Endurance Training Aqua Class

Tuesday, June 28 2022

Take away a simple HIIT template for your classes. Sharlie and stellar student Shelley (Sharlie’s mom) are back with another Shockwave Aqua Fitness class.  This dual depth template was designed to help class participants improve their stamina and endurance with a simple formula that includes sets of four exercises, with each exercise performed for 20, 40 and 60 seconds.


  • Sharlie’s desire to improve her participants stamina in class was the inspiration for 20 40 60 HIIT.
  • What does the 20 40 60 HIIT class format include?
  • Why was this workout created as dual depth?
  • What is the recommended music tempo for this workout?

"20 40 60 HIIT is one of  most popular class formats,” says Sharlie Peterson, lead instructor for Shockwave Aqua Fitness which is based in Topeka, Kansas.  “We structured this format to challenge class members’ stamina by introducing a gradual buildup of endurance and all-out effort.”  This class resign was a direct result of member feedback according to Sharlie. “One of the most frequently asked questions I would get from members was how they could build their stamina in class so that they could get better results.”   Based questions and feedback, Sharlie was inspired to design a HIIT format that would gradually build endurance with ascending work times. In this simple template, each set includes four exercises that gradually increase in duration in order to improve cardiorespiratory endurance.  “Most HIIT formats feature short bursts of effort, which can be good, but in 20 40 60 HIIT we encourage a gradual buildup of duration to more effectively improve long-term stamina and proper breathing.”  Watch Sharlie talk more about the 20 40 60 method.

The 20 40 60 HIIT format includes a warm-up, cool down and four segments of four exercises (8 minutes each) for a total time of 45 minutes.  The four working segments target cardio, core and strength training with foam dumbbells.  This is an easy-to-teach format for instructors and easy-to-follow for class members. There are four exercises in each segment.  Each exercise is performed first for 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds rest, followed by 40 seconds work and 15 seconds of rest.  The third and final time, the exercise is performed for 60 seconds of maximum effort.  A minute never felt so long! In between each of the segments, a one-minute recovery period is recommended to allow the body to recover and reset for the next round. This is also a good time for the students to get hydrated. Foam dumbbells are used in one of the segments.  However, the exercises can also be performed without if you or a class member prefers.  

20 40 60 HIIT can be performed in both deep and shallow water.  Designing a workout in this dual depth manner maximizes pool space and provides the greatest amount of customer satisfaction. The main requirement for creating a dual depth format is to make sure the moves are basic enough that they can be performed in both depths.  HIIT workouts typically feature basic, athletic movements and are ideal for dual depth programming.  Students who perform the workout in the deep end should wear a flotation belt in order to ensure the exercises are done safely and properly. 

The cadence in dual depth workouts needs to be ideal for people exercising in both deep and shallow water.  The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) recommended tempo for shallow water cardio classes is 125 -150 bpm.  The recommended tempo for deep water cardio classes is 100 -135 bpm.  Therefore, a good tempo for dual depth would be 128 – 132 bpm.  However, HIIT workouts typically do not require a set tempo because the music is intended to be motivational only.  The class members simply perform the exercises at whatever cadence they are comfortable with. 

Fitmotivation extends a big thank you to Sharlie and Shelley for sharing their passion and enthusiasm for water fitness with subscribers.  Stay tuned for another Shockwave Aqua Fitness video posting in August.

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.