Pilates Inspired Muscle Conditioning

Sunday, March 28 2021

AquaGym Fitness is well known for their fast-paced high intensity interval classes, many of which are posted on Fitmotivation.  However, they also recognize the need to blend in other types of training to target all of the essential components of fitness.  AquaGym’s Pilates program is based on concepts of traditional Pilates and features exercise that strengthen and lengthen muscles with a variety of equipment.

Optimal fitness is achieved by a well-balanced exercise program.  Limiting yourself to high intensity cardio activities would deprive your body of much needed muscular strength and flexibility.  Doing only muscle conditioning or stretching would leave you lacking in cardiorespiratory endurance and the stamina to perform activities of daily living.  Fitmotivation strives to provide a variety of water workouts so that subscribers have a balanced wellness protocol to provide their students.  Slowing it down and using greater mental focus, AquaGym’s Pilates program is the latest edition to our muscle conditioning and mind & body categories. 

Adapting Pilates to the Pool
Water fitness is closely related to land fitness in that whatever becomes popular in the studio ultimately makes its way to the pool.  This has been true over the past 25 years with kickboxing, spinning, boot camp, yoga, HIIT, Tabata, Barre and more.  At the start of the new millennium, Pilates classes were all the rage in fitness studios.  Naturally, it was only a matter of time before instructors adapted Pilates for aqua classes.  Adapted is the operative word here.  According to AquaGym Fitness founder, Stephanie Newberry, instructors often make the mistake of trying to literally recreate Pilates in the pool.  “We call our class ‘Concepts of Pilates’ because recreating the goal of lengthening and strengthening is going to be different in the aquatic environment,” says Stephanie.  One of the problems of literally trying to adapt Pilates to the pool is the limitations of recreating traditional mat work.  In lieu of having expensive Pilates Reformer equipment, most studios offer Mat Pilates classes.   AquaGym Pilates focuses on lengthening and strengthening with exercises, methods and equipment that are more conducive to the water.  The pace is also kept more brisk than a traditional Pilates class so that the students don’t get cold. WATCH Stephanie explain more. 

Lengthening & Strengthening
Pilates (or the Pilates method) is a series of about 500 exercises inspired by calisthenics, yoga and ballet. The goal of Pilates is to lengthen and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. Improving flexibility, strength, balance and body awareness, the concepts of Pilates can absolutely be adapted to the pool.  However, many of the exercises cannot.  AquaGym Pilates showcases exercises and methods adapted for water that can accomplish the goals of a Pilates class.

Pool Wall
Utilizing the pool wall is a method for recreating mat exercises and the support and stability that the floor provides.  Holding the wall or placing your back against the wall provides support for performing many of the popular exercises in a mat Pilates class.

The Frisbee is utilized in AquaGym’s Pilates program as a means of creating drag resistance for upper body strength.  The Frisbee is also used as a gliding device for lower body and core training.  Holding the pool wall and placing both feet on the disc and then gliding along the wall is an amazing core challenge.

Focusing on exercises that promote flexibility is one way to lengthen muscles.  Placing on emphasis on the eccentric or lengthening phase of a muscle action is another way to create longer and leaner muscles.  Without any added equipment, all muscle actions performed in water strengthen the muscles with a shortening, concentric muscle action.   Incorporating buoyant equipment such as noodles helps to introduce more lengthening muscle actions in water exercise.  As the noodle is pushed downward against the upward forces of buoyancy, eccentric, lengthening muscle actions occur.  Noodles also provide neutral buoyant support so that the body can perform popular Pilates exercises from a modified supine position or from planking poses.  

Hand Buoys
Incorporating hand buoys is another opportunity to manifest lengthening eccentric muscle actions with buoyant equipment.  Similar to noodles, the hand buoys can also provide neutral buoyant support to reposition the body into a modified supine position or planking poses.

Music used in video
The music used in the video was from Power Music and is 95 bpm - Power Chilled 9

AquaGym Pilates will make an excellent addition to your spring training class planning.  Balancing out high intensity cardio training with some focused mind & body exercise will help your class particpants improve strength, posture and flexibility.  Stay tuned for another entire hour of flexibility and strength in the upcoming AquaGym Fitness video, Stretch Flex, which will be posting in April 2021.   


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.