The noodle has long been a popular piece of apparatus with aqua fitness participants. Initially introduced as a rehabilitation tool, it now serves multiple purposes, being used for cardio and strength training and as a floatation device in both shallow and deep water classes. In some pools, noodles are the only aquatic tool used, in place of aqua dumbbells. It is important therefore, to keep finding new and creative ways to use this versatile piece of kit.
Hold your noodle!
There are several positions in which the noodle can be held:
- Thirds – the hands are positioned at an even third from each end
- Noodle ends – in front of the body or from behind the body (photo 1)
- Sitting on the noodle – underneath buttocks, between legs or under one knee (photo 2)
- Noodle under arms – in front of the body or from behind the body.
Use your noodle!
The unique properties of the aqua environment can be harnessed to great effect with clever use of the noodle.
Bernoulli’s Principle states: ‘A stationary body in water will always move towards any turbulence because of the negative pressure drag.’
The more turbulence created by the noodle, the greater the instability in the water. This means that participants will need to work against the turbulence created by their own noodle as well as that created by other participants. This is an effective way to challenge balance because when they move the noodle faster or stronger through the water the participant will feel less stable. This principle can be used for both cardiovascular and strength conditioning.
To incorporate the principle in cardiovascular training, a dynamic lower body movement is required in conjunction with a powerful upper body action.
An example of this is a single leg kicking across the body and out to the side, accompanied by the upper body action of holding the ends of the noodle (which is positioned behind the back) and swinging the opposite arm horizontally across the body in the opposite direction.
The 30-second article
- The way in which the noodle is held can affect outcomes
- Buoyancy-resisted moves can improve core activation as well as strength
- Buoyancy-supported moves enable focus on other areas of the exercise
- The noodle can be used to increase lever length, increasing workload and encouraging greater range of motion
- Over-gripping the noodle can fatigue muscles, so provide participants with opportunities to release the fingers and rest the overworked muscle.
Bernoulli’s Principle can also be applied to strength-based movements, whereby the lower body is stationary and the upper body creates the turbulence, with the aim of remaining stationary. An example of this is standing with feet wide apart while holding the noodle at ‘thirds’ and circling it in front of the body. The goal is to keep the feet firmly planted on the pool floor while challenging the upper body to move the noodle quickly, thus creating more turbulence.
Archimedes Principle states: ‘When a body is wholly or partially immersed in a fluid it experiences a vertical upward force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced and acting through the initial centre of gravity of the fluid displaced.’
Because the noodle is a buoyant object, it can be used to help float the body as well as create resistance when forced under water. When the noodle is held lower in the water, the exercise requires more strength and repetitions are slower. If the noodle is held closer to the surface, moves can be performed faster, thus making the exercise more cardiovascular.
This refers to any movements that move in the opposite direction of the buoyancy, e.g. pushing or holding the noodle down in the water. This is effective for strength-based exercises and also an excellent way to encourage the use of core stabilisers.
An example of this is holding the noodle in ‘thirds’ under the water while in a prone suspended position. Arm and leg actions, such as a baby crawl with a push-pull upper body action, can challenge the abdominals and upper body muscles due to the noodle being forced under the water to suspend the body.
The noodle’s highly buoyant properties effectively support the body in any position with minimal effort. The advantage of this is that the focus can be shifted away from trying to stay afloat to concentrating on the execution of the exercise, e.g. noodle underneath the knee and swinging the opposite leg in and out while holding onto the noodle and pulling across the body in the opposite direction (photos 3 & 4).
Increased lever length
When the noodle is held in front of the body at thirds, the noodle effectively increases the lever length of the arm. This increases the workload of all the upper body muscles when performing upper body actions. It is also a great way to encourage participants to work through a greater range of motion, as they will feel the muscles in the upper back work when they pull the noodle up against the body. Swinging type motions from side-to-side will create more turbulence because of the increased length of the arm lever, thus making it more challenging to perform.
Depending on how it is used, the noodle can be a very effective tool for elevating heart rate. To achieve this, faster movements are necessary, which means that the noodle is required to push through water at greater speeds. The depth at which the noodle is held will determine how quickly it can move through the water. The deeper the noodle is submerged, the slower the action, and the greater the focus, therefore, on strength. Conversely, the shallower the noodle is held, the faster the exercise can be performed. To encourage participants to move at the desired speed, indicate that they need to keep up with the speed at which you are teaching the exercise. Moving at a specific tempo with the music helps participants realise the depth at which they need to hold the noodle in order to keep up and thus move the noodle at a speed that will effectively induce a cardiovascular response.
Give the fingers a break!
Participants often over-grip the noodle, resulting in muscular fatigue in the fingers, hands, wrist and forearm muscles. Provide participants with opportunities to release the fingers and rest the overworked muscle by:
- using a buoyancy-assisted move that allows the noodle to float while performing a lower limb or stabilisation activity
- including exercises in which the noodle supports the body and the arms are allowed to move freely
- teaching participants to not hold the noodle too firmly or continuously, and encouraging them to use their palms or bodyweight to assist with controlling the noodle.
Supe up your noodle moves and you can deliver an innovative workout that elevates your participants’ strength gains and cardio fitness.
Marietta Mehanni is an award winning presenter, a highly respected instructor mentor and an Australian Fitness Network Ambassador with over 20 years’ experience teaching and presenting group exercise. mariettamehanni.com