Deep-water exercise has been well-documented as a viable alternative to shallow-water and
land-based fitness training. A properly designed deep-water workout
incorporates all the components of a typical land-based workout,
resulting in significant health and fitness benefits for
The use of water as an effective training tool requires
manipulating buoyancy and resistance to create work and rest as
opposed to using gravity. The ability to manipulate (control)
buoyancy and harness (use) water resistance to increase and/or
decrease exercise intensity is a learned skill. Water fitness
instructors, unlike land fitness instructors, cannot assume their
students come to class with this skill.
By definition, deep-water exercise refers to any exercise
performed with the body in a vertical position with the lungs
submerged. The depth of water is sufficient to prevent participants
from rebounding or accelerating off the pool bottom. The human body
responds differently to exercise stimulus and movement in the
buoyant environment of deep water.
Lack of contact with the ground makes deep-water exercise
especially challenging. The negligible force of gravity and the
absence of a solid surface to provide a stable base of support
create an unstable working environment. This often results in poor
body alignment and a marked lack of balance and coordination in the
Maintaining an upright, vertical and aligned posture (neutral
pelvis and spine) is essential to ensure exercise safety and to
optimize training benefits. Deep-water exercisers must adjust and learn to stabilize (find and maintain
balance) using their center of buoyancy (at the lungs) instead of
their center of gravity (in the pelvis).
The ability to find balance between these two points and
maintain equilibrium varies from individual to individual and
improves with coaching. For these reasons, I’ve found it
successful to teach my students the skill of
To reinforce the technique, in the warm-up of segment of class I
have them perform a progression of eight exercises that challenge
their balance and alignment.
Sculling is how swimmers move through the water. Stationary
sculling is a means of vertical propulsion that allows the hands to
have a continuous “grip” on the water. In deep-water
exercise it is an important skill that enables your students to
hold a position, control their movements, achieve balance and
maintain postural alignment.
Technically, sculling consists of an outward sweep and an inward
sweep of the arms and hands. The hands are angled at 45 degrees
with the thumbs down on the outward sweep, and thumbs up on the
inward sweep. The movement is not from the hands, but from the
elbow with the wrists locked. The motion is smooth, fluid and
continuous. It is a complex skill that is best taught using a
The progression of exercises shown on the previous page uses
specific body positions and movements that force students to engage
their arms and hands to stabilize, as well as recruit their core to
maintain balance and alignment.
To enhance proprioceptive feedback, I encourage my students to use
webbed resistance gloves.