Exercising in the water offers many benefits. Not only does the pool serve as a “liquid weight room,” but the buoyancy factor makes it easier to move. Water exercise also puts less stress on weight-bearing joints—a relief for obese adults. And a properly designed class can integrate balance, stability and body awareness.
Larger students may find water classes more accessible and less intimidating than traditional group fitness classes. A typical “land-based” choreographed class, for example, may be hard on knees and ankles. In addition, overweight or obese participants tend to be uncomfortable with the wall-to-wall mirrors in many studios.
This class combines toning and core- focused intervals with cardiovascular movement. The workout is designed for larger adults, but if your class includes different populations, you can use this as a base and modify the moves to increase intensity.
Buoyant Intervals Details
Format: a shallow-water fitness class for larger adults (up to 50 people)
Total Time: 60 minutes
Equipment Needed: one noodle for each participant
Music: 124–35 beats per minute. Use music for motivation, but make sure students can hear the cues. Teach at a tempo everyone can maintain. Larger adults may have a slower reaction time. If you choose faster, upbeat music, teach at half tempo.
Warm-Up (10 minutes)
Larger adult participants often arrive early. They may want to slip into the water without being seen. Try to be there early to answer questions. Encourage chatting during the warm-up as long as everyone can hear your instructions. Socialization may help some people feel more comfortable.
The warm-up prepares the joints, especially the hips, knees and ankles. Focus on teaching full range of motion (ROM) and water adaptation (depth and movement control). If possible, instruct from the deck so that you can assess body alignment and posture.
- Begin by walking in big oval or circle. If space doesn’t permit this, move widthwise. Cues: Maintain upright alignment, draw shoulders back and down, reach with arms and pull water past thighs.
- Take big step out to side with right leg in plié position, trail left leg in and squeeze, 8x. Repeat in the opposite direction, 8x.
- Power walk for 8 counts; walk “easy” for 8 counts. Repeat twice. Focus on body alignment: Stand tall, elongate spine, draw shoulders back and down, and keep abdominals in.
- While walking, lift knee and clap under leg. Repeat with other leg, 16x–24x. This exercise encourages balance and active stretching through lower back and hamstrings.
- Twist “on the spot,” initiating movement from waist, abdominals in.
Cardiovascular and Toning Intervals (40 min)
The intervals total about 6 minutes (4–5 minutes for cardiovascular segment and 1-11/2 for toning). This is a suggested time frame only. If your class loses focus, finish up and move on.
- Be aware that obese participants expend more energy moving their bodies than normal-weight people do.
- Use the water’s inertia to increase intensity.
- Encourage students to work at their own pace.
- Instruct movement in all directions though a full ROM against the water’s resistance. This helps promote muscle balance.
- Take time to stabilize first and then perform the skill/drill.
Cardio: Running. Place noodle around back and under arms. Run/travel with legs only for 2–4 minutes. Run backward for 1 minute.
Toning: Leprechaun Froggies. Stand wide with feet flat; knees are bent and turned out in external hip rotation (as in plié position). Holding noodle in front for stability, bring both feet up and clap together beneath body; return to start. Repeat 16x, and then do doubles (“clap, clap and down”) 8x.
Cardio: Cross-Country Skiing. Wrap noodle around back and under arms. Scissor legs back and forth as if skiing.
Toning: Rear-Leg Front Kick. Stand hip distance apart, noodle in front of body. Step back with right leg, square hips, lift right knee and extend, pushing foot through water. Bend knee, bring leg back down behind you and return to starting position. Repeat 8x and change legs.
Cardio: Jog, Jump, Tuck. Travel, jog, fast walk or run for 3 counts; jump and tuck knees in to chest (1 repetition). Repeat 8x. Hold noodle in front for steadiness, then get rid of it when stable.
Toning: Skateboard Jump. Squat so that water is at shoulder level, and hold noodle end with right hand. Jump and tuck knees toward chest and touch noodle with sides of feet. Return to starting position and repeat on other side (16x total).
Cardio: The Twist. Hold noodle in front, or let go of it and use arms underwater for resistance. Twist on the spot, moving arms and legs in opposite directions in the same plane. Keep abdominals in, breathe, and work waistline. Variations: Twist easy, down low, with a jump and with force (16x). Repeat.
Toning: Windshield Wipers. Stand with feet forward, hip distance apart. Hold ends of noodle so that it makes an arc. Keep elbows near waist, forearms parallel. Stabilize by keeping hips still and abdominals tight (this is difficult). Move noodle through water side to side like windshield wipers.
Cardio: Vertical Breaststroke. While straddling or sitting on noodle like a swing, move forward through water using breaststroke. Retract shoulder blades and push forcefully.
Toning: Triceps. Stand with feet hip distance apart, arms by waist, knuckles facing forward. Bend arms so that forearms rest just below water’s surface or parallel to bottom of pool. Extend elbows and push water down with palms. Return to starting position. Begin with moderate tempo and then do 15-second intervals hard and fast.
Cooldown (8–10 minutes)
Use this time to make participants feel good about the workout and their performances. Reinforce the positive aspects of movement and invite them back.
- Power walk through water, holding abdominals tight.
- Add breaststroke and squeeze muscles in middle of back.
- Moving sideways, take big step out to side with right leg and squeeze trailing left leg in, 8x.
- Hold onto sides of pool, shoulders down (as if they were sliding into your back pockets). Put feet up on wall and stick backside out and away, initiating a good stretch in hamstrings.
- Stand tall and roll shoulders out.
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