Rubberized Equipment

Bands and tubing, used for resistance training in land exercise, have made their way into the aquatic environment. Chlorine is hard on rubberized equipment, but chlorine resistant bands and tubing are now available. It prolongs their life to rinse them in fresh water after every use, but even so you have to inspect them for deterioration before using them with your class.

Many of the same exercises done with rubberized equipment on land can be done in the pool. The equipment has to be anchored to something and the resistance is in pulling away from the anchor point. In the water, the anchor is usually another body part, such as the opposite hand or a foot. When designing exercises you have to consider whether the body position is practical in the water (for example, a reclining position will not work), whether your participants can maintain good alignment with the exercise, and whether your participants are able to attach the band to a body part that is under water. Bands can be tied in a loop and placed around the ankles for leg exercises, but I am not a big fan of that. Some people have difficulty getting the loop around the ankles for one thing, and the instructor has to untie all the knots after class. You can buy a set of flat bands and a set of loops to solve one of those problems. If your participants have difficulty getting a loop around their ankles you can get tubing instead. It is fairly easy to put your foot through the handles of the tubing, and the tubing is also long enough that you can step on it while holding the ends in your hands. The down side is that tubing is significantly more expensive than the bands. I use the bands and focus mainly on exercises for the upper body.

When using bands for the upper body in shallow water, the participant is usually in a stable lunge or squat position. In deep water, often you have to perform a stabilizing leg movement, such as jog, cross-country ski or jumping jacks while focusing on the arms. Here are some band exercises you can try:



 Bowstring Pull                                                                       Works the trapezius and rhomboids                         Lunge position in shallow water                                     Cross-country ski in deep water


Chris arm press-down band     Chris arm press-down band deep

One Arm Press-Down                      Works the latissimus dorsi and posterior deltoids                              Lunge position in shallow water         Jog in deep water



Chest Press                                                                                                                                        Put the band around the upper back, hold the ends in the hands and push forward   Works the pectoralis major                                                                                                                 Squat position in shallow water                                                                                                         Jumping jacks in deep water

Chris shoulder raise band     Chris shoulder raise band deep

Arm Lift to Sides                                Works the medial deltoids                   Stand on one foot with band under the other thigh in shallow water             Seated position with band under thighs in deep water


Arm Curl                                                                                                                                              In the same position as for arm lift to sides, hold the ends of the band with palms up Works the biceps

Chris open door band     Chris open door band deep                                                          Elbow Sweep Out                              Works the triceps                                 Squat position in shallow water    Jumping jacks in deep water – extend the elbow as the feet come together



Forearm Press                                                                                                                               Hold the ends of the bands with the elbows down by the waist and pull apart               Works the rotator cuff                                                                                                                    Squat position in shallow water                                                                                               Jumping jacks in deep water – pull the ends apart as the feet come together

For information about how to modify these exercises, see my book Water Fitness Progressions. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from 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


More about Noodles

Noodles from Book   Noodle Hydrofit

Noodles are popular in water fitness. Often we think of using noodles for support during suspended exercises in shallow water. Of course we can do those same exercises without a noodle in deep water because we are already supported by a deep water belt. In both shallow and deep water noodles can also be used as a piece of buoyant resistance equipment. Buoyant means that the equipment floats toward the water’s surface. Buoyant equipment is only offering resistance when you are plunging it toward the pool floor.

The colorful noodles available at most pools do not offer a great deal of resistance making them ideal for beginners and for whenever you plan to do many repetitions of an exercise.  When greater resistance is desired, some people tie the noodle in a knotNoodle Knot to increase its surface area. I am not a big fan of that because it makes the noodle curly and useless for any other purpose. A better option is to use the larger more dense foam noodles available from Hydro-Fit. You can also progress to using foam dumbbells instead of noodles.

Since the resistance of a noodle occurs only when you are plunging it toward the pool floor, you need to be aware that you can only work one muscle of a muscle pair with this equipment. Hold the noodle in both hands with the palms facing up and perform an arm curl. You might think you are training the biceps, because that is what you would be training with weighted dumbbells in the gym. But the noodle wants to float to the surface anyway, so you are not using the biceps at all. Pull the noodle down toward the floor as if you are lowering weighted dumbbells and you are using the triceps, because the noodle is resisting that downward movement. Since the “arm curl” works the triceps, I prefer to turn the palms down (which puts less stress on the fingers), press the noodle toward the floor and call the exercise a “triceps extension.” The triceps contract concentrically in this exercise. If you slow down the noodle’s flotation toward the surface of the water, the triceps work eccentrically. If you wish to work the biceps, you may need to use a different kind of equipment.

Noodle resistance exercises can be performed with the noodle held in both hands (make sure the hands are shoulder distance apart), with the noodle held in one hand, and with the noodle under one foot. Some examples of strength training exercises you can do in shallow water with the noodles are:

  1. The chest press is shown in the Hydro-Fit drawing above. The exerciser is performing a rocking horse along with the chest press.
  2. The lat-pull down is being demonstrated by the instructor on the deck. The noodle is held in one hand extended to the side and is pressed down toward the floor.
  3. The squat is shown in the picture with a Hydro-Fit noodle. The noodle is being held down with the hands while the squat is performed, resisting the downward phase of the squat.

Shallow-water exercises with noodles need to be modified for deep water. For example, you cannot perform a rocking horse in deep water. However, you can do a chest press while leaning forward 45 degrees. A flutter kick in this position may help you stabilize while focusing on the pectoral muscles of the chest. Jog while performing the lat pull-down. The noodle will force you to travel sideways creating a challenge for the core muscles to maintain neutral posture while the lats are being trained. You cannot do squats in deep water, but you can place the noodle under one foot and perform a standing leg press.

For a chart showing which muscles are being trained with various exercises using buoyant equipment, see my new book Water Fitness Progressions. The book also contains lesson plans using noodles for both shallow water and deep water classes. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there. Another resource for exercises with noodles is The Noodle Workout which is available from Hydro-Fit. Click on the Hydro-Fit link to order the booklet.

Have fun with your noodles! 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 Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there.

See you in the pool!


Chris Alexander

Exercise to Music

DSCN0422    It’s fun to exercise to music! Music is a great motivator. It helps you maintain a cadence so that you stay on track and achieve the desired intensity. It also makes the workout seem to go faster.

If you are working out in the gym, you can plug your headphones into your iPod and use whatever playlist you like. If you are exercising in your backyard pool, you can turn on your sound system and play your favorite musical artist. It’s not that simple if you are teaching a water fitness class. Copyright laws state that musicians have the right to charge a fee for the use of their music in public performance, and a water fitness class is considered a public performance.

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) are the two largest companies worldwide that offer services to enable fitness professionals to access and use music without needing to contact each artist individually. Facilities that offer fitness classes must pay the appropriate ASCAP or BMI fees. Instructors should buy their music from companies that pay appropriate reproduction fees to produce CDs and music downloads for fitness applications. Some of these music companies are:


Muscle Mixes

Power Music

Yes Fitness Music

Music can be purchased as CDs or downloads. A variety of titles are available or you can create your own playlists. For a shallow-water class, 125-150 beats per minute (BPM) is recommended. I personally like 130-140 BPM for my shallow-water classes. In deep-water classes, the drag forces of the water and increased range of motion require a slower cadence. 100-135 BPM is recommended, which is typical of music created for step classes. I like 126-128 BPM for my deep-water classes.

If you are playing a CD, you need a battery operated CD player or one plugged into an electrical outlet installed with Ground Fault Interrupters (GFIs). Do not adjust any knobs on the CD player with wet hands. Most CDs play 45 minutes or an hour. If your CD is 45 minutes and your class is an hour long and you are teaching in the water, either teach the last 15 minutes without music, or dry your hands very carefully before re-starting the CD. If you are teaching from the deck, this is not a problem.

If you downloaded a playlist to your iPod or MP3, you will need some type of speaker to plug it into. Again, you do not want to handle the equipment with wet hands. With a download, you can make the playlist the exact length of your class. You can even add cool down music for the stretches at the end of class. Apps are available that can adjust the tempo of your music so that you can play your download at 130 BPM for strength training with equipment one day, and 140 BPM for cardio another day. Be sure to listen to the music at the lower or faster speeds to make sure the voices don’t sound either draggy or like chipmunks.

If you choreograph your moves to specific songs, then you will use that playlist for that lesson plan every time you teach it. I prefer to create lesson plans that work with any of my playlists. Having a variety of lesson plans and a variety of playlists allows you to mix and match and change things around often. Variety is the spice of life!

See you in the pool!



Which Is Better: Shallow or Deep?

Shallow water running     Deep water running    I get asked that a lot!

A better question is: What is the difference between shallow water exercise and deep water exercise?

  1. Pool Depth.  In shallow water the exerciser is standing in water that comes somewhere between waist level and chest level.  At this depth, buoyancy supports 70% of the body’s weight.  In deep water the exerciser is in water deep enough that the feet do not touch the pool floor.  A flotation device must be worn so that the exerciser does not have to spend the entire class trying to keep her head above water.  At this depth, buoyancy supports 90% of the body’s weight.
  2. Maintaining Alignment.  Exercise is safest when performed in neutral alignment.  In shallow water, water currents may challenge balance, but the exerciser’s feet are on the floor and her center of gravity (in the pelvic girdle) is the same as on land.  In deep water the exerciser has to balance from her center of buoyancy (at the lungs) with no information from her feet to tell her where she is in space.  It takes some practice, but the payoff is that core strength and posture both improve.
  3. Adam neutral   Amos suspended   Kathy diagonal                                Working position.  The working positions in shallow water are upright with rebound, upright grounded (keeping one foot in contact with the floor at all times), neutral (with the hips and knees flexed and the feet touching the floor) (see Photo 1), and suspended (see Photo 2).  The working positions in deep water include upright, tilted 45 degrees to the side (see Photo 3), seated as if in a dining room chair, and side-lying.
  4. Travel.  Travel in shallow water mainly involves the legs.  In deep water, travel significantly involves the upper body.  With no floor to push off from, the exerciser frequently uses arm movements to assist in travel, which requires a certain amount of upper body strength.
  5. Increasing Intensity.  Exercisers can increase intensity in shallow water by increasing speed, by increasing the range of motion, by using acceleration off the pool floor (jumping), by using acceleration against the water’s resistance (power moves) and by traveling.  Suspended moves also increase intensity for some, althKathy elevationough not so much for people who float easily.  The same methods can increase intensity in deep water with the exception of jumping and suspended moves.  In addition, deep water exercisers can elevate the shoulders out of the water with powerful leg moves or with sculling (see Photo 4).  High intensities can be achieved in both shallow water and  deep water.

These are some of the differences between shallow and deep water exercise.  Which is more interesting to you?

For more information about shallow and deep water, see my book Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography.  Information about the book is available on my website at  The photos illustrating this article come from the book.