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Enhance Your Aquatic Training

The most grueling days during high school swim team practice were “drag” days, where training revolved around increasing drag resistance Putting on my sweat pants, sweat shirt, long socks, and – don’t forget the swim cap – made my stomach turn. I knew what was ahead once we got into the pool with Coach Barb ready to make us sweat! Not only were we dragged down (literally) by a heavy, wet sweat suit, but we had to swim over two miles! Now I know why I’m a hard-nosed, relentless instructor when it comes to teaching my aquatic fitness classes.

Once I graduated and continued to swim and workout on my own, I found that I had to attend a group fitness class to really get the intense kind of push that I was used to getting during swim team practice. Then, I found drag equipment. The different types of drag – hand-held bells, paddles, kickboards, ankle fins – was exciting and made me realize I could still get the same level of intensity I had become accustomed to during swim team practice!

Through the years of teaching, attending workshops and conferences, and experiencing some of the best of the best aquatic instructors from around the world, I’ve discovered there are endless pieces of drag equipment we can use in our aqua gyms. Whether it’s just the shape and direction of your bare hand, the added resistance of webbed gloves, or the addition of swim paddles, kickboards, Frisbees, drag bells or ankle fins, these options allow you to displace more water. This creates more resistance which intensifies the movement. Feeling this increased resistance started to spark my mermaid fire and I wanted to try and create more and more exercises using drag equipment.

Being a swimmer, the first pieces of drag equipment I used were kickboards and swimming hand paddles. The very thought of those kicking and pulling drills makes my arms and thighs burn! Once I started vertical aquatic training, I realized you could push and pull your way to a pool full of waves and maximum resistance. Over the years, I’ve saved up for my own equipment and convinced some of my aquatic directors to budget for drag belles and ankle fins. While I don’t have this equipment at every facility, I found the ones that do tend to pull in quite a few men and younger participants. Once they see the waves and the intense nature that drag equipment offers, they are curious about what this “aquatic fitness class thing” is all about.

Most of my aquatic fitness training and exercises are on the more aggressive side, whether we’re using equipment or not. The jumping jack with a chest press is my personal favorite exercise with the kickboard:

  • Begin with elbows flexed and at the waist.

  • Grip the kickboard with both hands; board perpendicular to pool bottom and fully submerged for maximum resistance.

  • Perform jumping jacks with a push and pull movement.

Some of my student’s favorite drag exercises include: board push/pull, soccer kicks with ankle fins, abdominal rotations with hand paddles, and hooks with drag bells (shown in the following picture.)

Though we live in world full of many different types of fitness modalities, I believe that the aquatic environment is the best environment to simultaneously strengthen the muscles, tone the body, and get the most out of your cardiovascular workout!

Resistance in water is significantly greater than in air – depending on the size and shape of the moving object, as well as the speed of movement. Plus, water provides resistance in all directions. With the addition of water fitness equipment, resistance can be further increased – both for shallow and deep water programs. You can get the most out of your workout if you use the water to its fullest potential…and if you push yourself to make some waves!



Jenni Lynn Patterson-LaCour is an AEA ATS and CE Provider as well as NSCA, CPT and CE Provider for AFAA and NASM. Jenni Lynn is also the creator and founder of S'WET by Jenni Lynn Fitness™, a trademarked aquatic fitness program that incorporates her swimming background with kickboxing, HIIT, yoga, pilates, and strength training in the pool. She truly believes the perception of water fitness can be transformed and soon ALL ages and genders will be working out together in the pool!

Reprinted with permission from the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA)

This article first appeared online August 2017.



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