Progressions & Regressions

Tuesday, July 02 2019

Happy New Year!  Classes will be full once again with newbies and returning students. One of the most important skillsets a group fitness instructor develops is the ability to teach a class comprised of various fitness levels.  Instructors must provide modifications for more deconditioned participants, while offering more challenging options for advanced students.  Years of education and experience are usually required for honing this skill.  Good news!  A video just posted that will help instructors improve their skills at progressing and regressing movements.

Aqua-T-System, featuring Netherlands Aqua Expert, Marlies Schellen-de Jong, demonstrates how a 60-minute class could be taught to a group with mixed fitness levels; or instructors can simply take away ideas for progressions and regressions for a wide variety of aquatic exercises.  An online education program is also available.  Aqua Progressions & Regressions includes a 10-page extended education handout and a CEC quiz worth 2.0 AEA CECs. (20 question quiz)

Aqua fitness classes typically include a mix of participants, some very old, some not so old, some deconditioned, some athletic, some injured, some healthy, some post-rehab, some looking for an intense workout, some looking for gentle exercise – and yes, some looking to just socialize.   What’s an instructor to do with this?  Maybe that is why we get paid the big bucks. (sarcasm intended)  Teaching to mixed levels of students is called multi-level formatting.  This type of instruction requires a fitness professional to come to class prepared to offer regressions and progressions on the exercises and choreography they are leading.

The most sacred duty of a group fitness instructor is to keep their students safe. It would be a dereliction of duty to turn a blind eye to a student who you can plainly see is working beyond their abilities.   Over time, or with new students, or when you see a student working beyond their limits, regressions should be offered to make exercises safer for less conditioned students. Regressions can be offered for arms, legs, total body, movement, impact, tempo and more.  Regular students eventually become accustomed to the modifications and begin owning their own workout by using regressions as needed. 

Instructors should also offer intensity options and challenges to more advanced students if they want them to keep coming to class.  Advanced students should always be reminded that the intensity of the workout is ultimately incumbent upon them.  Frequently show progressions to increase intensity and let the students decide for themselves if they wish to go there.  Over time, regular students become empowered to alter the intensity of exercises as they see fit on any particular day. 

Empowering students to ‘own’ their individual exercise experience is crucial in group fitness classes.  Here in the USA, instructors typically do not receive a health report on individual participants.  Unless a student informs us of a particular injury or issue, we are clueless about their health history.  Sometimes an instructor may observe a pool filled with older adults and assume they have to teach lower intensity.  Not good!  This drives away the older, active participants who are looking for a challenge.  Therefore, the only way we can keep students both safe and challenged is to:  1) Constantly remind them that it is THEIR responsibility to work within their own abilities.  2) Offer regressions and progressions for exercises.   

The Aqua-T-System video shows an entire 45-minute or 60-minute class taught with progressions and regressions.  10 segments (taught continuously in the video) include combinations for warm-up, cardio, lower body, upper body and warm down.

Led by Marlies, the video features three other Kataqua Team members as students.

T1: is the lesser-fit participant, a deconditioned senior, or someone with chronic or acute injuries or issues.  In the video you will see Katrien (black yellow suit) performing the T1 exercises.
T2: is the intermediate participant, a fit senior or a participant with fewer limitations.  In the video, Saskia (in the middle) is showing the intermediate exercises.
T3: is the advanced participant without any restrictions in movement. Fleur, in the black and blue wave suit, is the fit participant with no restrictions in the video.

The Kataqua Team developed the Aqua-T-System over the last few years.  Katrien was inspired by an experience she had trying to assimilate a new group into her program after their pool closed.  Not knowing any of the students or their abilities, the T-System evolved after successfully implementing the new group using lots of progressions and regressions. 

 About Kataqua
Katrien Lemahieu is the founder of Kataqua, a fitness organization that provides education to instructors across the Netherlands and internationally. Katrien has 3 videos posted on Look for more videos from the Kataqua team in the future.

About Marlies Schellen-de Jong
Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Marlies and welcomes her as part of the Fitness Friends Fitmotivation Video Team.  Marlies teaches in several different pools in the Netherlands, reaching a wide range of more than 250 participants every week.  She is a Kataqua Education Specialist and offers trainings in many types of aquatic formats.  Editing the video, I was so impressed with Marlies’s deck instruction.  Displaying perfect posture, she exudes a calm, encouraging and positive energy while teaching.    Look for Marlies as a first-time presenter at the International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) in Palm Harbor, Florida in May 2018.

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.