In the circuits, the same exercises are performed with and without equipment to prove that you do not need to use the foam dumbbells if you do not have them, are restricted from using them, or if students are concerned about musculoskeletal issues. Personally, I love doing this workout without buoys because I jack up the intensity and transform it into a cardio blast. Watch Circuit 2 carefully to see how I alter the intensity of the exercises when not using hand buoys. In lieu of foam dumbbells, you can also consider cutting up a pool noodle into quarters and using a pair of quarter noodles as a substitute for hand buoys. Note: If you are not using hand buoys, you will need to skip the Planking, Upper body & Core segment at the end. Planking is not possible without buoyant support.
Originally, I created the Foam Dumbbell Workout as a shallow water video, but because of requests for more deep water content, I changed the exercises so that the workout could be performed in both depths. A flotation belt is required if you are performing this workout in deep water. All of the exercises can be performed in the deep end with minimal to no modifications needed. In the plank segment, the body is simply positioned diagonally to mimic a shallow water plank. WATCH a short video that explains options and variety for the Foam Dumbbell Workout.
Choosing the correct buoy size is essential for a safe and effective fitness experience. Truth be told, I have never been a fan of the foam dumbbells; mostly because the facilities that I taught at purchased large buoys that were inappropriate for the size and physical condition of the students. Consequently, they would exercise in poor form with their shoulders elevated. This is a shoulder injury waiting to happen. If you are a larger-framed person, in good physical condition and have no upper body musculoskeletal issues, a medium to large size pair of buoys should be fine. Otherwise, consider shopping around for smaller sized buoys. I have included some options in the PoolFit Marketplace, including the Thera-Band Light Hand Bars and the Triangular Aquatic Exercise Dumbbells.
Keep in mind, hand buoys should never be held in the hands for an entire class. The buoys should be alternated with segments where hand-held equipment is not used so that the hands get a break. This would be standard practice in a fitness studio and the same common sense should be applied in the pool. The Foam Dumbbell Workout includes segments of equipment use alternated with segments without equipment. Additionally, during the segments that foam dumbbells are used, every third exercise was designed to serve as a cardio hand-break. These lower body power exercises allow the hands to simply rest on the buoys, keeping them in place. Excessive gripping can cause discomfort and even pain for people with arthritic hands or wrists. Prolonged gripping can also elevate blood pressure.
Foam Dumbbell Safety
Foam dumbbells cannot just be inserted into any pool workout at whim. A water workout must be specifically designed for their shape, size and for interacting with the upward force of buoyancy. Teaching water exercise classes for 20 years, it has always driven me crazy when students try to use foam dumbbells in my choreographed, fast-paced aerobic classes. Would you use a 10-pound pair of dumbbells in a studio Zumba class? No…you wouldn’t. Frustrated, I even wrote an article, Equipment Addiction, about my battles with students over foam dumbbells. WATCH an extended tutorial on the use of foam dumbbells, including safety tips on buoy size, gripping and modifications.
Foam dumbbells can be an effective fitness tool in the pool provided they are used safely and sanely. Clearly, they have limitations in the muscles targeted and in movement direction, but they can be a refreshing and effective change from using drag equipment or no equipment at all. I hope you enjoy the Foam Dumbbell Workout. As always, suggestions for content are always welcomed.
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.