Author/Instructor Photo

Christine Alexander is the author of 2 books on water exercise each published by Human Kinetics.

Water Fitness Progressions (2019) was written for water fitness instructors and aquatic personal trainers. It describes how to use periodization to help class participants and clients progress in their level of fitness. It contains lesson plans that illustrate how to progressively increase intensity for both cardiorespiratory endurance and strength training.

Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography (2011) was written for water fitness instructors. It has 36 class ideas for shallow water exercise and 36 class ideas for deep water exercise. Individuals may find the exercise descriptions and photos useful for building a personal exercise routine.

Primal Movements

Functional fitness is training with exercises that look like movements you do in daily life. This type of exercise uses large muscle groups as opposed to focusing on an individual muscle. It makes sense to include this type of exercises in your fitness routine so that you can continue to get up and move and do all the things you enjoy. There are a variety of functional fitness exercises. Seven of them are called primal movements because they are the basis of every movement that you do. They are: squat, lunge, push, pull, rotate, hinge, and gait. Below are primal movements that you can do in the pool, along with how they relate to movements you do in everyday life.

Squat. A squat is a movement pattern where you plant both feet on the ground, then bend your knees to lower your body. Squats use your upper legs, particularly the quadriceps muscles. You can squat with feet hip distance apart, close together, wide apart, with toes pointed out, or toes pointed in. In deep water you mimic the squat by tucking and pressing the legs down or you can squat standing on a noodle. Squatting is the same as sitting down and getting up from a chair.

Lunge. A lunge is a single leg movement pattern that requires one leg to step forward and bend. Lunges strengthen your back, hips and legs while improving mobility and stability. You can do stationary lunges, in which you step forward and return to the starting position, or you can do walking lunges. Take a large step, lunging low in the water, followed by a step and lunge with the opposite leg. In deep water a tuck ski is a similar move. In daily life you lunge to pick something off the floor. You also do a lot of lunging if you play tennis or pickle ball.

Push. This is a movement pattern in which your upper body pushes you up from the ground, or pushes things away from your body. Pushing uses the chest, shoulders, triceps and forearms. The classic push exercise is a push-up, which you can perform in the pool, in either shallow or deep water, using a noodle or foam dumbbells. In shallow water you can balance on your toes while doing your push-ups, but you can also do them suspended. To push things away from your body, stand upright and push the water away. Increase the intensity by using drag equipment, such as webbed gloves, paddles or kickboards. In daily life you need the ability to push yourself up off the floor. You also push doors open, push shopping carts and baby strollers, and push (and pull) a vacuum cleaner. Which brings us to the next movement.

Pull. Pulling is the opposite of pushing. It requires your upper body to pull things toward your body, or pull your body towards an object, as in a pull-up. Pulling works your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids, and biceps, in other words, the muscles of your upper back. Common lifestyle habits, such as sitting at a desk all day, often results in rounded shoulders. Therefore, strengthening these muscles is important for maintaining good posture. You cannot do pull-ups in the pool, but you can perform pulling movements with rows, the crawl stroke and bow string pulls. Increase the intensity with webbed gloves, paddles, kickboards, elastic bands or rubber tubing. In daily life you pull carry-on luggage from the overhead bins in the airplane, pull the car door open, and pull (and push) the vacuum cleaner.

Rotate. Rotation, or twisting, is a core activated movement. It means reaching across the midline of your body. Since the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of your body, crossing the midline of your body requires using both brain hemispheres, causing more neurons to fire and making more connections. Rotation works the abdominals and obliques, as well as involving the abductors and adductors in the legs. Pool exercises that involve rotation include upper body twists, cross-country ski with rotation, and crossover kicks. In daily life we rotate when we walk, run, swim, throw, kick. turn to look at someone, or reach for something that is not directly in front of us. People with osteoporosis may need to limit the range of motion when they rotate to avoid microfractures in the spine.

Hinge. Hinging or bending is a movement that involves bending at the hips while keeping your back in a neutral position (flat). Hinging uses the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and erector spinae. In the pool you do a hip hinge when you stretch your hamstrings. In deep water, abdominal pike and spine extension involves hinging at the hips. Sometimes when you pick up items from the floor in daily life, you use a lunge or a squat. But often when you drop something small, you just bend forward to pick it up. You may also find yourself leaning forward when climbing stairs or a steep hill, which is a slight hip hinge. Proper hinging maintains good posture, and strengthens the lower back.

Gait. Gait means walking. It is the most commonly used movement of all. Walking is a complex movement pattern using multiple muscle groups in both the lower body and the upper body. Any exercise where you have to put one foot in front of the other involves gait, and that includes not only walking, but jogging, running, sprinting, jumping and leaping. You can do all of these in the pool. In deep water you don’t jump or leap, but you do travel with cross-country ski. You use your arms in a natural arm swing, pulling with more force as speed increases. There is also a slight rotational movement as one arm swings forward and the other arm swings back. A strong gait improves posture and boosts the health of your lower body. A weak or shuffling gait puts you at risk for falling.

Include these primal movements in your fitness routine to keep your body functioning well so that you can continue to do all the activities of daily living that you enjoy. For more information on functional fitness check out the article “How to Exercise with Functional Training” from WebMD. For more information on primal movements see Stephanie Thielen’s article “7 Primal Movements” in the April/May 2017 issue of Akwa magazine. Log in to the members section of the AEA website at https://aeawave.org/ For lesson plans that include functional fitness exercises, see my book Water Fitness Progressions.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

Women Can Beat the Daily Grind with These Smart Tips

Photo via Pexels

Guest Blog provided by Jason Lewis https://strongwell.org/

In the relentless hustle of modern life, balancing career demands with personal well-being often feels like a daunting challenge, particularly for working women. This article explores actionable strategies designed to enhance your daily routine, empowering you to not only survive but also flourish both personally and professionally. These methods aim to elevate your overall quality of life, ensuring a harmonious balance between professional success and personal health.

Setting Achievable Milestones

Begin by setting realistic goals for yourself. Whether aiming to complete a project ahead of schedule or planning a small weekend getaway, goals should be attainable and aligned with your capabilities. This approach reduces stress and fosters a sense of accomplishment, which can be incredibly uplifting. Embracing manageable expectations helps maintain motivation and keeps you focused on progressing steadily rather than burning out.

Refresh and Revitalize with Water Fitness

Dive into the refreshing world of water fitness. This invigorating form of exercise not only enhances your physical health but also offers a serene escape from the daily grind. The buoyancy of water reduces strain on joints and muscles, making it a perfect activity for unwinding after a long day. Engaging in water aerobics or swimming laps around the pool can clear your mind and invigorate your body, preparing you for the challenges ahead with renewed energy.

Expanding Horizons through Online Education

If you’re contemplating a career shift or aiming to advance professionally, consider getting a degree in psychology through an online program. This type of degree offers profound insights into cognitive and affective processes, equipping you to effectively support those in need as you build a career that fulfills you. Online degree programs provide the flexibility needed to continue full-time employment while enhancing your qualifications, allowing you to improve your career prospects without compromising your current job responsibilities.

The Power of Positive Speech

Practice positive self-talk. This is about nurturing your inner dialogue to be more compassionate and encouraging. Replace self-criticism or doubt with affirmations and optimistic perspectives. This shift not only enhances your mental resilience but also improves your overall emotional health, paving the way for a more productive and fulfilling work-life experience.

Entrepreneurial Aspirations

For those dreaming of entrepreneurship, becoming your own boss is an exhilarating prospect. Start by drafting a business plan and understanding market needs, then go to the website of an online logo maker to create a distinctive and appealing logo on your own. By selecting a suitable template and customizing it with the right fonts and colors, you can effectively reflect your brand’s ethos, which is crucial in establishing your business’s identity and attracting potential customers.

Learn Forgiveness

Incorporate forgiveness, both towards yourself and others, into your daily life. Letting go of past grievances or self-imposed guilt can dramatically decrease emotional burdens and enhance mental clarity. This liberation from negative past experiences allows you to focus more on present opportunities and future aspirations.

Reflect, Learn, and Grow

Engage in regular self-reflection by dedicating time each week to contemplate your recent experiences, the decisions you’ve made, and their outcomes. This practice aids in learning from past actions and supports making more informed decisions in the future. Enhancing your decision-making process can significantly boost your sense of self-efficacy and overall mental well-being.

Mental Gymnastics

Make time for activities that promote mental stimulation. From solving puzzles to engaging in creative writing, activities that challenge your mind can enhance cognitive functions and lead to greater job performance and personal satisfaction. These activities are essential in keeping your mind sharp and ready to tackle complex problems both at work and in personal endeavors.

Each day presents a new opportunity to enhance your well-being while achieving professional success. By integrating these strategies into your routine, you not only improve your quality of life but also empower yourself to meet career challenges head-on. Embrace these practices to navigate your work-life path with confidence and grace, ensuring you thrive in all aspects of life.

Water Fitness Lessons offers resources to help instructors learn how to manage their own water fitness classes and provide the best possible experience for their students. Get in touch today with questions or comments.

Thanks, Jason.

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

Stretches for Your Water Fitness Class

Stretching keeps the muscles flexible and healthy, and maintains the range of motion in our joints. Without stretching our muscles shorten and become tight. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching at least 2-3 times a week and notes that daily stretching is the most effective. Most adults should hold a stretch 10-30 seconds, but older adults get greater benefits from holding the stretch for 30-60 seconds. Bring the stretch to your full range of motion, but not past the point of pain. Avoid bouncing, which could lead to an injury. The other way to stretch is to slowly move a joint through its full range of motion. It is important to warm up the muscles before you begin to stretch. That means that for water fitness participants, the ideal time to stretch is at the end of class.

Muscles that need stretching include the gastrocnemius (calf), hamstrings, quadriceps, iliopsoas (hip flexors), adductors (inner thigh), gluteus medius (outer thigh), trapezius (upper back), pectorals (chest), anterior deltoids (front of shoulder), sternocleidomastoid (side of the neck), erector spinae (lower back) and obliques (waist). You probably don’t have time to stretch all of those at the end of class, but you can stretch the muscles that you worked especially hard that day. Sometimes instructors get in a rut of performing the same stretches – calf stretch, quad stretch, clasp the hands behind the back – all the time. One way to mix it up is to stretch a muscle you don’t usually include, like holding a side lunge to stretch the inner thigh, or giving yourself a hug to stretch the upper back, or bringing the ear toward the shoulder to stretch the neck. Here are some other ideas:

Use the Pool Wall. For the front of the shoulder, face the wall, stretch one arm to the side with the palm on the wall; turn away from that shoulder. For the hamstrings, place the bottom of the foot on the wall at hip level, then hinge forward from the hips. For the calf, do the runner’s stretch. For the hip flexors, stand close to the wall and lift one straight leg to the back, pushing the hip toward the wall. For the quadriceps, turn your back to the wall and place the bottom of the foot on the wall. For the waist, turn one side to the wall and place that hand on the deck, stretch the other arm overhead and lean in toward the wall.

Noodle Assisted Stretches. You can stretch the leg with a noodle under the thigh. It may be difficult for some participants to thread the noodle under the thigh, but most people can straddle the noodle like a bicycle. From that position it is easy to push the noodle under the thigh. Straighten the leg to stretch the hamstrings. Some participants will be able to push the noodle to the ankle for this stretch. If they can put the noodle under the ankle, pivoting and bringing the knee down becomes a noodle assisted quad stretch. With the noodle under the thigh, open the hip and bring the knee to the side to stretch the inner thigh. Sit on the noodle like a bicycle and put one ankle on the opposite knee to stretch the outer thigh. Still sitting on the noodle, grasp the noodle with both hands behind the back and push it toward the floor to stretch the chest. Hold the noodle in the hands like a rainbow and lean to one side to stretch the waist. Or stretch the waist by placing the rainbow on the surface of the water and rotating in a slow waist twist.

Dynamic Stretches. This means moving a joint slowly through its full range of motion. If the pool water is cool, dynamic stretches are the way to go. Extend the left arm to the side with the thumb up and walk in a clockwise circle to stretch the front of the shoulder; with the right arm walk counterclockwise. Make big figure eights with the arms to stretch the shoulders. Walk forward with the arms pointing down at an angle to the sides, dragging the arms behind you to stretch the chest. Swing one leg forward and back through its full range of motion for the hip flexors. Do a slow pendulum side to side for the inner and outer thighs. Or swing one leg to the side, cross it in front of the other foot, swing it back to the side and then cross it behind the other foot. A crossover step stretches the outer thigh.

Ai Chi. These slow gentle movements are a form of dynamic stretching originated by Jun Konno in Japan. Ruth Sova gave the postures their names. The movements are breath centered and performed in flowing patterns. There are 19 postures, or movements, some for the upper body, some for the lower body. You can do an entire class of Ai Chi, or you can do some of the postures for stretching and relaxation at the end of class. Click on Jun Konno to see a 9 minute-30 second video demonstration. For more information you can purchase Ruth Sova’s Book Ai Chi: The Water Way to Health and Healing.

Yoga Poses. Water Yoga is another option for adding variety to the stretching part of a class. Many poses are performed standing, such as Mountain, Chair, Goddess, Triangle, Warrior I and Warrior II. Some are balance poses such as Tree, Side Leg Lift, Half Moon. Figure Four, Dancer and Warrior III. You can do poses without equipment, or you can add props like noodles or kickboards. For more information you can click on Christa Fairbrother’s 3-minute video demonstration, or purchase her book Water Yoga: A Teacher’s Guide to Improving Movement, Health and Wellbeing.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) Stretching. This may be the most effective technique for increasing range of motion. It involves moving the shoulder joint or hip joint in diagonal patterns through all three planes of motion. There are two diagonal patterns for the upper extremity, called D1 UE and D2 UE; and two diagonal patterns for the lower extremity called D1 LE, and D2 LE. Click on the links at the name of each stretch for short videos on how to perform the four patterns.

Controlled Articular Rotations (CARS). These are rotations around a joint either toward or away from the midline of the body. They are called controlled because they are performed slowly in order to flood the joint with synovial fluid. These motions improve the mobility of the joint. Rotations can be performed with ten joints: neck, thoracic spine, shoulders, scapula, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle, and lumbar spine. To see video demonstrations of each of these movements, click on Larissa Armstrong-Kager, a practitioner of this technique.

As you can see, there are multiple options for the stretches at the end of your water fitness class. Try something new and let me know how it went. See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

How to Do Deep Water Exercises

All exercise is properly performed with the spine in neutral alignment. In deep water, good posture is more challenging to achieve because the feet do not touch the floor. Beginning exercisers may find themselves curling forward, flailing the arms, and drifting. There are some things you can do to stabilize. The most important is to wear a deep-water flotation belt. Without it, you will find yourself sinking when you attempt to achieve upright neutral alignment. Use a stabilizing scull, sweeping the hands in and out, to control flailing and reduce drifting. Webbed gloves further increase stability. Learn to brace the core muscles. Include tucks in the warm up (tuck ski or jacks tuck) to engage the core. With practice, the core muscles will engage continuously and discreetly throughout the workout, which is why deep water exercisers so often see improvements in their posture. Below is a list of basic deep water exercises with descriptions. Click on the name of the exercise to see a short video demonstration.

Scull. Sculling is an important skill in deep water. Besides assisting in stabilization, you can use a propeller scull (a figure 8 hand motion) to travel. Hold the hands up in front of you and propeller scull to travel backward. Hold the hands down by your sides and propeller scull to travel forward. Extend the hands out to the sides and use the scull to lift the shoulders out of the water. This works great with jog, heel jog, bicycle, and flutter kick. Maintain the elevation for 30 seconds or more to up the intensity.

Knee-high Jog, Sprint, and Power Run. Jogging is one of the most basic of all moves. Lift the knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor in a knee-high jog. Lifting the knees higher than that tends to make you curl forward and puts a strain on the low back. To increase intensity, go into a sprint by adding speed. To increase intensity even further, go into a power run, which uses large, powerful arm movements that pull the water, and longer, more powerful leg movements.

Heel Jog. Instead of lifting the knees in front, heel jog lifts the heels in back, working the hamstrings. Check to make sure that the knees are staying down.

Skate Kick. A kick backward with straight legs works the gluteus maximus, a muscle that tends to be weaker from sitting too much. Watch that you are not bending the knees and turning the exercise into a heel jog.

Crossover Kick. The midline of the body is an imaginary line that goes through the nose and the bellybutton. Crossover kick crosses that midline. Since the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of your body, crossing the midline of your body requires using both brain hemispheres, causing more neurons to fire and making more connections. It’s a good idea to include some exercises that cross the midline in every session.

1. Skate Kick
2. Crossover Kick
3. Sweep Out
4. Center

Skate Kick, Crossover Kick, Sweep Out and Center. I love this exercise! It challenges coordination, crosses the midline, and engages the core. One leg kicks back, then kicks across the midline, sweeps out to the side and returns to center. Perform the move alternating right and left legs.

Cross-country Ski. Cross-country ski is the ultimate deep water exercise! It uses long levers, works both the upper body and the lower body, and gets the heartrate up. Plus, there are multiple variations! In a neutral position the arms and legs should go forward and backward evenly. If the glutes are weak, it may be difficult to get full hyperextension of the hips. If you tilt the trunk back and focus too much on hip flexion, you end up just kicking forward. Check out your form by skiing with your back to the pool wall; your heels should tap the wall. Try shortening your range of motion so that your forward flexion is not greater than your backward hyperextension. As the glutes get stronger you can increase your range of motion.

Cross-country Ski Travel Backward and Forward. Traveling backward with cross-country ski is a challenge. You cannot propel yourself backward by pushing off the floor. Instead your push yourself backward with a powerful forward arm swing. This takes upper body strength! Turn your palm to face forward when you swing the arm forward, and slice on the swing backward. Do the opposite to travel forward. Turn the palm to face back when the arm swings backward, and slice when the arm swings forward.

Tuck Ski. Instead of tucking your knees up, tuck your feet under your body. That way when you go into the ski your flexion (with the front leg) and hyperextension (with the back leg) will be equal. Watch that you don’t power pop the knees when you lengthen the legs. Tuck ski is a good exercise for the warm up or for active recovery between intervals.

Cross-country Ski
with Rotation

Cross-country Ski with Rotation. This is another exercise that crosses the midline of the body. The rotation is in the upper body, and therefore the arms reach across the midline, while the legs move toward the corners. This is a difficult exercise for some people to master. They end up doing a crossover kick while sweeping both arms side to side, or a crossover kick reaching with the arm on the same side of the body. It looks and feels awkward. But once the move is mastered, you can really up the intensity because the range of motion is so large, the movement is in multiple directions, and you are creating lots of turbulence.

Cossack Kick. My class likes this move. Begin with the heels together and the knees apart, in a diamond position. The shoulder blades are contracted with the elbows bent and the hands out to the sides, thumbs up. Now kick the legs out to the sides and at the same time reach the arms out to the sides. It looks a little like a marionette dancing.

Jumping Jacks. If you perform jumping jacks in deep water the same way you perform them on land, you will find yourself bobbing up and down. Performing them with arms and legs opposite solves the problem. Think of making a capital letter T with your body followed by a capital letter A.

Jumping Jacks Travel Sideways. If you want to travel sideways with jumping jacks you need a different arm and leg motion. Use only one side of your body. If you are traveling to the right, your right arm and right leg reach out to the side, then pull them both straight to center. Use the left arm and leg to travel to the left. Be sure to keep the leg straight, working the inner thigh. A common mistake is bending the knee, since short lever moves are easier than long lever moves. But this turns the move into a Cossack kick and works the hamstrings instead of the inner thigh.

Jacks Tuck. For this exercise tuck your knees up and bring your arms down to the sides. Then abduct the hips (bring the legs out to the sides) while lifting your arms to the side toward the surface of the water. Jacks tuck is another good exercise for the warm up or for active recovery between intervals.

Inner Thigh Lift. Begin with your legs wide apart. Lift one inner thigh toward the surface of the water while the opposite hand reaches down to touch the inner thigh. You can also touch the lower leg or even the ankle if you can reach it, but watch that you do not lean forward to accomplish this. It is more important to keep the spine in neutral than to touch the ankle. Work in your feel good range of motion. It is okay to bring the legs closer together if wide apart is uncomfortable for you, but if the legs are too close together the exercise becomes a knee-high jog.

Accelerate the Legs to Center Elevating the Shoulders. Elevation is a power move that begins with the legs apart, either front to back or side to side, followed by a forceful acceleration of the legs to center. As the straight legs come together the shoulders lift out of the water. There are four exercises that use this technique: cross-country ski with elevation, tuck ski together, frog kick, and breaststroke kick. All of them are great exercises to use in interval training.

Cross-country ski
with Elevation

Cross-country Ski with Elevation. Use your full range of motion for this ski, then forcefully pull the straight legs to center. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Tuck Ski Together. Begin by tucking the feet under your body before going into a full range of motion ski then bringing the straight legs to center. Add some speed and perform the move smoothly. If you are a swimmer you will recognize this as a vertical scissors kick. For non-swimmers, a common mistake is going back into a tuck before the straight legs come together; this takes the power and elevation out of the move.

Frog Kick. This is another move swimmers will be familiar with. Begin by lifting the knees wide to the sides. Straighten the legs into a full range of motion jacks position. Then forcefully accelerate the straight legs to center. Again, a common mistake is tucking the knees back up before the straight legs come together, and then the move is essentially a jacks tuck.

Breaststroke Kick. Instead of lifting the knees wide to the sides as in the frog kick, lift the heels up in back. Then straighten the legs into a full range of motion jacks position and forcefully accelerate the straight legs to center. Both the breaststroke kick and the frog kick are lateral moves, but in the breaststroke kick the legs lift in back first and in the frog kick the knees lift to the sides first.

Side to Side. Begin by tucking your feet under you. Then extend both legs to one side in a side-lying position. Tuck again and extend both legs to the other side. Try to keep the feet close together. Foam dumbbells held out to the sides assist with stabilization for this exercise. It can be performed without dumbbells; in that case stabilize with a scull.

Abdominal Pike and Spine Extension. This is my favorite move for working the abdominals and erector spinae. Begin by tucking your feet under you. Then go into a pike, or a capital letter “L” position. Tuck again and extend both legs 45 degrees to the back. Try to keep the feet close together. Foam dumbbells held end to end on the surface of the water assist with stabilization; keep them on the surface of the water and let your abdominals do the work. This exercise can be performed without dumbbells; in that case stabilize with a scull.

Burpee: 1. Plank
2. Tuck
3. Drop the legs
4. Elevate

Burpees. This is a fun move! You need to use a noodle, preferably one of the denser more buoyant ones. Begin in a plank position. Tuck the feet under you and then drop the legs down to neutral, letting the noodle rise toward the surface. Push the noodle back down and flutter kick to lift the shoulders out of the water. Tuck your feet under you again and go back into a plank position.

Once you get comfortable in deep water you can really get a great workout. I enjoy the freedom of moving without my feet touching the floor. The late John Spannuth, the founder of the US Water Fitness Association, compared deep water exercise to flying. If you would like to know more about deep water exercise, check out my books. Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography has lots of photographs and cues that tell you what muscles you are working. Water Fitness Progressions tells you how to progress your exercises from basic to high intensity interval training, plus lesson plans using various types of equipment.

See you in the deep end!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

The Benefits of Exercising in Deep Water

Exercising in deep water has many of the same benefits as exercising in shallow water, plus a few more. The hydrostatic pressure in deep water pushes blood out to the extremities the same as in shallow water, but since more of the body is submerged cardiovascular efficiency is enhanced and the heart rate is even lower. Hydrostatic pressure against the chest makes inhaling more challenging, which strengthens the muscles of respiration. Ninety percent of the body works against the water’s resistance requiring increased energy expenditures during exercise, and improving muscular strength. Exercisers are able to achieve higher maximal contractions in the lower body and trunk compared to the same movements in shallow water or on land. Immersion in deep water completely offloads the joints leading to a greater range of motion and improving flexibility. There is an exhilarating feeling of weightlessness that comes with exercising in deep water.

Buoyancy creates a challenge to maintain neutral alignment. In shallow water, exercisers maintain alignment using their center of gravity located in the pelvic area, the same as they do on land. They receive feedback from the feet and ankles which allows them to adjust their form. In deep water, exercisers must achieve alignment between their center of gravity and their center of buoyancy, located mid-chest, with no information from their feet to tell them where they are in space. This can decrease body awareness, resulting in instability. A flotation belt attached to the body’s trunk can provide feedback, as well as engage the core muscles, and help the body maintain neutral alignment. Without neutral alignment, the body is at risk for injury. Exercising in neutral vertical alignment increases surface area which creates more resistance, allows exercisers to achieve more powerful movements, and burns more calories.

One of the best known forms of deep-water exercise is deep-water running, which has been studied extensively. The research shows that deep-water running helps prevent injury, improves balance, improves cardiorespiratory fitness, improves mobility, and reduces pain. Beyond running, deep-water exercise offers a variety of exercise options. Most exercises are done in the vertical position, but you can also use a diagonal tilt to the side, go side-lying, lean forward 45 degrees, get in a seated position or go into a pike position. Accelerating the arms and legs to center lifts the shoulders out of the water. Travel uses a variety of arm motions that require upper body strength. A number of exercises take advantage of the pool wall. There are not as many formats as with shallow water, but they include deep-water aerobics, high intensity interval training, circuit classes, and strength training. There are some kickboxing moves, Pilates exercises, and Yoga poses that can be done in deep water. The Arthritis Foundation suggests going to the deep end with a flotation belt if you have arthritis in the spine or shoulders. Ai Chi can be modified for deep water. See Ruth Sova’s book Ai Chi: The Water Way to Health & Healing, page 82, for my deep water modifications.

Foam Dumbbells
Aqualogix Bells
Resistance tubing
Webbed Gloves

Hand-held equipment used in the deep end needs to float, otherwise it may sink to the bottom of the pool if the exerciser loses her grip. There are many types of equipment do float, including buoyant equipment such as noodles and foam dumbbells; drag equipment such as Aqualogix bells, and resistance tubing. Webbed gloves are worn on the hands and are not in danger of sinking. There are some great articles on deep water by Beth Scalone, MacKenzie Barr, Lori Sherlock, Whitney Kessie, and one by me on hand-held resistance equipment, in the December-February 2024 issue of Akwa magazine. Access Akwa on the members only section of the AEA website. There is also information on deep water, including lesson plans for cardio, intervals and strength training (with and without equipment) in my books Water Fitness Progressions and Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography. I am a fan of deep water exercise!

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander