Water Exercise Resources

Water fitness instructors need resources in order to teach their classes. It would be nice if there was a single website where we could go to find all the resources we need. Well, there is! It is https://maapdfw.com the website of the Metroplex Association of Aquatic Professionals. This is an organization of water fitness instructors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you live in this area your membership entitles you to free Master Workouts and discounted Continuing Education Training. But even if you don’t live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Resources page has links to everything you might need to be successful as an instructor.

First of all you need a certification. The Aquatic Exercise Association has updated their certification so that it can now be completed online. If you join AEA you get access to the members only section of their website and you get a print or an online version of Akwa magazine which has articles written by aquatic professionals from around the world. My articles appear in the magazine a couple of times a year. https://www.aeawave.com/

The United States Water Fitness Association also offers a water fitness instructor certification. They send you study materials and an open book test which you complete and mail back. In addition they offer Aquatic Fitness Personal Trainer, Aquatic Wellness Coach, Aquatic Director certifications and more. http://www.uswfa.com/

A third organization which offers a variety of certifications is SCW. Most of the certifications are for land based exercise but they do have an Aquatic Exercise and an Aqua Barre certification. The certifications are online but they include a live course at a Mania convention for free. There are Mania conventions in California, Florida, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, the Midwest, Boston, DC and New York City. http://scwfit.com/

Once you get a certification, you’ll want some resources to help you plan your classes. Water Fitness Progressions (2019) and Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography (2011) by Christine Alexander are my two books published by Human Kinetics. They contain lesson plan ideas for many types of aquatic fitness classes. Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography has 36 shallow-water lesson plans and 36 deep-water lesson plans. Water Fitness Progressions shows how to add intervals to a lesson plan and then progress the intensity from easy to moderate to HIIT. In addition there are strength training lesson plans that progress from using the water’s resistance to using various types of equipment. You can buy the books from the publisher (click on the name of the book above) or from Amazon.com.

Of course you’ll need a professional looking swim suit and water shoes. In the area north of Dallas we can go to Xtreme Swim to look for swimwear. There are lots of places to shop online as well, such as Dolfin Swimwear, H20Wear, Speedo, and Swimsuits for All. Some vendors offer discounts for AEA members or water fitness instructors that you can pass on to your class participants. The swimsuits that last the longest are made of polyester. For those who don’t like or can’t wear polyester there is a new fabric, Xtra Life Lycra, which is supposed to rival polyester for durability. Choose well-fitting, supportive water shoes that you can use to teach on the deck or wear in the water.

This is only a sample of the links you will find a https://maapdfw.com There are links to National Aquatic Organizations, Greg Keyes’ new book Aqua-I-Cue, the streaming videos at Fitmotivation, places that sell shoes and apparel, online stores for aquatic equipment including sound systems, locations to download music for your classes, and websites where you can find online continuing education.

Check it out! See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander


Aquatic Step

Aquatic Step

Aquatic steps are not available at every facility, but if yours has them, then you have the opportunity to spice up your classes with some new exercises. Think “outside the box” and rather than just transferring the gym’s step aerobics class to the pool, use some water specific exercises instead. My thanks to Julie Twynham whose MAAP workshop in 2006 provided me with a lot of ideas for using aquatic steps.

                                                                                              Chris Step Water at Elbows

Aquatic steps have rubber on the edges of the bottom to help keep them from sliding around too much. Ideally the water should be deep enough so that when you stand on the step, the water comes up to your elbows, as in the picture to the right. Some aquatic exercises to try are:


Chris Step Rocking Horse 1   Chris Step Rocking Horse 2

Rocking horse with the front foot landing on the step and the back foot landing on the floor.

Chris Step Skateboard 1   Chris Step Skateboard 2

Stand on the step with one foot and skateboard with the other. Bend your standing knee to get a deeper sweep with the pedaling foot.

Chris Step Kick & Lunge 1   Chris Step Kick & Lunge 2

Stand on the step with one foot; kick and lunge to the floor with the other.

Chris Step CC Ski 2   Chris Step CC Ski 1

Cross-country-ski with the front foot landing on the step and the back foot landing on the floor.

Chris Step Squat 2   Chris Step Squat

Try some squats, with both feet on the step, or with one foot on the step and one foot on the floor. When you squat on a step, less of your body weight is supported by the water’s buoyancy.

Chris Step Log Jump 3   Chris Step Log Jump 2   Chris Step Log Jump 1

Log jump to one side of the step, tuck above the step, and log jump to the other side.

Chris Step CC Ski Suspended 2   Chris Step CC Ski Suspended 1

Cross-country ski, suspended, above the step.

Chris Step Tuck Pike Land Down 1   Chris Step Tuck Pike Land Down 2   Chris Step Tuck Pike Land Down 3   Chris Step Tuck Pike Land Down 4

Hop up on the step, pike, tuck and land on the step, then hop down to the floor.

Chris Step Fall Sideways   Chris Step Fall Sideways Tuck   Chris Step CC Ski Side-lying

Fall sideways off the step, tuck, extend the legs to the side, and cross-country ski side-lying back to the step.

Chris Step Chest Stretch 3   Chris Step Hamstring Stretch

You can even use the aquatic step for stretching. For example, walk around the step dragging your arm behind you for a chest stretch. Put one heel on the step to stretch your hamstrings.

You can create an entire class with the aquatic steps or use a few of these exercises in a circuit class. You might also want to use them for some games at the end of class. Set some aquatic steps up around the shallow end of the pool and play follow the leader around them and over them, pausing on top for some squats or Yoga tree poses or anything else you can think of. For more ideas on incorporating aquatic steps in a lesson plan, see my book Water Fitness Progressions. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from Amazon.com. Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there.

Chris Book Cover    IMG_4509

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander



Water Fitness Progressions

fullsizeoutput_1e57   I like my class participants. Over the years I’ve heard about their families, their pets, their challenges, and which of my playlists they like. They are more than just class participants, they are friends. I want them to get a good, safe, effective workout every time they come to my class. I don’t want to bore them with the same old routines. I want to challenge them to progress in their levels of fitness. I want to help them make their hearts stronger, to give them an opportunity to improve their muscular endurance, to challenge them mentally, and I want them to have fun doing it.

This means I have to keep learning. That’s why I attend conferences, workshops, and webinars and read water fitness books and articles. One of the things I’ve been looking for is a system for offering progressions. One system that I learned about is periodization. It’s a training tool used by athletes to help them be in the best possible shape during the most challenging season of their sport. Periodization divides the year into 4 seasons, Preseason, Transition Season, Peak Fitness Season and Active Recovery. Why not use this tool to train for the sport of daily living?

My experiments with periodization have become the basis for my new book, Water Fitness Progressions, which has just been published.

Chris Book Cover

Each season has its own focus. In the Preseason we focus on improving posture, performing the exercises with good form, increasing range of motion, doing low intensity intervals, and using the properties of water to create overload. In the Transition Season we improve the quality of our movement by paying attention to how the arms and legs move the water, increase interval training to moderate intensity, and add equipment to sessions of strength training. In Peak Fitness Season we focus on increasing power, performing high intensity interval training (HIIT) and using both concentric and eccentric muscle actions in our strength training with equipment. In Active Recovery we give our bodies a chance to repair any microtrauma that may have occurred during the previous months. We do light cardio-respiratory training, core strength training and have fun activities such as games or relay races to provide a mental break.

The book explains how to do all of this, complete with lesson plans. Each interval lesson plan has 3 versions, a low intensity version, a moderate intensity version and a high intensity (HIIT) version. There are strength training lesson plans using various properties of the water, using buoyant and drag equipment, and focusing on eccentric muscle actions. There is also a section of fun activities.

Thanks to the American College of Sports Medicine, the Aquatic Exercise Association, Pauline Ivens and Stephanie Thielen, who all provided some of the ideas used in this book. My special thanks goes to my water fitness classes, who are my inspiration. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from Amazon.com. Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there.

See you in the pool!


Chris Alexander

Free Choreography #6

fullsizeoutput_1e58   This is the sixth in a series of Blog posts on choreography. The last post described block choreography, which happens to be my favorite choreography style. I included a sample of simple block choreography, using 6 basic exercises.  The 6 exercises are:

  1. Knee-high jog
  2. Run tires (like running through tires at football practice)
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Cross-country ski
  5. Kick forward
  6. Heel jog

Now I want to show you how to expand your blocks of choreography to make them more complex.

Use the same 6 exercises as before, adding  4 exercises to the beginning of the set. Change something about the 6 exercises in each succeeding set, but  repeat the 4 new exercises without change. How do you select the 4 exercises? Perhaps you would like to focus on upper body strength. Then you might choose:

  1. Lunge R with bowstring pull L
  2. Lunge L with bowstring pull R
  3. Lunge R with double-arm press-down
  4. Lunge L with lat pull-down

If you want to focus on flexibility, then you might choose some movements in a diagonal pattern:

  1. Jumping jacks cross hands over chest & bring arms down at sides
  2. Jumping jacks cross hands in front of thighs & bring arms out to sides
  3. Jumping jacks & inner thigh lift alternate
  4. Inner thigh lift

If you want to increase intensity, instead of adding 4 new exercises at the beginning, add a set of intervals at the end. Pick one of the 6 exercises and add an intensity variable such as speed, increased range of motion, or power for the work interval and then use the basic move for the recovery. For example:

  1. Work: jog faster 60 seconds
  2. Recovery: knee-high jog 30 seconds
  3. Work: knee lift & lunge R 30 seconds & L 30 seconds
  4. Recovery: Knee-high jog
  5. Work: Squat & jump 60 seconds
  6. Recovery: Knee-high jog 30 seconds

Another option is to insert 3 or 4 more variations of one of the 6 basic exercises in each set. Your first set might look something like this:

  1. Knee-high jog
  2. Knee-lift R, travel R
  3. Knee-lift L, travel L
  4. Jog syncopate
  5. Chorus line kick
  6. Run tires
  7. Jumping jacks
  8. Cross-country ski
  9. Kick forward
  10. Heel jog

For your second set, use your 6 basic moves with different arm movements, but insert 3 or 4 more variations of run tires, such as squat and lift one knee to the side, run tires syncopate, frog jump, and frog jump with a quarter turn. Continue to insert variations of the other basic exercises in each succeeding set.

In this series on choreography I have used 6 basic exercises to illustrate the different choreography styles, but you, of course, are free to choose any exercises you’d like. Writing choreography using these techniques will give you lesson plans that are easy to remember and enjoyable for your participants.

For more examples of block choreography and other choreography styles, see my book, Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography. You can find a link to purchase the book on my website was www.waterfitnesslessons.com


See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander



Free Choreography #5


This is the fifth in a series of Blog posts on choreography. Your choreography is your lesson plan. It is helpful to have a lesson plan before you start teaching your class. If you write down your lesson plans, you will eventually end up with your own choreography library that you can refer to as often as you choose. Including a variety of choreography styles in your lesson plan library will set you apart from other instructors who may have a single technique that they tend to repeat over and over again. Your participants will definitely appreciate the variety.

Previous Blog posts featured samples of linear choreography, pyramid choreography, add-on choreography, and the layer technique. This Blog post is about block choreography. Block choreography is my personal favorite because it is so versatile. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. Let’s start out simply, using the same set of 6 basic exercises I used in all the previous choreography samples. The 6 exercises transition easily from one to the next. The exercises are:

  1. Knee-high jog
  2. Run tires (like running through tires at football practice)
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Cross-country ski
  5. Kick forward
  6. Heel jog

These 6 exercises comprise your first set. In each succeeding set you change something about the exercises. In this example I will change the arm movements, add travel, increase the range of motion, change the impact option, cross the midline of the body and combine two moves.

Change the arm movements:

  1. Knee-high jog with pumping arms
  2. Run tires with shoulder blade squeeze
  3. Jumping jacks clap hands
  4. Cross-country ski with windshield wiper arms
  5. Kick forward with triceps extension
  6. Heel jog with rotator cuff sweep

Add travel:

  1. Knee-high jog travel backward
  2. Run tires travel forward
  3. Jumping jacks travel backward
  4. Cross-country ski travel forward
  5. Kick forward travel backward
  6. Heel jog travel forward

Increase the range of motion:

  1. Leap forward
  2. Leap sideways
  3. Jumping jacks with arms out of the water
  4. Cross-country ski with full range of motion
  5. High kick
  6. Skate kick

Change the impact option:

  1. Bicycle suspended
  2. Frog jump neutral position
  3. Jacks tuck
  4. Tuck ski
  5. Seated kick suspended, emphasize quads
  6. Seated kick suspended, emphasize hamstrings

Cross the mid-line of the body:

  1. Crossover knees
  2. Inner thigh lift
  3. Jacks cross
  4. Cross-country ski with rotation
  5. Crossover kick
  6. Hopscotch

Combine two moves:

  1. In, in, out, out
  2. Ski-jacks combo (ski, ski, jack, together)
  3. One leg kicks forward & back

You can probably think of more ways to vary these 6 exercises on your own. This is simple block choreography. So how do you make it more complex? That will be in my next Blog post!

See you in the pool!