Descending Interval Aquatic Fitness Class

Monday, March 07 2022

Challenge your students to a Splashdown interval challenge.  Yes, the intervals are going DOWN in this high-energy class format.  Based on descending interval timing ratios, the work and recovery cycles decrease in duration as the workout progresses.  Meanwhile, the working sets and intensity increases. This dual depth format starts out aerobically and then shifts into breathless and heart-pounding anaerobic action. 

Fitmotivation subscribers love HIIT workouts and want more according to a recent survey.  Without a doubt, HIIT classes have become prevalent in pools all across the globe.  However, as fitness educators, it is important that we promote well-rounded fitness classes that train our students for all activities, regardless of energy demand. Splashdown showcases the entire spectrum of energy metabolism, from aerobic to anaerobic.  Training across this spectrum can help class participants achieve greater levels of fitness. 

Blog Summary

  • The advantages of interval training
  • Understanding the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise
  • Adhering to Work & Recovery expectations
  • Splashdown:  Video-at-a-glance.  Workout Summary.
  • How templates improve instructor skills at providing results-oriented classes

Interval training is popular in aquatic fitness classes because it delivers the fitness results that students want.  Research studies have indicated that intermittent intensity exercise, also known as interval training, may impact body composition more positively than steady-state (aerobic) training.  These studies have shown that when intensity is varied from work to recovery, more calories get burned in a shorter amount of time, including more calories from body fat. Research also indicates that high intensity interval training (HIIT) elevates the metabolic rate longer into the day after exercise is completed.

Splashdown showcases examples of intervals that range from aerobic to anaerobic.  Aerobic interval training typically features longer-duration work cycles performed at a steady state, allowing the body to provide oxygen to meet the demand of the exercise activity.  Anaerobic interval training features shorter duration, high intensity activities that are performed without oxygen because the body cannot meet the demand for these quicker bursts of all-out effort. Both types of training improve physical fitness and help class participants meet the demands of daily living.  Aerobic capacity is required for stamina and the ability to perform long duration activities, such as house cleaning or long walks.  Anaerobic function is needed to prepare for sudden bursts of activity, such as walking up steps or dashing from your car in a rain storm. 

The success of interval training is dependent upon performing work and recovery cycles at appropriate intensity levels.  Longer duration work cycles, such as 2 minutes, require a more conservative energy output to endure for the longer time.  Shorter work cycles, such as 20 seconds require an all-out burst of effort. Likewise, longer duration recovery cycles require some kind of movement, such as active stretching. This is especially important in the cooler environment of the pool.  Short recovery cycles are usually performed with complete rest. Failure to adhere to intensity expectations in the work cycles or skipping the recovery phase can negate the benefits of interval training.  However, class participants should always work at their own fitness level.   Watch the video below for more insights into Splashdown and descending interval training. 

Interval 1:  Warm-up
4 exercises - :90 Work/:45 Recovery
The work ratios are moderately aerobic and feature exercises that prepare the muscles and joints for the workout.  The active recovery is dynamic stretching.   
Interval 2:  Aerobic
5 exercises - :60 Work/:30 Recovery
The 60-second work cycles are performed with the same combos as segment 1, however the intensity is increased with travel and reduced repetitions.  Active stretching is once again used for recovery. 
Interval 3:  Strength
6 exercises - :40 Work/:20 Recovery/Rest
Designed to promote muscular endurance and strength, the exercises in the 40-second work cycles target specific muscle groups.   Intensity expectations increase as work timing ratios decrease.  This interval approaches the anaerobic threshold, the point where energy metabolism starts transitioning from aerobic to anaerobic.
Interval 4:  Power
7 exercises - :30 Work/:15 Rest
Intensity soars as the work ratio decreases to 30-seconds, transitioning into high intensity interval training (HIIT).  The recovery is now 15 seconds and mandates complete rest. 
Interval 5:  Tabata
8 exercises - :20 Work/:10 Rest
The timing ratio decreases to 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of complete rest.  The intensity goes way up in this Tabata interval.   
Interval 6:  Max
9 exercises - :10 Work/:05 Recovery
The effort becomes downright breathless and heart-pounding as the timing ratio decreases to 10 second bursts of all-out effort.  Be sure to remind your class participants to work to their own abilities. 
Aerobic Cool Down
In many Fitmotivation videos, the workout goes directly from cardio into active stretching.  However, because the intensity crested at such an intense level with the Max Interval, a proper transition was needed before the active stretching in segment 8.  This aerobic “warm down” is intended to gradually decrease the heartrate with moderate aerobic activity. 

Music Playlist:  Club Dance 5.  130 bpm  Available to download at Power Music for $14.95. 

Splashdown is an example of a class template that reflects a precise structure of movement.  Several Fitmotivation videos are based on templates that provide instructors with a structure that delivers specific fitness outcomes. As I have said before, I love templates because they provide instructors with a results-oriented structure that they can drop moves in. Watch the video below to understand how templates can help you deliver better classes. 

Fitmotivation will be undergoing a site redesign in the first half of 2022.  One of the new features being considered is an area that provides blank workout templates that allow instructors to drop in fresh moves in an editor and create a new class. Check out an example of a template – Splashdown template.   Let us know what you think about this idea by commenting below the blog or video or by sending us an email at

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.