Water Exercise 101: The Basics

Thursday, November 26 2020

Why do we do the moves that we do?  The Why Water Workout provides a cardio challenge and a baseline education in water exercise.  Designed to showcase the primary water exercises and the muscle actions for each, this water aerobic workout can be performed in both deep and shallow water.  New to water fitness?  This is a great pool workout to start out with.  Seasoned water exerciser?  Test your knowledge and see if you can guess the muscle actions for each exercise.   

Years ago, I created the “Why Water” presentation and encouraged aquatic fitness instructors to offer this seminar at their facilities to encourage more people to try water fitness.  The presentation included a power point presentation, a handout and a video depicting 10 reasons why you should exercise in water.  The Why Water Workout takes this a step further by transforming the theory of the Why Water presentation into an action-packed workout that promotes the benefits of water exercise.  Below is the original “Why Water – 10 Reasons” video I created in 2016. 

As an instructor training specialist for the past 18 years, I have stressed the importance of continuing education for fitness professionals.  There is never a point when the learning should stop for a teacher.  Moreover, I have always encouraged instructors to pass on the continuing education to their students.  Empowering water exercise participants with knowledge will help them understand the purpose behind the movement so that they can exercise more efficiently.  Connecting mind and body is important for achieving fitness results.  Simply put, understanding which muscle you are working can help you move with greater precision and intention.   

All of the workouts produced by Fitmotivation Inc. have something in common.  They all include variations of jogs, kicks, leg curls, jacks, skis, jumps and tucks. Why use the same moves?   All fitness formats/programs have their base or primary exercises.  These are the moves that best achieve results depending on fitness goals, programming and equipment used.  In aquatic fitness, the equipment being used is the water itself.  Therefore, the primary exercises are those that best utilize the properties of water.  There are less than 25 basic or primary moves recognized in water fitness.  If water workouts only included these 25 moves, exercise sessions would become tedious and results would plateau.  Therefore, one of the most essential skills I impart on instructors is the ability to create endless variations of the primary moves using a variety of variational techniques.  However, in the Why Water Workout, we focus on the “pure” base moves and WHY we do these moves.  WATCH Mark explain. 

The Why Water Workout is designed to show WHY the base moves deliver fitness results by explaining the muscles being targeted in each primary exercise.  For example, a knee-high jog involves lifting legs bent at the knee up and down.  As the bent leg moves upward with hip flexion, the iliopsoas (hip flexors) are targeted.  As the bent leg moves downward the gluteus maximus is recruited with hip extension.  Pressing down more firmly and slightly behind will put more emphasis on the glutes.  Armed with this information, a person can exercise smarter and more efficiently.

Traveling moves is a key technique for increasing intensity in water fitness and the Why Water Workout showcases this essential element of aquatic exercise.  Thanks to Newton’s Law of Inertia, the action of starting and stopping travel and making frequent changes will generate more intensity as a result of total body inertia.  Reversing travel direction also interacts with the water’s inertia as you encounter a current of resistance created by your body’s frontal surface area as it travels through the water’s viscosity.

The last eight base moves in the WWW video focus on moves that recruit core muscles, as well as techniques for getting more core involvement in movement.  Techniques include increasing range of motion for spinal flexion and rotation and removing the arms and legs from a movement to force more core engagement.  Anything you can do to build your core strength is essential for a healthy and fit lifestyle. 

A class built with base moves ensures that the exercises are purposeful and provide muscular balance. In the Why Water Workout, base moves are linked together at the end of each segment and as a finale to demonstrate HOW moves can be instructed to create a workout.  People often follow along with videos or attend classes because they bore easily with self-directed fitness activities, such as walking and swimming.  Classes and video workouts are more fun because they contain a variety of movement and teaching styles that keep participants excited and engaged with the exercise experience.

The Why Water Workout can be performed in both deep and shallow. Why?  Designing a workout where people can choose the depth they prefer is simply good customer service. Aquatic enthusiasts DO have strong preferences.  Lately, I have been getting feedback from subscribers that their pools are not conducive for shallow water exercise and so we are striving to post more dual-depth workouts. 

Whether you are a seasoned water exerciser or just beginning your water fitness journey, I am confident that you will enjoy the cardio challenge in this workout and a better understanding of WHY WE DO THE MOVES THAT WE DO. 

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.