Marietta Mehanni

Liquid Rhythms

Liquid Rhythms blog by Marietta Mehanni, aqua instructor, music

Written by Marietta

November 28, 2013

Consider this… Participants coming to YOUR class because of the MUSIC you play! This has certainly been an important aspect in land based classes for as long as group fitness has existed. Admittedly, this is sometimes missing in aqua classes and music is merely a background beat. When we know that music can transcend time and is a universal form of communication, why are we then using it as “something in the background”?

Music Rhythms

Exercise intensity can be dictated by the energy in the music. High energy music is ideal for cardiovascular components, sprints, drills, interval and circuit type classes. Low energy music can be used effectively for strength, flexibility, stability, balance and suspended exercises. And then there is everything in between, where a wide range of exercise concepts and movement patterns can be incorporated.

Keeping this in mind, even within a song there are high and low energy sections. For example, choruses are usually the highlight of a song. This is when the song peaks with memorable catchy lyrics. The verse is the ‘storytelling’ part of the song and is usually lower in energy. As an instructor, taking advantage of these energy levels can make it much easier to either motivate participants to achieve target heart rates or get them to focus on technique and form.

How To Map And Use Liquid Rhythms

Step 1

Mapping your music provides you with a plan of the highs and lows of each song. There are two ways music can be mapped.

Option 1.

  1. Start by marching or tapping your foot in time with the music.
  2. These are the beats or counts of the song
  3. Count the beats throughout the whole song and as you are counting, group the beats into lots of 8.
  4. Then each time you reach 8 you draw a stroke on the page like so…

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 I I I I




The maximum number of strokes you can have in one line is 4

Eg: I I I I

This is referred to as a block which is a total of 32 counts (4 lots of 8 counts)

Replay the same piece of music again and group and name the blocks

ie; Introduction, Chorus, Verse 1, Verse 2, “wa, wa, wa” etc.

What names you use about each block is up to you

Option 2.

The second method does not count how many beats there are in each section, but instead, you write down the names that help you identify sections in the music ie; Introduction, Chorus, Verse 1 etc.

This is useful for those who find mapping counts challenging, but still need to know, for example, where and how many ‘choruses’ there are.

Step 2 – Get Wet

The only real and safe way to find out if an idea works is to try it yourself in the pool. Now that you have a plan of the music, try a few exercise concepts in the pool. This is when you decide whether the music is fast enough for cardiovascular exercise, or slow enough for strength or deep water concepts. Moving around in the water with the chosen song will greatly encourage creativity.

Identify exercises that would be effective for each section eg:

Jacks with tucks = Chorus

Kicks in front = Verse 1

Jogging with arms forward and side pushes = Instrumental

Step 3 – Try it in class

The first few times that choreography is attempted in class there will be varying levels of success. This will be a reflection of your teaching skills and how you can apply them in this format. Remember that no one is brilliant the first time or even the second, but once you are comfortable with what YOU have put together, then it will become more natural.

Ask participants for their feedback. This is invaluable as it will guide you on how to work on your delivery. Sometimes you can, in your earnest to plan well, have too many moves or unfamiliar exercises. Your class will be able to tell you if this is the case. Ask specific questions about sections you are not sure about. This will ensure that you get the type of feedback that will help you to improve.

Step 4 – Review and assess

Not everything will work. You may find that an idea or move does not flow well, or receive feedback from participants that suggests you need to change something. This can be looked upon as an opportunity to use your classes to improve your teaching skills as well as deliver a workout to your clients. No one is perfect, but strive to become the best that you can be.

Step 5 – Start the process again

Yes, choreographing and class planning can be time consuming, but the result is a class that you know will work time and time again. Here is what you will know and achieve by completing this process:

  • You will know your music and that your choice is appropriate for your clients.
  • Clients will enjoy the workout more because they can work with the beat if they wish and they will work harder as they begin to see a pattern.
  • Your classes will be more balanced, as planning provides the opportunity to see the ‘big picture’.
  • You will be able to show your passion for music and exercise in a very unique way, that will excite, entertain and inspire your clients and yourself.

Liquid Rhythms

Consider what rhythms and energy could be created with Latin, Arabic, Indian, American Swing, Country and Western, Jewish, French, Classical, Musicals and Operas. When using music from different sources, try to interpret with movements that are inspired by the piece. For example, classical music evokes memories of ballet so use an effective aqua move that best fits with this style, e.g. hands on hips and a flick kick forward. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you do those moves in the water?
  • Will they work the body effectively?
  • How do you find out?

Get in! Try it out, and find out what sheer pleasure it is to move with the music rather than having it as a motivating background.

The exercises described here are ones that I mapped for On The Beautiful, Blue Danube by Strauss. This song is available on Liquid Rhythms 2 from Music and Motion Studio.


Exercise 1. Knee lift and double flick kick, hands on hips

This exercise is a grounded move (no propulsion) so it will challenge core stability and balance

  1. Start by lifting the knee to hip height with hands on the waist
  2. Extend the knee and flick the foot twice, bend the knee and then repeat the double flick
  3. Return your foot down to the bottom of the pool and repeat the exercise on the opposite side

Exercise 2. Giant flick kicks

This exercise is a propulsive move and is performed as the music gains intensity in the introduction. It will also increase heart rate.

  1. Start by hopping from one foot to the other while flicking the alternating foot forward. Hands remain on the hips

First Instrumental

Exercise 3. Hip abduction and adduction

This exercise is a grounded move (no propulsion) and it will challenge core stability and balance.

  1. Start with one leg bent below the hip, so that the foot is slightly behind the body. The other leg is flexed at the hip and knee. This position is very stable with the ankle floats because of the distribution of buoyancy.
  2. Extend the knee forward with a strong kicking action. Maintain stability by keeping the opposite knee bent below the hip and using the arms and hands in a sculling action.
  3. Return to the starting position by curling the foot forcefully back towards the hip. Continuing using the arms and hands in a sculling action.
  4. Option 2. Using both legs, extend and flex the knees. Maintain stability by using the arms and hands in a sculling action throughout.

Exercise 4. Kicking Combination

This exercise can be performed in both shallow and deep water. It works most of the muscles in the body, as it is a compound exercise that involves a full body movement to perform the 270-degree kicks. Changing the body position to complement the kicking leg action so that the body is always in alignment is very important.

  1. Start with one leg kicking forward. Initially take the arms forward, but this is only so that the movement has a starting position.
  2. Take the knee into the chest and withdraw the arms back into the body ready to change position in the water.
  3. Extend the knee and abduct the leg to the side of the body. Extend the arms across the body in the opposite direction, allowing the body to drop to the side to maintain alignment.
  4. Bring the knee into the chest and withdraw the arms again.
  5. Extend the knee and the hip behind the body. Extend the arms to the front of the chest. It is important to drop the chest and head forward. It is common for participants to flick the head back as the leg is kicked behind, and this causes hyperextension in the spine.
  6. Take the knee into the chest and then bring forward to kick the knee forward. At the same time, pull the arms from the front of the body to behind the body in a powerful pulling action.
  7. Repeat the same exercise on the opposite leg.

In deep water

The non-working leg is suspended with a slight bend in the knee to bring the ankle float under the body. This makes the movement much more controlled.

  1. Stable side leg lift with double arm scooping at chest height
  2. Side leg lift with opposite leg front kick, opposite hand to foot
  3. Flick kick with hands on hips
  4. Single leg side flick kick with breaststroke arms
  5. Stable front and back leg swing through, arms alternating forward and back
  6. Propulsion front and back leg swing through, with double arm scooping at chest height
  7. Crisscross Ariel Jack with breaststroke arms


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