Aqua Pilates Exercises
The pool has become a new destination for mind-body classes. No longer carrying the grandparents only stigma of its past, aqua fitness has branched out to include classes such as Zumba, yoga and even Nia. Pilates has found additional benefits by adapting their traditional practice to the zero-gravity feel of an aquatic environment. These new aqua exercises challenge your stability, core strength and develop your breathing in a way that traditional Pilates cannot.
Pilates exercises are translated into a pool setting using pool noodles, water weights, the pool wall and floor for assistance. Aqua Pilates classes can also utilize regular Pilates equipment such as rings, myoballs and foam rollers. Practicing in deeper water can bring an additional challenge to the participants.
Exercises are performed in chest deep water; although no swimming skills are necessary, they are still highly advised. It is important to consult with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise or fitness program. Please consult with your physician before attempting any of these exercises.
A key element in the practice of any type of Pilates is the breath. The Pilates breath is performed by inhaling deeply through the nose and into the rib cage, keeping the abdominal wall contracted while stabilizing the spine. The exhale is done forcefully out of the mouth through pursed lips, utilizing the external oblique to close the rib cage and lock down the abs. This is unlike the yogic breath which uses the nose only.
Warm-Up and Cool Down
A proper warm-up and cool down should be completed before and after every workout. They should last for a minimum of five minutes each. Walking through the water, while concentrating on the Pilates breath, is a great warm-up or cool down exercise for Aqua Pilates.
The "Washing Machine"
With water weights in either hand, raise your arms out in front of you with palms down. Keeping your abdominal muscles engaged, your legs spread two hip-widths apart and knees slightly bent, inhale while lifting off the floor and rotate your hips to one side; exhale as you set your toes back on the floor of the pool briefly. Then inhale and lift again to rotate to the other side. That is one repetition; complete 12 to 15 repetitions.
Pedal the Bicycle
Holding the ends of a pool noodle, curve it to form a C shape around your body and lean back until you are floating in the water with your weight supported on it. Your shoulders should be down away from your ears, abs engaged and legs elongated. Pull one leg into your body on the exhale, inhale as you switch legs, exhale as you fully extend the previously bent leg; this should be a slow and controlled movement. You have completed one repetition when each leg has been extended once; complete 12 to 15 repetitions.
Starting in the same position as Pedal the Bicycle, extend both legs in front of you while leaning back against the noodle. Your abs should be engaged, hips slightly bent and heels should be pressed together with toes pointed and feet turned out. Inhale and click your heels together five times, keeping your feet in position. Exhale as you click your heels together five times, this time flexing your turned out feet. Alternate back and forth until you have completed 12 to 15 sets of each.
Tim Petrie is a sports medicine physical therapist and a certified orthopedic specialist practicing in Milwaukee, WI. In addition to treating patients of all ages, he is passionate about writing about health and wellness topics. In his free time, Tim loves to run and travel with his wife and three kids.