Tuesday, July 02 2019

(The above video is a preview of Pool Punches, posted March 16, 2015)

JAB, CROSS, HOOK, UPPERCUT…my students yell as they punch into the water.  “If you say it out loud, you will remember it,” I remind them.  These punch drills are performed in my morning YMCA aqua classes whenever we do a kickboxing inspired routine.  And if you are wondering - yes, my students are just as old as yours.  I can’t call them “seniors” or “older adults” because they bristle at both labels.  So let’s just say that my “mature” students love to punch up the pool something fierce.

Aquatic kickboxing was the manner in which I made my aqua debut 15 years ago.  And 15 years later I am still teaching aquatic kickboxing in my classes.  Why?  Whenever I teach a routine with kickboxing choreography, I always get lots of comments from the students about how much they enjoyed the class.  Seriously.  It never fails.  For this reason, I have spent 15 years introducing and re-introducing kickboxing routines in my classes.  Aside from the fact that it is different and they enjoy doing different things; I suspect they like it because punching against the resistance of the water makes for a great arm workout. 

Below are 3 tips for teaching basic punch movements in an aqua class so that the water’s resistance is optimized

Keep arms under the water

Keep punches submerged so that they encounter the water’s resistance.

When I first started teaching an aquatic kickboxing class 15 years ago, I was a land instructor they plucked out of the studio and tossed on the deck.  Not knowing any better, I taught with arms above the water.  I went to my first aqua workshop and found out that arms should be UNDER the water.  Oops!  Afterwards, I made an announcement in my class, “Okay…now that we have practiced out of the water, let’s try it under the water.” 

Open hands for more surface area

It would look way more authentic to throw punches with your fist closed, but it would make for a pretty wimpy punching workout in the pool.  In the water, we open our hands during the punching movements to create more surface area, thus more drag resistance.  

Add drag equipment for more resistance

The punching movements in a kickboxing class provide an excellent opportunity to add equipment.  The appropriate equipment would be drag equipment – not foam dumbbells - because drag equipment moves naturally with your arms in the water.  Yes, some of my students have tried to grab big foam dumbbells.  My usual response is:  “What are you doing?  Put those away.  Have you lost your mind?”  

Consider using webbed swim gloves, or some of the popular combat gloves currently available (Aqquatix, Aqua Sphere).  The Aqualogix belles would also add some serious resistance to the punches. 

Below are 2 teaching tips I have learned over the years.

Avoid mirror image instruction

If you try to instruct the punches while FACING your students, it probably won’t go well.  Please take my word on this.  It is a nightmare to teach the punches mirror image, particularly if you are introducing them for the first time.   It is best if you turn sideways and model your lead leg and rear leg and cue right or left lead.  If you have a lifeguard present while you are teaching, you can also turn your back to them for a couple of minutes and get the punches started so that they are using the same right and left arm as you.  You have my solemn promise that this is a much quicker and effective way to get them on board with the punches.

Start simple

Avoid the temptation to overcomplicate things.  And I should know because I am the King of Overcomplicating.  The video I recently posted, Pool Punches, was supposed to be called, Pool Punches & Kicks.  Naturally, I created a routine that featured a wild rollercoaster of punch & kick combinations.  The “wild rollercoaster” was fun to do by MYSELF in the pool – not so much fun to try and teach to 30 people.  The morning I tried to teach this routine in my class I wanted a hole to open up in the deck and swallow me.  You know a routine went badly when everyone files out of the pool without making eye contact with you. 

And so yes, the routine and video was simplified into just - Pool Punches.   But even with that said, if you have never taught punch combinations in your class – you will want to keep it simple.  An easy and effective way to introduce punches is with the pyramid method that I demonstrated on the deck in the Pool Punches video.  Jab – Cross – Hook – Uppercut.  16, 8, 4, 2, 1 and done.  Simple!

Regardless of how you choose to integrate the punches in your classes, I would highly recommend spicing up your aqua routines with some kickboxing flavor.  Our “mature” students really do love it.  I promise…

The video, Pool Punches, is currently playing on the Fitmotivation website.  Log on and get busy!

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.