Tuesday, July 02 2019

Do you avoid teaching circuits because they are too chaotic?  I know right?  Me too!   Good news!  U.K. Aqua Expert, Steph Toogood, designed a simple-to-teach circuit format that targets the needs of aging bodies and includes structured social interaction along with some healthy competition.  According to Steph, you can teach these circuits without dropping a bead of sweat.   

S.M.A.R.T Circuits is based on the KISS Principle – keep it simple & safe.  Steph’s inspiration for this workout was to prove that you could teach a circuit class without frying your nerves and unleashing holy hell in the pool.  “People get too ambitious with circuits by adding too many stations, too much equipment and by mixing depths,” says Steph.  Rather than have multiple stations, this instructor-led circuit simply divides the class into two groups.  And if you are hoping for fancy moves this is not the workout for you.  S.M.A.R.T Circuits is yet another terrific example of how to teach base moves with a fresh approach, allowing for maximal participation and achievement.

Not only was this circuit program designed for simplicity, it was designed to be S.M.A.R.T – smart for the instructor and smart for the student. 
S = Specific. 
Exercise should be designed with results in mind. All movement should be purposeful.  This workout features three circuits, each with a different training focus:  1) muscular endurance  2) cardiovascular  3) social interaction/competitive.  The goals are SPECIFIC.
M = Measurable. 
Intensity should be monitored and MEASURED, whether by duration (time), effort (R.P.E) or selected activity.
A = Achievable.
Typical aquatic fitness classes include all levels – beginner to advanced.  Therefore, the exercises should be kept simple yet challenging, fostering a sense of ACHIEVEMENT rather than frustration.
R = Realistic.
As stated above, when designing a circuit program, avoid the temptation to create intricate moves never before seen in the world of aquatic fitness.  Circuits are supposed to be about exercise, not dance and choreography.  Keep it REAL.
T = Time efficient.
Group fitness classes should be designed to maximize fitness outcomes.  Some people can only get to a couple classes a week.  Ensuring an outcome of cardio and muscular endurance provides greater results.  Additionally, the element of competition featured in the third circuit amps up the intensity and leads to overall gains


Circuit 1
Steph dedicated the first circuit to muscular endurance.  “This fitness component is essential for aging bodies because seniors cannot improve cardio until they have enough musculature to sustain exercise for an extended periods,” says Steph.  And because the body naturally ages into flexion, she says this routine was purposefully designed to target weaker muscles that benefit from more strengthening.  In this circuit, the two groups switch between upper and lower body exercises. Upper body exercises alternate between shoulder and elbow joint actions.  All exercises in this segment are taught in different planes of movement to ensure muscular balance.  When switching stations, the use of sideways travel patterns keeps the workout moving at all times while creating fun and interaction as the students strategically weave their way into their respective station. 

Circuit 2
The focus in this segment is on cardiovascular training.  As in the first circuit, the movements are taught with options for working at a lower or higher intensity.   The stationary cardio portion is considered the ‘work’ cycle in this circuit and the travel while switching stations serves as the recovery.  When switching stations the travel in this segment has the two groups facing each other this time as they perform a movement pattern to switch sides.  This encourages good-natured ribbing and interaction as the two sides pass each other. 

Circuit 3
Effective, motivational and enjoyable, Steph says that this is her students’ favorite circuit.  In this segment the participants face each other paired off, becoming both the student and the coach.  One student executes the exercise at a lower intensity (neutral - Level II) while motivating and coaching the other student to perform at a high intensity (bounded - Level I).   The students then switch roles.  Seniors inherently shun competition and instructors are often told to avoid it.  However, Steph says her students work much harder and enjoy the social interaction and healthy competition included in this circuit.  “You would be surprised how much harder the slackers work and how the quietest people become much more engaged and vocal when participating in this activity,” says Steph.  

This program (as seen in video) was designed for the use of webbed gloves/mitts, but it can obviously be offered without them.  The circuits can be performed with other equipment, such as noodles and buoys, but the selected exercises will need to be altered.  Steph encourages instructors to be creative in designing different circuit concepts, varying them with different fitness components, timing scenarios, equipment, Olympic activities, sports themes and more.   However, she reminds instructors to always build a routine with science and purpose. 

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Steph for once again sharing her knowledge and talent with video viewers.  Aside from myself, Steph has appeared in more Fitmotivation videos than any other Fitness Friends.  She is a well-known international presenter and the founder of Hydro-Actif, the U.K’s most widely recognized and respected aquatic fitness organization.  Steph will be teaching both S.M.A.R.T Circuits and Hand Buoy ABCs at the International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) in May.  Stay tuned next month for Steph’s video, Mobility Matrix, which is another one of her IAFC 2018 sessions. 

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.