Noodles have become as commonplace as kickboards and pull buoys. While not all aquatics facilities can afford water-exercise equipment, the moderate cost and versatility of uses has made noodles a popular choice for exercise and recreation.
In terms of exercise, the noodle offers many options. The human
body adapts specifically to whatever type of overload it is given
during an activity. Movement patterns, muscle groups and specific
metabolic systems used for each activity are different.
Buoyancy-resisted activities performed in the water produce
different training responses than gravity-resisted exercises on
For most aquatic exercises, noodles are used in one of two ways:
As a resistance device to enhance strength training for the muscles
of the upper body and trunk, and as a flotation tool to provide
buoyant support for suspended activities.
As with many types of equipment commonly used in water exercise,
the noodle was adapted for use as an aquatic exercise tool. The
first noodles available on the market were designed as pool toys
— devices to enhance fun and play. They were, and still are
today, brightly colored, inexpensive and useful for a variety of
water recreation activities.
Beginning in the late 1990s, the industry saw the introduction
of the first “professional” pool noodle. Designed with
a specific purpose — to enhance the benefits of water
training — the professional noodle is thicker, shorter and
made of denser foam material than the common recreational noodle.
It is proportioned to support an adult body in water and provide
the appropriate level of resistance and rigidity necessary for
effective upper body conditioning. In addition, professional
noodles are manufactured using an extruded process, so they have a
smooth and sealed surface that enhances comfort and durability.
As with any piece of aquatic exercise equipment, a noodle
presents special considerations with regard to program design,
safety and exercise selection. First, consider the relationship
between the body and the noodle. It is either a handheld piece of
resistance equipment or, when used for buoyant support, it becomes
an aid for flotation assistance.
When using a noodle for exercise, it’s important to
consider the problems associated with upper-extremity muscle
Developing the front and back muscles through an appropriately
balanced exercise program promotes good posture, produces less
strain on the back and reduces the risk of shoulder impingement.
Overuse problems such as tendonitis and bursitis are common
upper-extremity complaints. For water exercise in particular,
certain types of arthritis may preclude or limit the use of a
It’s equally important to understand that the shoulder is
not considered a weight-bearing joint. It is designed for mobility
and stability. Exercises designed to develop the dynamic and static
stabilizers of the shoulder should be performed to prevent shoulder
injury and to promote movement efficiency.
Observe the following recommendations when using pool noodles
for adult exercise. Please note these are general guidelines and
are prescribed for healthy, asymptomatic adults.
• Develop awareness of the trunk stabilizers and cue
proper upper-body posture. Shoulders should remain in neutral
position. Avoid excessive shoulder elevation and protraction.
• Articulate hand and wrist positions for each exercise
and cue students to maintain a firm and aligned wrist. Avoid
repetitive wrist flexion and extension.
• Cue for gripping and use as light a grip as possible.
Holding a tight grip and not releasing periodically can result in
sore muscles and unnecessarily elevate heart rate and blood
• After each set of strenuous resistance exercises,
completely relax the grip on the noodle for a minimum of 10-15
• Cue students to breathe deeply and deliberately throughout