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The Art of an Aquatic Lesson Plan

The art of an lesson plan is the successful integration of exercise science with the flow of exercise ideas to challenge and include the many personalities who  may attend any given class. This results in long-term program compliance and enjoyment with many benefits.

Any program designed to improve cardiovascular endurance and/or muscular fitness should apply the principle of progressive overload. Overload refers to the level of stress imposed on the physiological systems involved. For training adaptation to occur, the system must be systematically stressed slightly more than it is accustomed to. In other words, the exercise must gradually increase the intensely. This may be achieved by layering movements and really teaching how the body moves. Often the movement needs to be show as simply as possible. Then the movement may assist travel which takes coordination of the arms and the legs. To progress further, the movement may be resisted against travel in the water. This is very challenging for new and less skilled participants - so may not be possible until they are fully trained and skilled with the movement.

Applying the concept of progressive overload to cardiovascular endurance means increasing the exercise intensity, duration, or frequency. This means challenging the heart and lungs so that the breathing is challenged. Participants should be able to talk but not carry on a social meeting. We generally rate this in terms of breathing working more moderate intensity to somewhat hard intensity to very hard intensity on the rate of perceived exertion scale. Monitoring individuals is the key allow everyone to move at their personal best intensity.

In every class, the instructor should try to mix in 4-5 cardiovascular training sets or segments and in between try to offer some specific muscle conditioning sets especially for the weaker muscles. Use a variety of basic movements with an option of working positions. Extended or standing tall working positions are generally easier than suspended (feet off the pool bottom)  or neutral ( shoulders under the water) working positions in shallow water. However, each move may easily change intensity so we always recommend that the instructor try the option prior to teaching their movement ideas.  The recommendation is to Start with simple movement then add range of motion before increasing speed. Once everyone has mastered the movement start to travel first with assistance then more resistance to form the progression of intensity. This system of primarily using rhythmical lower body movement will challenge the cardiovascular system and pump the blood to the heart and oxygen to the lungs. In water, the chosen  basic movements must be changed regularly so that the muscles do not fatigue prior to the breathing.

Working a variety of movement combinations so that the work is progressed and participants do not just idle in the water is one of the best ways of progressive overload. Always focus on changing movement planes for maximum benefit physiologically and psychologically. Sets for muscular conditioning are exercises that focus on targeting specific muscular function as opposed to overloading the breathing (cardiovascular focus). Often in the water, these may be cleverly combined. However, note that performing the exercise properly is critical to performance gains especially when we apply this to muscular endurance.

WaterART suggests starting stationary then assisting the travel of the movement then progressing to resisting the travel of the movement using the muscle group being targeted.

In order to overload the muscles for muscular endurance the Instructors should provide at least 3-5 sets of approximately 8-25 repetitions without equipment. In doing so the muscles work for more muscular endurance versus muscular strength.  When using equipment for muscular strength training the sets can drop back to 2-3 sets of approximately 8-25 repetitions.

Similarly, flexibility must be gradually progressed or at least minimally maintained. Flexibility does not change and improve quite a quickly as either cardiovascular endurance or muscular strength and endurance. However, all component of fitness do require progression. That is why the Instructor must have a variety of ideas and exercises and keep changing up their program.

Let's look at a progression for the Cardiovascular endurance. We will mix three different moves and utilize a variety of movement planes. Note that you may need to start at different levels of intensity based on your group's skill level, fitness level  or coordination level.

Start with a forward and backwards rock. Use the arms to scull. When the move becomes boring or muscles tired change to an opposition jax movement. Then follow up with some kicks and repeat the combination again. To intensify this set, travel the forward rock and assist the travel with the arms (maybe a helpful triceps extension). Work against the current by rocking backwards making sure that the arms are in front of the body when the weight is on the front foot so that the back is not hyper-extended with the backwards rock. Then go suspended with the ski and try to perform thirty seconds of off the bottom jax.  The recover with an easy kick maybe two front then kick to each side and travel the movement in a circle (easier) or forward and backwards with another width of travel for the kicks. Progress the set again by utilizing more power, speed and force to travel this cardiovascular 2 widths with each move.

Let's look at a progression for the Triceps muscle for training endurance. Realize that there may be infinite ideas when you add equipment and/or change water depths.

    Triceps Extension in Athletic  Stance
    Triceps Extension in Reverse Lunge (modified rebound ski)
    Triceps Extension with Squat
    Triceps Extension with Side Out Squat
    Triceps Extension with forward walk  (assist travel)
    Triceps Extension with backwards walk (resist travel)  

Let's look at a progression for stretching the triceps muscles. Start modified Triceps Stretch or craddle the arm and hold in water leaning into the shoulder being stretched. The buoyancy allows the elbow to lift. Progress to an overhead stretch. Add a side lean to increase the range of motion and further deepen the stretch.

Realizing that organizing progressions may help your classes gain more results over time. 

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