Aquatic Add-On Challenge

Monday, November 06 2023

Just posted! The Accumulator with Stephanie Thielen is a series of 10 exercises that focuses on total body strength and cardio power, but with a programming twist. Unlike typical add-on formats, this format features self-paced repetitions that keep participants pushing to do their best, while working together as a team.



The Accumulator was first taught by Stephanie at the International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) several years ago. The session was so popular that some subscribers requested that Stephanie film it if she ever came back for more filming with Fitmotivation.  Well, she did come back and she did film it. And lucky me, I was the student in the pool with Stephanie during filming. I can testify that this is indeed a very challenging water workout. 



This 48-minute video includes a warm-up, cool down and three working segments. The working segments feature a series of 10 water exercises that are stacked with the building block (add-on) method. The exercises focus on total body strength and cardio power, but with a programming twist. The six strength exercises are taught with self-paced repetitions that create teamwork and some friendly competition. The four cardio and core moves are taught for 1-minute each. Integrating the timed segments with the repetition-based segments allows the participants to catch-up together as a group if some got ahead or lagged in the self-paced repetitions. The goal is that participants will work harder with some friendly competition. Exercise selection for this routine is crucial because the first exercises are repeated frequently and so you wouldn’t want to make those first moves exceptionally hard. Due to the intensity of this workout, consider teaching this format at certain times of the year when a challenge is in order, such as post-holidays. 
Watch Stephanie talk more about this in the video below and read about her suggestions for successfully implementing The Accumulator in your classes. 



Successful Class Tips
by Stephanie Thielen
The Accumulator is one of my all-time favorite workouts.  I created this workout years ago and I have continued to keep it in my wheelhouse of tried-and-true workouts that, well, just work.  The Accumulator format, when followed as written, is pure perfection.  That might seem like an over-the-top statement, but the reality is, I’ve never had this workout fail me. 

  • Accessible to most
  • Doable for the beginner yet intense enough for the veteran
  • Engaging from start to finish
  • Self-driven so participants take ownership
  • All participants working towards a common goal

Tips for a Successful Accumulator Workout

1. Repeat with a Purpose:  This workout should be in the category of “specialty” workouts.  While this workout is amazing, it’s not one you want to do all the time.  You’ll want to repeat this workout on a rotation that aligns with your aquatic and facility schedule.  For example, teach this workout:

  • one day a week for three weeks for a planned workout that participants can look forward to and put on their calendar.
  • during the first week, in the middle, and at the end of a session to track and show improvement in performance

2. Benchmark:  A benchmark is a standard against which similar things can be measured. The benchmark in this workout is time.  How much time does it take participants to complete?  The goal with every repeat is for the class to meet or beat their previous time.  Post the previous time on a large poster and/or show a countdown clock so participants can visually see what their hard work is going towards.  This is a powerful tool that helps to bring all participants to work towards a common goal.

3. Exercise Selection: The first exercise in The Accumulator will be performed for 120 reps (10 rounds/12 reps).  You’ll need to be smart about what exercises you choose for the first 4.  I choose muscles groups that need more attention such as adductors, adductors, latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids, triceps, and even glutes. 

4. Music Selection:  This workout requires music with consistent energy.  One song that feels slow or lacks “umph” is going to tank the energy of the entire class.  Once the energy drops, it’s incredibly difficult to get back.  Consider creating your own playlist, creating a theme (i.e. wedding songs, summer songs, decades, one hit wonders) or better yet, ask participants for a list of their favorite songs.  This is another powerful tool for participants to feel invested in the workout.

5. Teaching vs. Coaching:  The first time you teach this workout, you will be in the role of a teacher:  sharing knowledge and providing specifics to the workout.  Teaching will be a one-way street of communication as you provide information about what exercise is next, exercise set up, and exercise execution.  Eventually you will need to move into the role of coaching:  drawing out the knowledge that participants already have and asking the question “What would it take to reach your goal?  What is your contribution to the class goal?  How are you adjusting to complete this workout?”  Your energy and meaningful word choice is what participants will need to help them get through.


Fitmotivation extends a big thank you to Stephanie for sharing one of her favorite workouts with subscribers. Stay tuned for Aquatic Skills, another video with Stephanie that is posting next month.  Aquatic Skills will also include an optional continuing education program worth 2.0 AEA CECs. 

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.