Armed Forces is a compilation of upper body training techniques that you can perform with or without equipment.  I love working my arms in the water and so I designed this as a follow-along workout to share the love.   

Equipment is not necessary for this workout because the water provides its own resistance.  However, webbed gloves are an excellent and affordable option for increasing the resistance.  If you want even more resistance the Aqualogix bells are the answer.  I have a pair of these bells and love them.  This workout is not designed for buoyant equipment and therefore foam hand buoys should not be substituted. 

Upper body movements occur primarily at two joints – the shoulder and elbow.  Below are the primary movements and the muscles they target.

1. Shoulder Flexion and Extension
Movement: Arms move front to back at the shoulder joint, swinging or pressing (ski arms)
Major Muscle Groups targeted with Shoulder Flexion (movement forwards):  anterior deltoids, pectoralis & biceps 
Major Muscle Groups targeted with Shoulder Extension (movement backwards):  latissimus dorsi (lats), triceps & posterior deltoids

2. Shoulder Abduction & Adduction
Movement:  Arms move sideways at the shoulder joint, side arm lifts (jack arms)
Major Muscle Groups Targeted with Shoulder Abduction (movement away from body):  medial deltoids
Major Muscle Groups Targeted with Shoulder Adduction (movement towards body):  lattisimus dorsi (lats)

3. Shoulder Transverse Abduction & Adduction
Movement:  Arms move horizontally in and out at the shoulder joint,  (breaststroke arms)
Major muscle Groups Targeted with Shoulder Transverse Abduction (movement out):  posterior deltoid
Major muscle Groups Targeted with Shoulder Transverse Adduction (movement in):  pectoralis & anterior deltoid

4. Elbow Flexion and Extension 
Movement:  forearms move up and down at the elbow joint (arm curls)
Major Muscle Groups Targeted with Elbow Flexion (forearms up):  biceps 
Major Muscle Groups Targeted with Elbow Extension (forearms down):  triceps

These four base arm patterns are performed in gyms, studios and pools all across the world as the primary arm movements for targeting the major muscle groups of the upper body.  Upper body training would be painfully boring if we didn’t find ways to add creativity to these base arm patterns.  The arm patterns can be performed bilateral symmetrical, bilateral reciprocal and unilateral.  Range of motion is altered to change the intensity and outcome of the exercises.  Multi-planar options are offered (diagonal, spiral, circular) to make the movements more functional.  Combinations of arm movements are transformed into fun choreography.


Segment 1:  Armed Warm-up
This warm-up is designed to move the arms through the shoulder & elbow joint in the planar directions described above – forward & back, side-to-side and horizontal.  The primary objective is to warm the body and limber the muscles.

Segment 2:  Armed Joint Mobility
Extending the warm-up, this segment digs deeper into the mobility of the shoulder and elbow joint with more multi-planar, functional movements.  The shoulder and elbow exercises in this segment are borrowed from the AEA Arthritis Foundation Program.   Arthritis exercises can be fun and functional when transformed into choreography. 

Segment 3:  Armed Submersion
In this segment, exercises featuring base arm patterns are performed for 30 seconds at chest depth and then performed another 30 seconds with shoulders submerged - Level II or neutral position.  The shoulder joint is the movement producer for many upper body exercises and when the water surrounds the joint, the movement becomes much more resisted.

Segment 4:  Armed Combat
Always a favorite of my students, and mine, boxing moves are ideal for creating resistance on the arms and the core.  In this segment, five simple boxing moves are introduced and added one at a time. This is a great stand-alone segment to do at the end of your regular programming to fire up the arms and the core. 

Segment 5:  Armed HIIT
The workout peaks out in intensity here with high intensity intervals.    Similar to Tabata, 8 rounds will be offered, however the timing is 30-seconds of work and 15- seconds of recovery.  Choose exercises with big arm patterns and keep the focus on full ROM in the upper body rather than speed. 

Segment 6:  Armed Balance
Take away a fun and challenging formula for training balance.  Select a lower body base move and pair it with an upper body base move.  Apply a four-part balance formula by performing the exercise:  1) both legs and both arms 2) right leg and both arms 3) right leg and right arm 4) right leg and left arm.  REPEAT other leg. 

Segment 7:  Armed Stretch
The focus is now on gentle movement and bringing nutrient-rich blood flow to the upper body muscles with dynamic and static movement.   Students should be encouraged to be more intuitive with there movement in this segment.

Enjoy this upper body workout!   Feedback?  Please post a comment under this blog or 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.