Circuit training is often referred to as station training. The stations can be cardiorespiratory, muscular fitness, flexibility, or any combination. The circuit format can be instructor-guided, where everyone in the class is performing each station at the same time. The instructor is teaching each station and each person in class does the same moves and uses the same equipment at the same time. The circuit can also be self-guided, with individuals or small groups rotating around the class from station to station. A circuit class can also blend these options; the instructor leads the class in a cardiorespiratory segment and then participants move in small groups to various equipment stations. Circuit training is very versatile and limited only by your imagination.
The aerobic segment of class is comprised of a series of work cycles that include high-intensity and low-intensity segments. The typical bell heart rate curve for intensity level is replaced with fluctuating cycles. Work cycle ratios (high intensity to low intensity) vary with the level and abilities of participants, anywhere from 1:3 to 3:1, usually measured in minutes. With advanced participants, the intensity may move into anaerobic training for shorter segments. For deconditioned participants or certain chronic conditions, the intensity may oscillate above and below the lower aerobic threshold. An interval format is especially suited for well-conditioned participants. Interval training is also recommended for sport-specific training because similar conditions are encountered during many athletic activities.
Aquatic Dance Exercise
Some aquatic programs are geared to more highly developed choreography sequences and may incorporate dance-oriented movements. The class components remain similar; the difference is found in the level of complexity in choreography, which challenges the participants both physically and mentally. In this type of training, it is helpful to teach segments of the combinations during the warm-up to prepare participants for what is ahead. This also prevents unwanted decreases in intensity levels during the cardiorespiratory segment of class.
This format provides a nonimpact exercise option; most other aquatic programs are low or reduced impact. Ideally, this class is conducted in the diving well of the pool because this allows for unrestricted, full range-of-motion movements for participants of all heights. The class components follow a similar course, but the program is designed so participants do not touch the pool bottom throughout the workout. Deep-water exercise can be extremely intense and appeal to very fit individuals, but it can also be used for rehabilitation and special population programming because no stress impact is incurred. Movements must be performed in opposition to develop balance and control. Different types of flotation equipment are available to incorporate into this class setting to allow for neutral buoyancy. Some equipment is more appropriate than others depending on your participants’ levels and needs. The final stretch may be performed in a buoyant position or in contact with the pool wall for stabilization. For additional information, see chapter 10.
Step training is a fitness program that incorporates a step (bench, platform) to step up and down during a portion of the class. This kind of training can be performed safely and effectively in a pool environment. Water depth must be appropriate, the pool slope should be gradual to prevent the steps from moving excessively, and adequate space is required depending on the size of the step. A good indication of appropriate water depth is to have water level at the elbows when participants stand on the bench. This means about chest depth when standing on pool bottom. Typically, aquatic programs use the step during the aerobic or muscle-conditioning segments. The step is an excellent tool to utilize in a circuit class at a few stations, especially if your facility has only a limited number of benches.
Striding (Water Walk and Jog)
Striding can be incorporated as a warm up or cool down for other class programs, or the entire class format may be designed around striding patterns. This format easily adapts to all water depths. The choreography is typically simple, making it easy to follow and easy to instruct. Striding programs can encourage social interaction among participants. With simple modifications of intensity and impact, this format can be designed for all levels of participants.
This type of training focuses on muscular strength and endurance as well as stretching activities for flexibility. It may be incorporated as a segment of another program or as an independent class format. Muscular conditioning programs often incorporate additional equipment to promote added resistance for continued overload to the muscular system. The key is to isolate specific muscle groups and use precision and control during all movements. Warmer water is beneficial as full-body movement is limited.
Fitness kickboxing is an interval workout that uses changes in speed and resistance to create effective training cycles. Aquatic kickboxing transfers these training techniques and movement patterns (kicks, punches, and blocks) into the water for a high-intensity, highly resistive, yet lower-impact exercise option. By using the unique properties of the water, in particular buoyancy and drag forces, an optimal cross-training program can be created for group exercise participants and personal training clients.
Stationary bikes designed specifically for the pool have become a popular training option for group exercise, personal training, and rehabilitation. With proper instruction, aquatic cycling can be a safe and effective option for all ability levels. While similar to stationary cycling on land, pedaling while immersed takes advantage of the benefits of the aquatic environment. Resistance is determined by the unique design of the bike that increases drag resistance when pedaled; this resostance os adjustable on most styles of aquatic bikes. Resistance is also influenced by pedaling speed or revolutions per minute (RPM) and by altering the body position on the bike.
Ai chi was created in Japan in the early 1990s by Jun Konno. This simple aquatic exercise and relaxation program employs a combination of deep breathing and slow, broad movements of the arms, legs, and torso with an inward-directed focus. Performed in chest-deep water, the circular movement creates harmony, promotes a pliant body, and increases range of motion. The flowing, continuous patterns of ai chi are facilitated by warm water and air temperatures. Ai chi ni involves working with partners (ni = two in Japanese.)
Aquatic Pilates, Tai Chi, and Yoga
Many instructors are adapting yoga postures, tai chi movements, and Pilates exercises for use in the pool. Water and air temperature must be appropriate to prevent chilling and achieve optimal benefits. Focus is on breathing techniques, core strength, muscle activation, body alignment, and flexibility.
Pilates is a nonimpact program of strengthening and stretching exercises that involve precise muscle initiation and breath control. Developed by Joseph Pilates, this format targets the torso, referred to as the powerhouse, and every movement is precise and performed with a purpose.
Tai chi is typically classified as a form of traditional Chinese martial arts. With its flowing and graceful movement patterns, tai chi transfers well into an aquatic environment, as long as the water and air temperatures are appropriately warm. Benefits of aquatic tai chi include balance, coordination, agility, flexibility, and mental focus.
Yoga programs typically focus on alignment and lengthening of the spine while coordinating movement with breath. There are many styles of yoga, including hatha, iyengar, vinyasa, and astanga. Postures, or asanas, are intended to quiet the mind and enhance focus. Practicing yoga in a warm-water pool increases static strength because isometric contractions are required to maintain postures. The overall goal is to train the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously to restore balance.
Pre- and Postnatal
Aquatic programs are ideal for women during pregnancy and postpartum because of the reduced amount of impact stress during aerobic activity, the cool and comfortable environment, and the continuous resistance created by the water. Water programs can allow women to continue their fitness program throughout pregnancy when land-based workouts become unsafe or uncomfortable. Another option that has become popular is parent-child programs.
In a perinatal class, the focus should be on maintaining the current level of fitness rather than striving to make significant improvements. The warm-up and cool-down should be longer and should have more gradual changes in intensity. Choreography should be kept simple and allow for postural imbalances, and proper nutrition and hydration should be encouraged. A physician’s approval is recommended for all perinatal participants. Caution participants to monitor intensity, limit stretching activities to prepregnancy range of motion, and avoid becoming overheated during exercise. See chapter 11 for additional information.
The Arthritis Foundation has developed an aquatic certification program for instructors wishing to lead specialized arthritis programs. Other instructors choose to mainstream participants with minor arthritis into general programs. Remember that either way the initial focus of participants with arthritis is to regain and maintain range of motion and functional skills. Some participants might also desire to improve aerobic capacity, develop muscular strength, or alter body composition, but these goals must be achieved without compromising safety. Follow the two-hour pain rule. If the participant experiences pain or soreness for more than two hours after a workout, the work intensity or duration was too demanding.
Warm water is more comfortable and allows for lower-intensity activities without becoming chilled. The warm-up is critical and should be longer than typical fitness programs. Limit the number of repetitions performed per muscle group, and try to submerge the afflicted joint during movement. Focus on all muscle groups and fine motor skills, such as movements in the fingers, wrists, ankles, and feet. Safe access into the pool and locker rooms must also be considered. See chapter 11 for additional information.
Aquatic Personal Training and Small-Group Fitness
Aquatic personal training and small-group fitness formats are gaining popularity. There are many applications for these training formats, including the transition from rehabilitation or therapy to group exercise. The following definitions are taken from the Personal Pool Programming course developed by Innovative Aquatics. Personal training is individualized and customized fitness programs designed to meet the needs and goals of a specific client. Sessions are designed to enhance overall health and fitness based on the individual objective of any given client. Small-group fitness is defined as two to five individuals working under the guidance of a fitness professional to achieve optimal health and fitness benefits through a more intimate and personal setting than group exercise. Under the guidance of the fitness professional, optimal results can be achieved and exercise plateaus reduced through this type of setting.
This is an excerpt from Aquatic Fitness Professional Manual, Sixth Edition.