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Instructing a deep-water class can be as challenging for the mind as it is for the body. So, are you up to it?

The key to successfully facilitating deep water exercise is to know the moves you are instructing inside out. Practise, practise and then practise the move some more, in the water. By doing so, when it comes to teaching the move from the pool deck, you will be able to recall the speed, lever length and muscle recruitment required to perform the move correctly.

When instructing deep water moves:

  • Use clear and concise verbal descriptions
  • Incorporate effective visual cues
  • Use the WETS AquaFrame to demonstrate how the suspended body moves in the water. This tool allows you to mimic actual water pace effectively and efficiently.

The deep difference

By understanding the differences between shallow and deep water exercise, you can deliver exceptional deep aqua classes.

Fluid dynamics

Fact: Fluid dynamics are exaggerated when exercising in deep water and the principle of action/reaction produces distinct movement responses.

Implication: The more forcefully you push backwards, the quicker you will move forwards. The higher you lift your arms to the front of your body, the more you will travel backwards. The action/reaction principle dictates that to move forward in water you will need to have a slight body lean and push your feet and arms backwards.

Core and balance

Fact: Deep water workouts involve the engagement of strong core muscles.

Implication: Participants are required to balance between the centre of buoyancy (thoracic area) and the centre of gravitational balance (pelvic region). These two areas of balance vary in every individual. In other words it is dependent upon the body composition, fat distribution, lever strength and length, and experience (water familiarisation) of each participant.

Too much buoyancy

Fact: Including a buoyancy belt, aqua dumbbells and ankle flotation cuffs at the same time will make it difficult to balance and travel through the water, and will also make for an inefficient workout.

Implication: Reduce the number of flotation aids used at the same time. The equipment may unbalance a move and create unnecessary turbulence. In most instances it is best to use only one piece of buoyancy equipment at a time.

Too little buoyancy

Fact: Too little buoyancy (whether in equipment, body composition or lack of water familiarisation skills) may create bad ‘survival’ techniques – struggling rather than steaming ahead.

Implication: Lean participants often feel more comfortable wearing two buoyancy belts. It may sound strange, but it can be effective for two thinner buoyancy belts to be worn, one clipped forward and one clipped at the back. This is only recommended until the participant learns how to tread water and use effective aqua hand movements to aid buoyancy. Water familiarisation is part of the process.


Fact: It may be more challenging than with shallow water workouts, but deep water workouts can be structured easily, and mapped as well as choreographed, to appropriate music.

Implication: The key to keeping participants on the beat in the deep is to plan, prepare and practise prior to demonstrating.


Fact: Deep water workouts can be taught at low, medium and high intensity levels to suit a variety of population groups.

Implication: It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the tips and techniques necessary to modify the intensity.

Travelling methods

Fact: Using only one travelling method restricts the likelihood of delivering a total body workout.

Implication: Include a variety of travelling techniques that recruit various muscle groups. Options include: the 15° forward lean, as in sprinting action; feet pushing back; bicycle peddling action; and a long lever straight(er) leg action.

You can’t just apply the same workout plan to a deep water class as you can to a shallow water class. With a little planning, some modifications and plenty of time spent practicing the exercises in the water, however, you can create a stimulating workout that uses the differences of the deep to your participants’ fitness advantage.

Jennifer Schembri-Portelli, aka ‘JSP’, has been active in the fitness and aquatic industry for over 25 years. A skilled and creative presenter, she also founded Water Exercise Training Service (WETS), an education provider whose aqua fitness qualifications are now delivered in partnership with AUSTSWIM.

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