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One on One Training: Maximizing Depth

by Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour

What are most new gym members offered when they join a club? A FREE personal training session/assessment!

Feedback from members by the pool, however, suggests that they either find the land-based personal training session uncomfortable or have yet to redeem it because they do not enjoy land-based workouts. This had me thinking, as an AEA Certified Aquatic Fitness Professional and NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, what if I could offer them a one-on-one session in the pool instead?

Having conducted thousands of land-based personal training assessments in my two decades of experience, I was excited to adapt all these techniques to the water. Training in the water doesn’t just allow for movement in three dimensions (which can also be done on land), but it also adds an element of what I like to call ‘levitating’ work. The ability to fully utilize buoyancy and position our bodies parallel to the ground while maximizing our core muscles is one of the top reasons I love aquatic training so much.

Whether I’m working in a shallow or dual depth pool, I divide the lane I’m using into four parts: A, B, C & D.

  • A represents the shallowest area of the lane where Anchored work can best be utilized.

  • B is the ideal depth (mid-chest/below armpit level) for the client, where Bounding occurs.

  • C is the transitional depth, which refers to being partly able to touch with tippy toes, and great for Conditioning exercises.

  • D is for our ‘levitating’ work in the Deep End, where the body is fully suspended off the floor.

Dividing the lane accordingly helps me plan my training sessions and educate my client on the benefits of each depth. By incorporating all three planes of motion into each block, I ensure a total body workout while maximizing the potential of each water depth, thus maximizing their results.

I keep things simple during my training sessions and use the AEA seven base moves:

This allows my clients to learn and perfect the fundamentals while being challenged at different depths. They gain strength and confidence by utilizing the water for resistance and buoyancy. Overcoming the fear of water is a common concern in our classes and one-on-one/small group training sessions. Addressing your client’s physical and mental needs is crucial for ensuring their safety and building trust with the client.

When your client knows that you prioritize their safety and are there for them every splash of the way, they become more willing to try new things and push themselves to progress, enhancing their confidence and strength.

I initially start sessions without any equipment, focusing on hand placement, especially for the first two sessions. By focusing on hand placement initially, clients realize their ability to create force through the water and use their arms and core muscles to stay afloat, enhancing their confidence. Gradually, I introduce three-dimensional drag and/or webbed gloves.

When introducing buoyant equipment, I prefer starting with the noodle and then progressing to two hand bars to address muscle imbalances. As we progress, we work on unilateral movements (single arm or single leg), allowing me to identify areas that require strengthening, flexibility, or stability training.

A typical training session consists of several components based on the recommendations of the NASM and the AEA Aquatic Fitness Professional Manual. These include a warm-up, flexibility exercises, cardio or anaerobic work, muscular strength or endurance training, core stability exercises, conditioning-specific exercises, and neuromotor training. Depending on the client’s goals, physical limitations, pool and air temperature, pool space, and available equipment, I tailor their training session to incorporate all or some of these components.

By offering gym members a one-on-one session in the pool instead of a land-based training session, we can cater to their preferences and provide a fresh approach to personal training. Training in the water offers unique advantages, including three-dimensional movement and fully utilizing buoyancy.

Ensure a comprehensive water workout by carefully planning, incorporating fundamental moves, and utilizing water-specific equipment while addressing clients’ individual needs to build their confidence and maximize their results.

I will share a sample training session to give you a better understanding of how I use the various water depths to achieve specific goals.

NOTE: It is crucial to ensure that as a fitness professional you have your own liability insurance, especially if you are not covered by the facility where you work. Additionally, verify with your client that they have been medically cleared for physical activity to prioritize their safety throughout their aquatic training journey.



The Warm Up (thermal & cardio-respiratory warm up with dynamic stretching)

  1. Assisting Arms walk forward down/back A --> D (Alternating & Breaststroke Arms)

  2. Alternating Impeding Arms while walking down towards deep (High knee march w/ long arm pushing in line of travel) A --> D

  3. Walk Backwards with Impeding/Breaststroke Arms (thumbs up) D --> A

  4. Lateral Side Steps down/back with Assisting Arms (JJ) A --> D

  5. 10X/Exercise – T-Jacks, Moguls & CC Ski - D

  6. Walk to shallow with posterior alternating heel reaches D --> A


Conditioning (cardiorespiratory, muscular, stability & core training)

Hand Bars: (Between B & C - Chest/Armpit level in the water)


10X/Exercise: Repeat 3X

  1. JJ w/ Bilateral Elbow Flexion (arms down/legs together to start – jack legs out as elbows bend)

  2. CC

  3. T-Jacks

Stability w/ Hand Bars

Split Stance – 45 sec/lead leg

  1. Bilateral Shoulder Flexion/Extension (Alternate to Modify)

  2. Switch lead leg

Float Hand Bars & Slowly Toe-Heel walk backwards to shallow & heel-toe back to start position.

Split Stance – 60 sec/lead leg

  1. Unilateral Shoulder Flexion/Extension – Opposite arm of Lead leg (Ex: Right forward w/ Left back using Left Arm)

  2. Switch lead leg and arm

Float Hand Bars & Slowly Toe-Heel walk backwards to shallow & TIGHTROPE walk back to start position (heel touching

toe w/ soft bend in the knees)

  • Repeat 1-4 – 2X

  • Drop Hand Bars


Grapevine Shallow to Deep/Back 2X (Turn around to switch lead leg)

Core w/ Noodle

10X/Exercise: Repeat 1-5 --> 3X (Between C & D - Transitional/Deep))

  1. Rock & Roll (Lev III Front/Back shoot through)

  2. Lev III Push ups

  3. Noodle behind back: Reverse Plank with Jacking legs (feet below hips)

  4. Rockette legs/Straight leg kick with TOE TAP to floor (R+L=1)

  5. Tuck & Shoot w/ touch down (Tuck knees to chest, shoot legs forward, tuck back in & touch down --> Repeat)

Cardiorespiratory Training

  1. Shallow End Squats 10X - A

  2. CHARGE to Deep side with Alternating Impeding Arms (High knee march with long arm pushing in line of travel)

  3. 10X/exercise: T-Jacks, Moguls & CC

  4. 10 Wall Taps @ Deep Wall

  5. Walk backwards w/ breaststroke arms to shallow. D --> A

Repeat 1-4: 3X Challenging them to push a little harder each round


Cool-Down (cardio-respiratory cool-down & post stretch)

  • Walk to deep & back with posterior alternating heel reaches – 2X

  • Walk to deep & back with high knees and relaxed arms by side with palms forward – Stretching shoulders/chest with the water’s resistance – 2X

Deep – Using ladder for light support/balance

  1. Right foot on wall (toes parallel) Hamstring Stretch

  2. Right ankle circling 2-3X/direction

  3. Right foot over left knee – Figure 4 Right Hip Stretch

  4. REPEAT on Left Side

  • Slow walk to shallow with posterior alternating heel reaches

  • Using steps (1 foot at a time) – Small heel drop off step to stretch calves (hold for 2 breaths)

Quick Recap & ‘Homework’- Hydrate/End of Session

Reprinted with permission from the Aquatic Exercise Association.

Originally appeared in the Dec / Jan / Feb 2024 Issue of AKWA.

One on One Training AKWA
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