Marietta Mehanni

Hydro Worx

Written by Marietta

November 28, 2013

Aqua is becoming a very popular form of exercise, and as a result, aqua instructors are continually searching for the newest or latest, or most cutting edge aqua moves.

The irony is, we often end up sticking to comfortable and familiar exercises and formats. Using tried and true moves that have tested well over time provides an excellent foundation but in accordance to the theory of muscle adaptation, it does not prove to be an effective method of progressing client’s fitness levels. Adding elements of variation to “comfort moves”, will create new stimulus which will in turn provide different challenges to the body. By assessing favourite moves and applying the following five basic concepts, practically every exercise can be revamped.



  1. Rhythm and speed


When listening to music, there is an underlaying rhythm that makes the individual want to sway their body or tap their feet. This type of movement or beat can be replicated in the exercises chosen. Most instructors work either on the beat or every 2nd beat, which works effectively with most exercises. Although, if providing variety and new stimulus is the goal, then exploring different rhythms is advantageous. For example, Cha cha rhythm e.g. 1,2, 3 & 4, uses the pause between the 3rd and 4th beat. The next step is to put in a move that fits in with this rhythm, e.g. jog on 1, 2 followed by 3 quick jogs. The end result is an exercise that challenges the nervous and cardiovascular system.

Rhythm can also be combined with speed of repetition, eg; fast, fast, slow. A move that can be used to hold this pattern, such as jack out, jack in, jack out and pause. Any number of combinations can be created from using different speeds, and this is not limited to what can be done with the lower body, you can incorporate this method with arm actions as well.


Aqua moves can be divided into 6 broad categories:

  1. Jogging e.g. narrow, wide, high knee, travelling
  2. Kicks e.g. to the front, to the side, to the back
  3. Jack/Scissors e.g. Big M Jack, high knee scissors, scissor through
  4. Tuck jumps e.g. frog tucks, twist tucks, chest tucks
  5. Single leg repeaters e.g. knee repeater, single leg kick through
  6. Suspended moves

Most lower limb actions will fall into one of these categories. Experimenting with combining categories will encourage participants to develop new neutral patterns. In doing this, the brain is also challenged. When the majority of participants are mature aged adults, this is an important consideration in class design.

For example, use 3 favourite moves

eg; kicks to front, kicks to back and knee tucks

Put them together in a combination and the end result could be:

Right leg kick front and back, 2x knee tucks, repeat to left.


1x kick to front, 2x kicks on same leg to back, 1x knee tuck, change legs


2x kicks to front, 1x kick back, 1x knee tuck


Not all exercises fit or flow well together, but experimenting in the pool with moves that traditionally you have not combined will provide new and innovative exercises.


  1. Levels

Levels refers to the position of the body in chest depth water.

Levels can be divided into 3 groups.

Level 1 = sitting in the water, so that shoulders are under the water (grounded or suspended)

Level 2 = standing in the water so that water level is at chest height

Level 3 = propulsion

Changing and combining these levels throughout the class will provide a variety of intensity options. Consider bringing a traditional level 2 move e.g. Jack, to a level 1 where the participants will be required to drop their shoulders under water level and either move faster while touching the bottom of the pool or suspended with the appropriate sculling arm action. Another option is to combine different levels in one sequence to create new interest with familiar moves.

For example: 4x low straight leg front kicks with short levers (level 1), 2x propulsive front kicks with long levers (level 3)


4x jacks (level 2), 2x power jacks (level 3)

  1. Arm Patterns

Often the focus is placed on lower limb actions although arm patterns can provide countless opportunities to change the emphasis or intensity of an exercise.

Arm lines can be spilt in 5 general categories

  1. Linear movement – forward, backward, side and down
  2. Breast stroke and reverse stroke
  3. Alternating arm forward and back swing
  4. Scooping or circular actions – double or single arm action
  5. Figure of 8 movements

We frequently use similar arm lines for each exercise e.g. jack – lateral raise, jog – alternating arm reach, pendulum – scooping action. Consider combining an unfamiliar arm line with a familiar lower limb action eg; pendulum with figure 8 arms. The result will be a shift from ‘familiar’ to something that the clients will be required to focus their attention to achieve.

For example, jogging with alternating arms can change to:

  1. Double arm push forward
  2. Double arm push forward x1 and side x1 (combination)
  3. Double arm push forward x1, side x1, single, single, double (rhythm change)
  4. Double arm push forward x1, side x1, single, single, double, double time (speed change)
  1. Travel

Travelling is both a fantastic way of elevating heart rate, and a method of effectively utilising pool space. Teaching effective travelling moves, whether they be forward, lateral or backward can provide an even wider scope for experimentation with moves that may have traditionally been “on the spot” exercises. Energy expenditure is also greater when travelling with an exercise. Any move that incorporates a rebound action can also be performed whilst travelling. Experimentation in the pool will assist with deciding whether a forward, backward or lateral direction is appropriate.

For example, jacks move very well forward and backwards but not sideways. This is also the same for pendulum. Tuck jumps can be performed in any direction as long as the appropriate arm lines are used.



Examine your workout and ask yourself when was the last time you truly challenged your participants and yourself as instructor. Stepping outside your comfort zone takes courage, but ultimately change is necessary and certainly if your desire is to improve your client’s fitness levels.


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