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An Aqua Circuit Program for Any Body
Part 1 of 1
By: Jackie Wright

Water is a fantastic workout medium. You are a small percentage of your body weight in the water, so it is generally easy on the joints, and the water will accommodate almost every fitness level, from novice to elite athletes. Additionally, if heated to approximately 85 degrees, it may be suitable for those with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis enabling them to perform total body exercises, through full ranges of motion, without the potential discomfort that may occur at the joints on land.

The aqua circuit program presented enables just about anyone to work out in the water regardless of fitness level, as each individual works at a level that suits their body on each of the stations. An individual may set up this circuit for their own personal workout, or a certified/qualified fitness instructor may utilize this format for a group exercise environment as well. It is versatile, will accommodate deep or shallow water and, if you do not own aqua equipment which is made to enhance the effectiveness and intensity of aqua exercise, you can do with little or none and still get a great workout.

 As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Aqua Circuit Program – 75 minutes

  • For the purposes of this program description, we will assume that the pool is rectangular, 3.5 feet deep throughout (so shallow water), and large enough to comfortably accommodate six adult participants with a six-station format.
  • Set up the circuit prior to beginning the program.
  • Each station is 75 seconds in duration, allowing 15-30 seconds to advance to the next station, re-setting posture and position each time.
  • Make certain to hydrate throughout particularly in heated indoor pools.
  • Choose music that will keep you motivated.

The circuit will be performed four times through as follows:

  • Warm-up – 5-8 minutes –The goal is to elevate the RPE’s (ratings of perceived exertion) to a one-two which is very light to light exertion performing general body movements addressing the entire body.
  • Maintain an RPE of 4-6 (i.e. somewhat hard to heavy exertion) throughout the program post warm-up. If you would like to create a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout with this program it is simple to do. On each station, become winded in the first 30 seconds, take a 15 second active recovery break and then repeat the next 30 seconds until you are winded. The key with HIIT is to have paid back your oxygen debt during your recovery, prior to attempting another high intensity interval.
  • Move efficiently from one station to the next.
  • Each station includes a cardiovascular and muscular strength training component, (core too!), and an upper and lower body activity.
  • The six-station circuit, completed four times, takes approximately 45-50 minutes and is followed by four isolation based exercises for the upper/lower body and a thorough cool down stretch concentrating upon flexibility improvement and relaxation.

The Circuit Details:

In shallow water, you may need to “get shorter” so that your lower body and the majority of your upper body remains submerged.

In shallow water and deep, aqua tools such as aqua buoys (like dumbbells but without the weight), ankle buoys, etc. are very helpful in increasing the intensity.

  • Station #1: Side stroke down the length of the pool and frog kick back to the other end. Switch sides and repeat. Noodles or kickboards may be used if needed.
  • Station #2: Tethered tubing from a stable object; facing the side of the pool move far enough from the anchor point so that the tubing is taut and the arms are extended; row the arms back from the shoulder joint (i.e. crack an egg between the shoulder blades) while you perform a squat.
  • Station #3: Water walk the length of the pool with water gloves, water buoys or with your fingers closed and fingertips facing the bottom of the pool.
  • Station #4: Core station – 2 different abs/core exercises performed on alternating circuits. Works best with aqua dumbbells, arms out to the sides of the body forming a “T” with the arms, submerged but permitting buoyancy for the rest of the body. Lie back supine (face up) and draw the knees in towards the chest by drawing the base of the rib cage toward the hip bones (i.e. fold the body in half). Push and pull the knees in and out.

    Second core exercise – lateral shoot throughs using the aqua dumbbells; arms out to the sides of the body palms facing downward, drawing the knees in to the chest, then “shoot “the legs out to the right side of the body, as you pull the arms/buoys to the left and then repeat on the other side. The body becomes parallel to the bottom of the pool.
  • Station #5: Kick the wall – stand facing the wall and kick the legs (like a front kick in kickboxing) with the ball of the foot, toward the wall, alternating sides. Arms are moving forward and backward.
  • Station #6: Tread Water – if you need a noodle or kickboard—use it.

Group Exercise Segment – 15 minutes

For all exercises keep the head/neck/shoulders a natural extension of the spine, shoulders rotated back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine as you engage your pelvic floor muscles, neutral spine and keep the knees relaxed. Legs should begin shoulder distance apart. Push/pull deliberately through the water. A quick tempo creates greater resistance through the water. Perform two/three sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise on each side where applicable.

Lower Body Exercises – 7-8 minutes

  • Standing Hip Abduction – Begin standing with the left shoulder facing the pool wall. Transfer the body weight into the left hip/leg and abduct the right leg directly to the side and back to the beginning position. Keep knee and toes facing forward.
  • Standing Hip Extensions – Begin standing facing the side of the pool with the shoulders/hips/knees and toes all facing the same direction. Transfer the body weight into the left hip/leg and extend the right leg straight back from the hip to approximately 20-30 degrees of hip extension.

Upper Body Exercises – 7-8 minutes

  • Pushups – The vertical pushup and the diagonal pushup are featured.
  • Vertical Pushups – Begin standing close to and facing the side of the pool with the hands on top of the pool deck, the front of the legs/hips against the pool side and the legs flexed 90 degrees at the knee joint, ankles crossed. Wrists should be directly under the shoulder joint when the arms are extended. Push your body weight up until the arms are fully extended, and then lower your body back into the water.
  • Diagonal Pushups – same position except you walk your feet out away from the side of the pool, rise up on the balls of your feet and create a diagonal line from the top of your head to your heels. Create a 90 degree flexion at the elbow joint and then push through the water extending the arms. Create push and pull as you pushup.

Stretching/Flexibility Segment – 5 minutes

All stretches are held for 15-30 seconds statically to a point of tension, never pain. Breathe deeply and rhythmically throughout each stretch.

  • Standing glutes, hamstrings, calf/Achilles stretch facing the wall, hinging from the hips pressing the tailbone toward the other end of the pool, holding the side of the pool edge, with the right heel on the bottom of the pool and the toes facing upward. Keep the left leg flexed throughout and the chest up.
  • Standing quadriceps/hip flexors stretch facing sideways, flexing the right leg back until you are able to comfortably hold the right foot with the right hand, pressing the base of your pelvis forward opening the right hip.
  • Perform a standing to “seated” position hip abductor stretch with the back against the side of the pool, cross the right foot over the left knee and hinge into a seated position.
  • Perform lumbar spine, pectoralis, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, cervical and lateral flexor stretches away from the side of the pool.
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