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Challenge Your Class with Buoyant Cuffs

Taking on the adventure and challenge of incorporating new equipment in class can be both exciting and terrifying. The training versatility of the water alone is vast but adding equipment like foam, drag, weights or even resistance bands can take an aquatic workout to a completely new depth. So when transitioning my intermediate class to an advanced level and adding the HYDRO-FIT™ buoyant cuffs, I was equal parts anxious and eager. The transition was a great success and below are some teaching tips and sample exercises that I found effective.

Buoyant cuffs are comprised of material that is specific to water and floats. When the cuff is pushed down under the surface of the water towards the pool bottom, it creates a concentric (shortening) contraction of the muscle. When the cuff moves toward the surface of the water, in a controlled manner, it creates a lengthening muscle action, or eccentric contraction.

I begin the class traveling in a big circle. My goal is for students to become comfortable and confident controlling the leg movements with added buoyancy attached to the ankles. It is important for students to understand that they need to really use their arms, legs and core to control body movements and keep their feet properly aligned under the hips. Progressing travel from short lever/single foot movements (e.g. jogging), to long lever/two footed movements (e.g. cross-country ski), and finally to elevated foot positions assists students to gain physical strength and control over body alignment.

I began to notice that although my verbal cues were helpful, I had to also be mindful of demonstrating with proper posture on deck to prevent students from leaning too far forward and trying to look down to watch their feet. Also, it was important to bring attention to the placement of their legs and feet (not lifting the knees too high) and the constant engagement of their core, hips and gluteal muscles to control lower body positioning.

After traveling for 10-15 minutes and gaining confidence in their abilities and proper form, I bring them to the wall for isolated leg and core work. I like to use this as an opportunity to show how effective the buoyancy equipment can be, and at the same time, how it can challenge balance and core strength.

Performing single leg lifts in the frontal (side to side) and sagittal (front to back) planes, while holding or having their backs to the wall, creates isometric contractions of the core as well as concentric and eccentric muscles actions for the lower body. I also have them face the wall, using both hands on for support if needed, and begin to do mountain climbers (vertical or diagonal/level III) and double leg tucks for core work. If they feel strong enough to let go of the wall, they have this option, but initially using the wall helps reduce the chances of improper form or injury.

From the wall, I have my class take the cuffs off of their feet and place them either on their upper arm or forearms for level III/suspended training. If I have participants with cervical or elevated scapula issues, I advise them to put the cuffs on their forearms and focus on performing scapular depression during suspended exercises.

Suspended work with the cuffs on the upper body allows the lower back to relax and elongate and the pelvis/sacrum area to drop. During this level III work I perform base movements that sometimes incorporate the wall, like a level III cross-country ski with their back to the wall while cueing the back foot to touch the wall with each stride for extra posterior work. Or I will have them tap the wall each time the feet come forward during a front to back shoot through.

To finish my cuff class on a high note, I enjoy incorporating abdominal and gluteal work using Pilates and some kicks, NYC Rockettes style! Having the ability to float yet use your hands freely allows the opportunity to perform multi-directional diagonal body positions, as well as a challenging V-sit for an extra core challenge.

Want to try this in your class? The following workout is a program you can use for a 45-60-minute program.



Warm-Up (8-15 minutes)

Traveling with cuffs on ankles – I turn the class around every 2-2 ½ minutes.

  • High Knee Jog with Transverse Opening Arms

  • High Knee Jog with Pumping Arms

  • High Knee Jog with Hands on Head OR Alternating Arm Reaches

  • Cross-Country Ski Level I

  • Cross-Country Ski Level II with Tucks

  • Cross-Country Ski Level III (paying attention to form & upright torso)

  • Hops Level I

  • Level III Tuck HOLD (keep feet below hips & use arms to pull forward)

  • Jumping Jacks OR Cross-Country Level I – traveling laterally

Leg/Core Wall Work (8-12 minutes)

Cuffs on ankles; hold the wall for support if needed; be mindful how high the leg is lifted.

  • Side Leg Lift (toes forward; control cuff towards surface) - 30/60 sec on each leg

  • Forward Leg Lift (control cuff towards surface) - 30/60 sec on each leg

  • Leg Circles( keep circle small to control alignment) - 30 sec each direction/30-60 sec on each leg

  • Bent Knee Leg Press (control cuff & stop knee/hip at 90 degrees) - 30/60 sec on each leg

Turn to face wall

  • Double Leg Press/Hops - 60 sec

  • Mountain Climbers (Level I or Level III in diagonal position) - 60 sec

Wall Circuit (6-9 minutes)

Perform each exercise for 1 minute & repeat 2-3 times

  • Level III with feet tucked below hips: Pull forward to the wall & push backwards to the lane/wall

  • Facing wall (option to hold): Double Leg Press/Hops

  • Cardio Sprint (option to hold wall): High Knee Run with pumping arms/arms overhead OR Mountain Climbers (level I or level III diagonal)

Level III/Suspended Work (15-20 minutes)

Cuffs on upper body. Hold each move roughly 1–1 ½ min depending on class ability.

  • Cross-Country Ski – focus on hip opening

  • Hold Split for Stretch on each leg (split stance in sagittal plane – 15 sec)

  • Pendulum Cross-Country Ski – body travels vertical & diagonal side to side

  • Diagonal Plank Hold - Lead into single leg lift (Pac man) keeping bottom foot on floor – Repeat on each side

  • Front to back shoot through - Lead into circling legs (open front to back & back to front)

  • Reverse Plank position – Rockette Kicks (emphasize pushing leg down)

  • Moguls in 3’s (Single – Single – Double)

  • Side to side shoot through - Lead into adding 4 scissor/CC legs on each side (movement at the hip, not knee)

  • Diamond Legs Twisting (feet touching below hips)

  • Travel Diamond Legs up to surface for 4 counts & down for 4 counts

  • Reverse Plank position – Rockette Kicks (emphasize pushing leg down)

  • V-Sit Hold (pike hips/toes & head at surface) trying to keep toes as high above water as possible with heels touching

  • V-Sit lifting straight legs up & OUT

  • V-Sit lifting straight legs out to IN

  • V-Sit stack heel toe & lift – switch feet & repeat

Cool Down

I hope you enjoy. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at



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 March 1, 2019 online as a Featured Article.



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