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WaterART Working Positions for Multi-level Programming

In order to provide a multi - level program for a variety of training goals, skills and types of programs,  WaterART Fitness encourages that Instructors to utilize 6 shallow water working positions to change impact and intensity.

The goal of every Instructor teaching a water program should be to provide a safe and effective workout for all members of the class. Designing a program for patrons of different fitness levels, body compositions, physical height, water skills levels and health histories - the Instructor soon realizes that no two people are going to work out at the same level of intensity nor workout at an exact speed.

The WaterART System of incorporating a variety of working positions into every shallow water workout is the key to varying Impact & Intensity. A correct working position will optimize the workout by using the protection and properties of water. The challenge for most instructors is to get this information across to each participant to allow everyone to choose their preferred levels of intensity. Taking the time to train people to use the most effective working position for every exercise is the answer to safe and successful class design. The easiest way to train is by going through each working position to show how each allows for increased or decreased effort. If you also use hand signals (visual cues) to represent each position and/or add verbal cues as you train you can use these throughout the program to remind participants that they can choose their own level.


This is the easiest level with extremely low impact and low intensity. Start standing tall with feet on the bottom of the pool. The water level is ideally somewhere between the waist and arm pit. Many of the moves such as walking will mimic land movement since there is no appreciable change of height with each move. There is absolutely NO bouncing or jarring on the joints.

This working position is suited to the beginning or less fit individual including participants returning from injury. This is the best working position to start training for posture and balance as keeping the feet on the pool floor will increase stability.

Visual Cue:
Touch the top of your head and bring the hand slicing down in front of the face (in a straight line with the thumb towards the face and baby finger perpendicular parallel to the body to remind people about proper body alignment for good posture. 

Verbal Cue:
Imagine you are balancing a cup of tea (your choice) on your head. No bounce.

This working position will provide easy to moderate cardiovascular intensity or work and moderate to hard intensity muscle work. Water level: the shoulders are submerged but the feet remain in contact with the pool bottom at all times. This water protection allows for good ROM for all leg moves to improve flexibility. All moves are low impact as the feet slide out with each movement. There is no momentum, therefore you use muscles for all movement and engage the abdominal core to anchor under the water. For stationary upper body strength exercise a staggered or athletic stance may be used to get the shoulders under the water. Be sure to change lead legs to protect the knees from stress. With this body position there is superior abdominal focus, no impact but moderate intensity cardiovascular training and for anyone with neck or shoulder problems this is truly the best working position prior to going into deep water depth. 

Visual Cue:
Lightly tap or touch the shoulders (left hand to left shoulder and right hand to right top of shoulder) to reference getting under the water. Also may use the hand to slice a line across the neck where the water level should be.

Verbal Cue:
Wear your water necklace. Submerge and protect your shoulders.

Especially for advanced participants or athletes, who like to bounce, jump or explode out of the water. This working position can provide moderate to high intensity but also the most impact level. Waist depth offers highest intensity cardiovascular but highest impact level. Caution must be mentioned when offering this position as some individuals are not good shock absorbers and consequently cheat or bob (minimal leg movement in the water). Ideally, the feet are used to push forcefully off the pool floor therefore it is important to train for correct take off and landing movements. The aim is to power up out of the water and anchor down to push off again. The hips and knees must be flexed to get up and also to absorb impact or vertical stress on the down phase of the movement. In doing so, this will prevent bobbing or using momentum. Allow individuals to take the time and speed they need to explode in and out of the water. Dependent upon lower body level length and strength of the legs – everyone should move at their personal speed which will provide advanced cardiovascular work.

Rebounding is NOT suitable for clients with any muscular skeletal problems including: back, knee,  hip, ankle, arthritis or osteoporosis and that is exactly why WaterART Fitness offers other working positions to offer more inclusive and safer movement patterns.

Visual Cue:  
Clap the hands in front of the body and lift the top one up to imitate using height or a big bounce for the moves. Clap only once and use body expression to emphasize the jump.

Verbal Cue:
Do not work on your toes. Use your legs properly to propel up out of the water. Push down to go up. Make sure to get the heels down on the pool floor and bend your knees to jump and absorb the landing.

MODIFIED REBOUND (Height without Flight):
This is a mixture of starting the move tall in Extended working position and moving into Neutral working position so that a down-up movement replaces the up-down of a regular rebound working position. The movement requires no vertical jumping (or lift off the pool bottom) but keeps one foot in contact with the pool floor at all times to prevent the body lifting with buoyancy. This requires more core strength to anchor the move down into the water especially during  the power phase of the move. The lower body relaxes back into the Extended working position on the return phase of the movement. The walking/jog/marching action is down-up, down-up to flex the hips, knees and ankles to essentially squat in between any basic movements.

This working position is especially helpful when strengthening the upper body muscles because the shoulders are under water to work (in the Neutral working position). Here the leg position can be alternated to bend the alternate knee on the next power move. This working position is suitable for just about every participant and program since intensity can be regulated or increased easily for increased lower body strengthening. This is the best position for people who need more lower body strengthening and cannot add vertical stress on the lower extremities. The squat like move will provide high intensity cardiovascular training with about impact " of the Rebound working position.This is by far the most functional movement to help people sit to stand on land. Often, on land, squats are an extremely difficult move for the aging population; however, in water the squat may be pain free AND functional. Be sure to wear shoes and track the hips, knees and toes in a good parallel alignment.

Visual Cue:
Touch fingers to shoulders (to go down) and then point thumbs up ( to go up).

Verbal Cue:
Sit to stand and sit to stand ( down & up)  if you can say it you can do it = Squat and lift.

This is a shallow water working position using both feet off the pool floor but anyone can touch down when necessary. Work the legs with feet approximately 5 cm/3 inches off the pool floor without bending forward at the waist. Arms generally need to be used to scull and assist the suspended action. This position requires superior abdominal strength to keep head above water and maintain ROM. Avoid eggbeaters or rotary kicks with the legs due to the torque on the knees. If someone is overworking the arms or struggling, (to hold their head above the water), they should utilize a buoyancy aid (see modified suspended).

This working position is for advanced abdominal strength and core work, balance training, and non-impact cardiovascular training. Intensity will depend on each person's body composition. Less buoyant or less skilled people will work harder than naturally skilled or more buoyant (more body fat) bodies.

Visual Cue:
Put your hands in prayer position in front of your chest and then show the sculling and breathing required. Sit on the chair and lift the feet if you are on deck to simulate the move (as we can't levitate and show feet off the pool floor when standing).

Verbal Cue:
Breathe (as lungs are submerged). Maintain ROM. If you have to go smaller range of motion or faster to keep your head above water, go back to the neutral working position.

In shallow water depth use buoyancy equipment such as a belt or noodle to assist the movement. The goal of the equipment is to allow the feet to leave the pool floor but also allow the feet to touch down when required. For example: bicycling with no impact done in a recumbent position will keep the feet free but allows for both feet to be placed down to take a break or change noodle/body position. The client needs to be sufficiently skilled to maintain posture. Modified Suspended work utilizes the core constantly to stay in body position but is not as difficult to maintain as with regular suspended, especially for a non-swimmer.

Suggested for anyone who needs to work on core strength, posture and balance and requires a non-impact work out; may have less skills and wants to extend the duration of a completely non-impact program in shallow water depth.

Visual Cue:
Use a noodle or chair to demonstrate the required body position.

Verbal Cue:
Use your hands to scull, breathe, & think posture, posture, posture! Realize the pool bottom is there should you need to stand up.

 Check Out our Educational Resources:  

Full PDF Article click here

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