Simulating Water Movement from the Deck

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Effective fitness instruction from the pool deck is key to an aqua participant’s exercise experience. There’s nothing more frustrating than attending a fitness class and the instructor fails to communicate exactly what and how a movement is supposed to be performed. Keep in mind that “communication” refers to more than the spoken word. Everything your body does is a form of communication. The biggest challenge in leading water exercise classes is physically demonstrating moves, gravity versus buoyancy. Taking the time to hone verbal communication skills is only half the battle. Knowing visual communication can be an even more valuable tool for leading a class and understanding the simulation of various levels in the water presents unique challenges for aquatic leaders.

The various levels used in aquatic exercise are based on depth position in the water; power rebound, rebound, grounded, neutral and suspension. Each requires its own set of specific techniques to accurately and safely communicate the level.

Power Rebound is used to intensify rebound movements. Individuals challenge themselves by pushing off the pool bottom with more force than rebounding, creating an explosive upward movement out of the water. This momentum can be combined with a tuck (lifting the knees to the water’s surface) for even more intensity. Demonstrating this level is very difficult for an instructor and requires careful planning. Showing a power rebound move on deck is like plyometric training. The actual jump up may not be the rough part, but the landing will introduce very high levels of shock impact, especially on a surface that is typically unforgiving. Here are some ideas to demonstrate this intense level:

  1. Instruct the class to perform the move using both of their legs at the same time as you demonstrate with one leg. This can be confusing for some students, so be sure to reinforce two legs.
  2. Use a chair or stool to sit on while you lift both feet up. Again, this simulates the move but does not completely show the true desired movement. Be sure to say and show the power.
  3. Use a chair or stool as upper body support, lean on the chair while lifting both feet. You will still experience some shock impact, but less than full demonstration.
  4. Use your hands, inside a pair of shoes, to show what the feet should be doing. Actually, bend down and put your hands (w/shoes) on the floor to show landing and then lift both hands to show the feet jumping up.
  5. Consider getting in the water after showing the move on deck to demonstrate the level’s intensity.

Rebound is commonly used for cardiovascular exercise in water. It involves pushing off the bottom of the pool, momentarily suspending the body up in the water and then landing again on the pool bottom. Instruct clients to roll through the foot from toe, to ball, no touch, to ball, to heel and to use soft knees when landing, creating a shock-absorber effect. Translating rebound movement out of the water is a challenge because buoyancy assists water movement, but on deck gravity resists rebounding. There are some tricks-of-the-trade that help to safely communicate rebound level.

  1. Loading down – bend the knees and lower the body’s center of gravity when showing the landing on the pool bottom, usually on the beat of the music.
  2. Prepare for the loading down by pre-lifting the body upward, like taking a breath before singing. Rise up on your toes, lifting the heels to show upward movement, without fully leaving the ground.
  3. Shift the body’s weight slightly forward to balance on the balls of the feet.
  4. If you feel that it is necessary to fully rebound to demonstrate the desired movement, limit full rebound on the deck to 2-4 beats of music.
  5. Always teach on a safe surface. There are many mats that are perfect for the pool deck. Look for non-slip, anti-fatigue material. Home improvement stores may carry an item in the flooring department that is affordable and effective. Commercial kitchen mats are good on the deck, plus they have holes so water can’t collect.

Grounded level is performed while staying connected to the pool’s bottom. This level requires more awareness of core muscles and their role in maintaining upright posture. This is probably the easiest level to demonstrate from the deck. Clearly explain and demonstrate core muscle engagement and encourage students to maximize the use of the water’s resistance.

Neutral level is similar to grounded in that the feet stay on the pool bottom. The difference is that neutral level requires lowering the body down into the water with the shoulders under the water’s surface. Most of the body’s weight is now supported by the water. Teaching neutral level from the deck can be challenging because the body stays in a squatted position, recruiting core and lower body muscles. Be careful to maintain upright posture to avoid back discomfort. Here are some ideas to demonstrate neutral level:

  1. Bend at the knees to lower your center of gravity.
  2. Keep shoulders over hips and maintain upright posture.
  3. Use a chair or sit pool side to simulate the lower position of neutral.
  4. Use your arms to demonstrate leg movements.
  5. Consider getting in the pool for a moment to teach proper lowering into the water.

Suspension is performed with both feet up off the pool’s bottom. Suspending in shallow water offers a core challenge so encourage students to stay in the same depth for suspension as they did for other levels. Demonstrating suspension is a bit of a magic trick on deck. It is impossible to defy gravity so any demonstration will have to be a simulation. Here are some tips:

  1. Demonstrate the move with one leg while verbally cueing the students to perform the move with both legs.
  2. Use your arms to demonstrate leg movements.
  3. Sit on a chair/stool or pool side to enable two-leg demonstrating.

Regardless the level to be demonstrated, make it your goal to communicate (as realistically as possible) the movement you expect your students to perform in the water, with your body on land. The more you describe and demonstrate, the better the experience will be for your students. Be creative, be safe and be enthusiastic. Providing this service not only benefits your clients well, but also your longevity and respect as a fitness leader.