Sample Class: Strength & Cardio Circuits

A water workout is an excellent choice for high-intensity training. This circuit-based format uses a variety of options for a fast-paced workout. As always, consider your participants when planning intensity levels and modifications. This class is intended for a healthy, fit population seeking a high-intensity workout. The class is designed to last about an hour, but you can shorten it as you wish. Participants will need water mitts, paddles and water tethers. For music, choose fast-paced, motivating songs.

Warm-Up (7–10 minutes)

Prepare the body for intensity. Work to a perceived-exertion level that feels “somewhat hard” (breathing becomes more comfortable with mouth open).

  • Walk: forward, to either side, backward. Use arms to facilitate movement and warm upper body.
  • Jog in place: add knee lifts, butt kicks and side knees.
  • Hand to Heel/Toe: alternate touching opposite hand to toe in front and opposite hand to heel in back (front, front, back, back).
  • Pendulum: reach arms to one side as leg abducts to opposite side. One leg remains grounded. Enlarge the movement.

Cardio Circuit (12 minutes)

In the cardio circuit, do continuous movement at a level that feels somewhat hard, characterized by open-mouth breathing. Perform each movement for about 1 minute in rebound or neutral position. The more powerful the movements, the higher the intensity will be. Allow 3 minutes for traveling moves and 2 minutes for stationary moves.

  • Jog forward and back.
  • Water jack: keep arms in water on rebound, abduct legs on upward jump, and bring them together on landing.
  • Cross-country ski in place.
  • Do a carioca move, picking up knees as if stepping over obstacle.
  • Ski side to side: enlarge at neutral/jump high/knees up, and reach side to side on landing.

Strength Circuit (14 minutes)

Add paddles for increased resistance. Some participants will find that water mitts provide enough resistance to achieve the desired overload. The goal is to transition into movement for 30 seconds and work to a level that feels hard or very hard for 1 minute. Take 30 seconds to transition to the next movement.

Chest Flyes. From staggered stance, lower into water so that shoulders are submerged. Modify lever (arm) length and hand position (with glove: slicing, fisting, webbing) to increase or decrease intensity. Add paddles for more resistance. Push body mass from back foot to front foot as arms move forward. Always slice hands or paddles back to starting point for quicker recovery and more targeted work.

Forward Kicks. Flex hip and extend knee. Kick height depends on flexibility of participant’s glutes and hamstrings. Keep spine neutral and kick lower if back alignment is compromised. For more resistance, add rebound and/or travel.

Lats. Pull arms down from water’s surface back to hips to engage latissimus dorsi. From staggered stance, lower into water until shoulders are submerged. Modify lever (arm) length and hand position (with glove: slicing, fisting, webbing) to increase or decrease intensity. Add paddles for more resistance. Add downward and backward movement, pushing body mass toward pool floor. Pull arms down from water’s surface. Shift mass from front foot to back foot for greater intensity as arms move toward hips. Slice hands or paddles back to starting point for quicker recovery and more targeted work.

Hamstrings and Glutes. Pull leg down from hip flexion to hip extension, and finish with knee flexion. Keep spine neutral. Start move lower if back alignment is compromised. Maintain alignment as hip moves into extension; keep core tight. For increased intensity, travel backward and alternate legs. If stationary, target one leg at a time.

Wood Chops. Start with hands together on surface of water. Pull from shoulder to opposite hip. Feet are wider than hip distance apart. Opposite leg will rotate slightly. Keep chest lifted, and slice back to surface to repeat move. For more intensity, add paddles and knee flexion as arms pull down.

Medial Deltoids. Stand with feet staggered front to back, elbows bent at approximately 45 degrees, arms by sides. Adjust hand position to increase or decrease intensity. Lift arms toward water surface as a single unit (don’t allow elbow to rise to surface before hand or vice-versa). Leading with thumbs, slice back to starting position. For more intensity, add paddles and/or start with flexed knees, straightening them as arms move toward water’s surface. Don’t allow arms to break water’s surface.

Wood Chops. Repeat as above, opposite side.

High-Intensity Interval Training (10 minutes)

The goal is to work very hard to extremely hard. Ratio: 1 minute of work to 1 minute of rest.

Sand Crawl. This suspended movement looks like crawling through sand or a very intense dog paddling. Don’t touch feet to pool floor unless modification is needed.

Tire Run. Use quick feet with high knees, as though running through a tire course.

Lateral Tire Run. Same as above, but move sideways. Imagine putting one foot in same tire as other foot leaves. Work both sides within 1-minute time period.

Forward-Traveling Lateral Jump. Feet are “glued” together. Jump side to side while traveling forward--high jump or shoulders submerged in neutral position.

Partner High-Fives. Facing a partner, jump as high as you can and give your partner a high-five—right hand to right hand, left to left. No partner? Squat slightly (don’t submerge face), then jump up, pulling knees to chest and elbows to knees.

Sprint (12–15 minutes)

The goal is extremely hard to maximum effort. Perform 1 minute of work and 90 seconds to 2 minutes of recovery. Tether together partners of similar strength levels, if possible.

Run Away. Partners face away from each other. Run hard until cued to stop. Then face same direction, shoulder to shoulder. On cue, move laterally as hard as possible away from each other. Repeat on opposite side.

Zigzag. Partners face away from each other and change direction as often as possible in zigzag pattern.

Lateral Jump Away. Partners face away from each other and jump side to side while traveling forward.

Cool-Down (5–10 minutes)

Keep participants moving during the cool-down so they don’t get chilled. Move through range of motion to relax muscles. Do easy walk, making moves larger and dragging arms behind body. Change direction. From stationary position, drag arms front to back, flexing and extending spine through movement. If noodles are available, take two and form a “hammock”—rest neck on one and knees over the other. Relax!

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Bethany Diamond

IDEA Author/Presenter
Bethany Diamond is the founder of Ovarian Cycle, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to fundin... more less
February 2011

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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