Core training has become a popular exercise focus in group exercise programming. The reason is simple: A strong core is necessary for good posture and to maintain a healthy back. The term “core” refers to the musculature of the trunk that functions to support and move the hips (pelvis), back (spine) and shoulders (rib cage). Water provides an ideal training environment for strengthening the core. The water’s natural

buoyancy creates an unstable working environment and the water’s increased density provides increased levels of resistance to provide skeletal loading that assists as well as resists movement.

In our modern society, the physical demands of daily living dictate we move in repetitive ways, not all of which produce positive benefits for our bodies. Increasingly, we find ourselves spending a significant amount of time in a seated position, as in driving a car or working in front of a computer. In anatomical terms, this position is referred to as passive forward flexion.

Traditional approaches to core training tend to focus on only a portion of the core, the abdominals. With repetitive exercises such as abdominal crunches or curls, generally performed in a supine or lying down position, these exercises only further train spinal flexion. Aquatic fitness professionals can use the unique physical properties of water to balance the bias toward spinal flexion by including extension exercises that lengthen the spine and open the hips.

The way to begin is by stabilizing the body in spinal extension in a standing position. Then add movement patterns that recruit the core muscles to further lengthen and stabilize. Challenging the abdominals to maintain a neutral spine and pelvis in a vertical position has the greatest carry-over effect in creating a functional core. Use the two core-strengthening exercises illustrated here to produce effective results for your students. Each exercise integrates core stabilization techniques and multi-dimensional movement patterns to work the deepest muscle layers in the body.