// Hydro Worx: Adding variation to comfort moves

by Marietta Mehanni

As passionate aqua instructors dedicated to providing our participants with the best possible workout experience, we are continually searching for the latest, most cutting-edge aqua moves. The irony is, we often end up sticking to comfortable and familiar exercises and formats. Using tried and true moves that have tested well over time provides an excellent foundation, but in accordance to the theory of muscle adaptation, it does not prove to be an effective method of progressing clients’ fitness levels. Adding elements of variation to ‘comfort moves’, will create new stimuli which will in turn provide different challenges to the body. By assessing favourite moves and applying the following five basic concepts, practically every exercise can be revamped.

1. RHYTHM AND SPEED

Music has an underlaying rhythm that makes the listening individual want to sway their body or tap their feet. This type of movement, or beat, can be replicated in the exercises chosen. Most instructors work either on the beat or every second beat, which works effectively with most exercises.

If providing variety and new stimulus is the goal, however, then exploring different rhythms is advantageous, e.g., a Cha cha rhythm such as 1, 2, 3 and 4 uses the pause between the third and the fourth beat. The next step is to put in a move that fits in with this rhythm, e.g., jog on 1, 2 followed by three quick jogs. The end result is an exercise that challenges the nervous and cardiovascular system. Rhythm can also be combined with speed of repetition, e.g., fast, fast, slow.

A move that can be used to hold this pattern is jack out, jack in, jack out and pause (photos 1 and 2). Any number of combinations can be created from using diff erent speeds, and this is not limited to what can be done with the lower body – you can incorporate this method with arm actions as well.

2. COMBINATIONS

1. Aqua moves can be divided into six broad categories:
2. Jogging e.g., narrow, wide, high knee, travelling
3. Kicks e.g., to the front, to the side, to the back
4. Jack/Scissors e.g., Big M Jack, high knee scissors, scissor through
5. Tuck jumps e.g., frog tucks, twist tucks, chest tucks
6. Single leg repeaters e.g., knee repeater, single leg kick through
7. Suspended moves.

Most lower limb actions will fall into one of these categories. Experimenting with combining categories will encourage participants to develop new neutral patterns, a process which will also challenge the brain. When the As passionate aqua instructors dedicated to providing our participants with the best possible workout experience, we are continually searching for the latest, most cutting-edge aqua moves. The irony is, we often end up sticking to comfortable and familiar exercises and formats. Using tried and true moves that have tested well over time provides an excellent foundation, but in accordance to the theory of muscle adaptation, it does not prove to be an effective method of progressing clients’ fitness levels. Adding elements of variation to ‘comfort moves’, will create new stimuli which will in turn provide diff erent challenges to the body. By assessing favourite moves and applying the following five basic concepts, practically every exercise can be revamped.

1. RHYTHM AND SPEED

Music has an underlaying rhythm that makes the listening individual want to sway their body or tap their feet. This type of movement, or beat, can be replicated in the exercises chosen.

Most instructors work either on the beat or every second beat, which works effectively with most exercises.

If providing variety and new stimulus is the goal, however, then exploring different rhythms is advantageous, e.g., a Cha cha rhythm such as 1, 2, 3 and 4 uses the pause between the third and the fourth beat. The next step is to put in a move that fits in with this rhythm, e.g., jog on 1, 2 followed by three quick jogs. The end result is an exercise that challenges the nervous and cardiovascular system.

Rhythm can also be combined with speed of repetition, e.g., fast, fast, slow.

A move that can be used to hold this pattern is jack out, jack in, jack out and pause (photos 1 and 2). Any number of combinations can be created from using different speeds, and this is not limited to what can be done with the lower body – you can incorporate this method with arm actions as well.

2. COMBINATIONS

1. Aqua moves can be divided into six broad categories:
2. Jogging e.g., narrow, wide, high knee, travelling
3. Kicks e.g., to the front, to the side, to the back
4. Jack/Scissors e.g., Big M Jack, high knee scissors, scissor through
5. Tuck jumps e.g., frog tucks, twist tucks, chest tucks
6. Single leg repeaters e.g., knee repeater, single leg kick through
7. Suspended moves.

Most lower limb actions will fall into one of these categories. Experimenting with combining categories will encourage participants to develop new neutral patterns, a process which will also challenge the brain. When the majority of participants are mature-aged adults, this is an important factor to take into consideration when designing a class. For example, use three favourite moves; e.g., kicks to front, kicks to back and knee tucks (photos 3, 4 and 5). Put them together in a combination and the end result could be;

Right leg kick front and back, 2x knee tucks, repeat to left
Or 1x kick to front, 2x kicks on same leg to back, 1x knee tuck, change legs
Or 2x kicks to front, 1x kick back, 1x knee tuck.

Not all exercises fit or flow well together, but experimenting in the pool with moves that, traditionally, you have not combined will provide you with interesting new exercises.

3. LEVELS

Levels refers to the position of the body in chest depth water, and can be divided into the following three groups;

Level 1 – sitting in the water, so that shoulders are under the water (grounded or suspended)
Level 2 – standing in the water so that water level is at chest height
Level 3 – propulsion.

Changing and combining these levels throughout the class will provide a variety of intensity options. Consider bringing a traditional level 2 move such as a jack, to a level 1 where the participants will be required to drop their shoulders beneath water level and either move faster while touching the bottom of the pool or remain suspended with the appropriate sculling arm action. Another option is to combine different levels in one sequence to create new interest with familiar moves. For example: 4x low straight leg front kicks with short levers (level 1), 2x propulsive front kicks with long levers (level 3) (photos 6 and 7).

Or 4x jacks (level 2), 2x power jacks (level 3).

4. ARM PATTERNS

Focus is often placed on lower limb actions, although arm patterns can provide countless opportunities to change the emphasis or intensity of an exercise. Arm lines can be split into five general categories;

1. Linear movement – forward, backward, side and down
2. Breaststroke and reverse stroke
3. Alternating arm forward and back swing
4. Scooping or circular actions – double or single arm action
5. Figure of 8 movements

We frequently use similar arm lines for each exercise (e.g., lateral raises for a jack); alternating arm reach for a jog; and scooping action for a pendulum.

Consider combining an unfamiliar arm line with a familiar lower limb action, e.g., pendulum with figure 8 arms (photos 8, 9 and 10). The result will be a shift from ‘familiar’ to something on which the clients will be required to focus their attention to achieve. For example, jogging with alternating arms (photos 11 and 12) can change to;

1. Double arm push forward
2. Double arm push forward x1 and side x1 (combination)
3. Double arm push forward x1, side x1, single, single, double (rhythm change)
4. Double arm push forward x1, side x1, single, single, double, double time (speed change).

5. TRAVEL

Travelling is both a fantastic way of elevating heart rate, and a method of eff ectively using pool space. Teaching effective travelling moves, whether they be forward, lateral or backward can provide an even wider scope for experimentation with moves that may have traditionally been ‘on the spot’ exercises. Energy expenditure is also greater when travelling with an exercise. Any move that incorporates a rebound action can also be performed while travelling. Experimentation in the pool will help you decide whether a forward, backward or lateral direction is appropriate.

For example, jacks move very well forward and backwards but not sideways. This is also the same for pendulum. Tuck jumps can be performed in any direction as long as the appropriate arm lines are used.

Examine your class programs and ask yourself when you last truly challenged your participants and yourself as an instructor. Stepping outside your comfort zone takes courage, but ultimately change is necessary in order to improve your clients’ fitness levels and expand your teaching repertoire.


Marietta Mehanni
Recipient of the 2007 Australian Fitness Network Author of the Year award, Marietta is an award-winning instructor and presenter with over 19 years of teaching experience in both land and water-based group exercise. Qualified for international accredition (AFAA, AEA, SCW and ACE), she presents regularly at national and international conventions. Marietta is also a course coordinator, lecturer and examiner for Certificate III Fitness Group Exercise and Aqua leadership.

 NETWORK MAGAZINE • SUMMER 2008 • PP31-34