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

Pool Tools: Noodles


Back when I started teaching water fitness in the early 1990’s, the only equipment we had was milk jugs, which we held under our arms for support during suspended exercises.

Milk jug  Milk jug  What was wrong with that? Plenty! When the body is suspended from milk jugs, the shoulders are unacceptably loaded, the tendons are pinched, and nerve damage may occur in the arm pits (Ivens and Holder, Do No Harm, 2011). Fortunately, today we have better equipment options.

One of the oldest and most popular options is the pool noodle. It is inexpensive (around $3 to $5 each) which means most facilities can afford them, and there are many ways to use them. One way is to use them under our arms for support during suspended exercises, just as we did with the jugs. But if we hang from noodles under our arm pits, we risk the same shoulder, tendon and nerve damage that occurred with the milk jugs. To avoid that risk, position the noodle below the shoulder blades with the arms resting on top of the noodle in a position called “posterior sling.”                                                                                                                                                                         Adam noodle kick

In this position, we can do kicks from the knees, flutter kicks, bicycle, leg press, seated jacks and ankle flexion. Alternate the legs or work only one leg. The kick from the knee, bicycle, leg press and ankle flexion can be performed with the legs in unison.  For the core muscles, you can do a seated waist twist, and recline backward for crunches.

Sit on the noodle like a swing to do most of those same exercises, and you have added a balance challenge because this position is less stable. You can not do crunches sitting on the noodle like a swing, but you can hike the hip side to side to work the obliques. Try holding on to the noodle with both hands, with just one hand or with arms extended to the sides. Place the arms inside the noodle or outside the noodle for arm movements. Sweep one arm either out or in to turn in a circle.

Kathy straddle noodle

When greater stability is desired, straddle the noodle as if riding a bicycle. All the leg movements you do with the noodle in a posterior sling can be done while straddling the noodle, including reclining for crunches. Squeeze the noodle between the knees to add resistance on the waist twist. Try crossing the ankles and using the arms only. Now you can row, do the breaststroke or reverse breaststroke, unison arm swing, clap hands, and rotator cuff sweep. Bicycle with both the arms and the legs. Bicycle races are a fun way to end a class.

More on noodles in my next post. See you in the pool!


Chris Alexander





Water Fitness Instructors Are Needed


Do you take a water fitness class? Do you like to be in the front of the class so that you always know what is going on? Do you like helping new participants feel comfortable in class? Are you naturally outgoing? Have you thought about becoming a water fitness instructor?

I’d like to invite you to take my Water Fitness Instructor Basic Training class. It is being offered on October 21 and 28 from 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM at the McKinney Senior Pool, 1400 South College Street, McKinney, Texas 75069. Participants need to attend both days. It is an opportunity for you to learn what is required in order to teach a water fitness class. You will not have a certification at the end of class, but you will have a foundation to begin working toward a certification.

We spend a good portion of the first day on anatomy. It is important to know something about the muscles and to be familiar with movement terminology so that you will know what muscles you are using in any given exercise. That way you can plan a well-balanced water fitness class for your participants. The second day includes an open-book quiz to give you practice in using a chart to figure out what muscles you are using in a variety of exercises.

We cover good body alignment, because neutral posture is important for safe exercise. We talk about the fitness recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine. You will learn ways to judge whether you are working in your target heart rate zone. Since you are exercising in water, you also need to know the properties of water that make water fitness different from land exercise.

Of course we will talk about how to plan a water exercise class. You will learn what the parts of a class are, how to increase and decrease intensity, how to use various types of water fitness equipment safely, and a variety of choreography styles. I also spend some time on contraindications, things to avoid because they might lead to an injury later on. You get a list of websites where you can go for equipment, choreography ideas and music, plus information on how to get certified and how to get continuing education.

I teach a sample class on the first day. You can keep the lesson plan for your own use later on. On the second day, you teach a 5 to 8-minute sample class to give you practice cuing and demonstrating exercises. After that you can get on the sub list for the McKinney Senior Pool. Or you can get started on your certification, so that you will be qualified to teach at any facility you choose. To see a list of facilities in the Dallas area that are looking for instructors, check out the Jobs page of the website of the Metroplex Association of Aquatic Professionals at

If this sounds like something you would like to do, you can register on the McKinney Parks and Recreation website at On the Home page click the Search button. On the drop down window click Activities. In the Type window click Aquatic Classes. The class is listed at the bottom of page 2. The cost is $60 for McKinney residents and $65 for non-residents. All materials for the class are provided. Click on the address of the pool above for a link to a map to the facility.

I hope to see you there!


Chris Alexander