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Working with Deep Water Flotation Belts

by Jenni Lynn Patterson-LaCour

How I Make the Belt Work for My Class

Unlike most aquatic instructors, living in NYC has not provided many opportunities to teach a deep water class, simply because, there aren’t too many deep-water pools. However, once I found one to practice in, I found myself constantly getting acid reflux and struggling to get “comfortable” in the belt for the entire duration of my practice. I knew I wasn’t the only one who had to be experiencing this discomfort from the floatation belt. This spurred my curiosity to create ways of building my deep water routines so that students, and myself, could avoid these discomforts as much as possible.

I started to notice that many of my students would get ‘annoyed’ with the floatation belt right around the 15–20-minute mark in class, so this got me to thinking,How can I create a full workout, which will allow them to be as comfortable as possible in the belt?” As a previous swimmer, I understood that the lungs are our biggest asset during aquatic practice. With deep-water fitness, we put the floatation belt ‘snuggly’ around the trunk of the body, which does hinder the rib cage expansion during breathing. I was not about to remove the belt and try other floatation devices because the belt allows for proper form, and it stays attached to the body without the risk of slipping off.

But how would I create an entire body workout in deep water without causing discomfort for participants?

I started thinking about my swim practice and my fascination for watching synchronized swimming videos. LIGHT BULB! Use all three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal and transverse! Not just with our limbs, but the entire body.

Going from vertical, to diagonal and horizontal body positioning was not just helping create a dynamic workout experience, it allowed me to reduce the pressure around my rib cage and breath easier without discomfort.

By adjusting our body position, we manipulate how much pressure the floatation belt is placing on different areas of our trunk. In a vertical body position, it holds the body upright and gently squeezes the base/lower half of our ribcage. When we take the body horizontal to the pool floor and lay on our side with hips stacked, this will displace the floatation pressure to one side of the body and vise versa when switching over to the other side. Now going into a modified supine or ‘hammock’ body position, we then move the flotation pressure to the back of our body, which helps the front of the lungs expand just a little more, while working the abdominals!

At first, I decided to focus on diagonal work to really amp up balance, coordination, and cardio in class, but creating more modified supine positions really challenged everyone’s core strength! My personal favorite is doing seated positions while isolating movement of the lower body to focus on upper body strength and stamina. It takes brain power to control the lower half of our body from moving while the upper body is doing something completely different, like bicep/triceps curls and check/back flies.

Mind you, I had several members that were already resistant to wearing the floatation belt and insisted that they could do the same workout with the noodle and/or hand buoys. I even tried hiding the noodles and hand buoys, but they managed to find them. I warned that if they chose not to wear a belt, that 99% of the movements would not be effective and that the noodle/hand buoys would hinder them. Of course, once I started class, they quickly realized this. A few did leave, but most of them got out, put the floatation belt on, and continued the class with much success.

PRO TIP: Using the wall can be a great way to space participants, as well as add an element of creativity! Structuring your deep-water routines can look very different when adding in different body positioning as well as trying to isolate the upper and/or lower body. This also forces participants to really breathe and pay attention to what their body is doing. Stay mindful of how long you have moves in a vertical position and try to get your wave warriors using all planes of motion to give them a challenging and comfortable deep-water workout.


Moves You Can Use

This is a fun circuit of 14 exercises that that I enjoy doing with my deep-water class.

Each move is held for 30 seconds, or two 32-count phrases. You can also use building block, pure repetition choreography or any other formatting you want to plug these moves.


Jenni Lynn Patterson-LaCour is an AEA Aquatic Training Specialist, NSCA-CPT, continuing education provider, an international and national aquatic fitness presenter, and creator of S’WET™.

She has been working one on one with clients and teaching aquatic fitness classes in New York City for over a decade. Jenni’s S’WET™ structure takes HIIT and strength training to a new level in the pool. She believes the perception of water fitness is transforming the way people cross train and soon ALL ages, abilities and genders will be making waves in the pool together.

Reprinted with permission from the Aquatic Exercise Association website - July 8, 2022



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