Improving Noodle Exercises

Tuesday, July 02 2019

Life’s daily activities ages can age our body into flexion causing a stooped posture and a host of physical ailments.   Exercising with a noodle in a water fitness class is the last place one would expect to exacerbate this.  UK Aqua Training Specialist, Steph Toogood, has observed differently and has some corrective solutions to share.   

Noodle Extension is an express video that demonstrates noodle exercises and positions that encourage opening and extending the body rather than flexing it forward.  The video explores four different ways to hold the noodle for optimal extension.

Based on observations of many classes over the years, Steph often sees noodles placed at water level and held with both hands in front of the body. “This anterior hold is usually performed for most of the class, leading to over-flexion of the spine, hip and shoulders, especially for the novice student,” says Steph.  Fitness experts, including Steph, all agree that flexion is far too abundant in our lives and in our exercise programs.   

Cradling babies, sitting at a desk, typing on a keyboard, talking on a phone, driving a car, walking up stairs, hugging, handshaking and reaching forward all day long means flexion, flexion and more flexion.  Exercising to keep ourselves in better shape means walking, jogging, stepping, catching, shooting jumping, skiing, punching, kicking.  You guessed it – flexion, flexion and more flexion.  The problem is that joints are meant to flex AND extend.   Too much flexion and not enough extension create muscle imbalances, which can lead to pain and chronic conditions in the affected joint. 

Pain and chronic conditions start occurring as we age if joint instability becomes more pronounced due to muscle imbalances.   Movements that we have always taken for granted start to become impaired as joint range of motion (ROM) decreases. Activities of daily living start becoming uncomfortable and the temptation is to do less, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle and further complications.   As mentioned in the blog for the video, Extension for Function, health issues caused by aging into forward flexion also include more serious ailments such as breathing issues, gastrointestinal upsets and decreased organ function due to a perpetually slouched torso and rib cage. Additionally, falls become more common when posterior muscles are weakened. 

The prevailing attitude in our society is that pain and aching bodies are an automatic byproduct of aging.  Not so.  The aches and pains we experience are often a result of a lifetime of poor body mechanics.  They can be reversed.  Corrective exercise strategies that focus on extension can help reverse the imbalances caused by a life of flexion.  Fitness professionals can and should be designing exercise routines with an emphasis on movements that extend and open the body.  Noodle Extension and Extension for Function are both excellent video resources that help instructors do exactly that. 

The four segments in the video demonstrate a variety of holds that allow for multi-planar movements designed to achieve optimal muscle balance.  Steph recommends a noodle that is not too dense and that it is pliable enough to curve comfortably around the body.

Segment 1:  Anterior Hold
The first segment demonstrates the type of anterior hold with corrective solutions.  In the example of a  rocking horse, the emphasis is on pulling back rather than pushing forward, which allows for scapular retraction and shoulder extension.   Instead of a traditional bent knee used in the rocking horse, extended legs are cued for hip extension.   Steph also shares a one-handed hold that promotes opening of the chest and shoulder extension. 

Segment 2:  Side/Posterior Hold
The noodle is this segment is placed behind the back, which automatically retracts the scapula and opens the shoulder.   Various exercise are performed to improve shoulder stabilization and mobilization, as well as spine and hip mobility. 

Segment 3:  Asymmetrical Anchored Hold
This unique placement of the noodle, behind the back and off to one side is designed to promote shoulder and hip extension.  Positioning the noodle in this manner is ideal for incorporating into a standing core routine as spinal rotation is easily and effectively achieved.

Segment 4:  All Planes Hold
Various noodle positions and hand placements are featured in this segment, including a supinated grip and a side hold without movement of the shoulder. 

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Steph for once again traveling to Florida and sharing her passion and knowledge for creating exercise solutions for aging bodies.  Steph is the founder of Hydro-Actif, the United Kingdom’s most widely recognized and respected aquatic fitness organization. Check out Steph’s library of videos on

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.