Skills, Drills, Obstacles & Partner Work

Sunday, January 05 2020

In search of group comradery, fun, laughs and fitness results, Fitmotivation subscribers often request video content that includes games, themes or partner work.  Jackie Lebeau brings the goods in her latest video, Aqua Obstacle.  This sports-inspired programming includes three mini-workouts featuring skills, drills and obstacles that utilize a variety of equipment.  Haven't tried Fitmotivation yet!  Sign-up for a FREE MONTH.

Like the other instructors, Jackie has experimented with circuit training in her classes, both self-guided and instructor-guided (group circuits, with each presenting pros and cons. 

Instructor-Guided (Group circuits)
Jackie says she teaches group (instructor-guided) circuits whenever there is enough equipment for everyone. “I’ll have the entire class perform a circuit with the kickboard for example, then another circuit with the noodle, or other equipment, and I am in front of all class participants the entire time.”   Group circuits are easy to reach,  but the drawback is when equipment is limited and there is not enough for everyone. 
Self-Guided Circuits
Self-guided stations typically feature different equipment and exercises at each station.  “When I teach stations, I instruct, motivate, and keep time from deck, and in between laps, the group comes together in the center of the pool for a group circuit or choreography round before breaking into groups to complete another lap,” explains Jackie. Most instructors will agree that the problem with self-guided stations is that they can easily devolve into chaos.
Obstacle – A New Approach to Circuit Training
Aqua Obstacle expands upon the self-guided stations with a cardio format that keeps movement continuously flowing in a linear manner that is designed to accommodate pool space and available equipment.  Movement patterns are carefully planned so that equipment is dropped off while the movement and action continue.  This prevents excessive talking and downtime.  The movement patterns also force the students to encounter and dodge each other while traveling in the designed pattern, hence the term “obstacle.”  Watch Jackie explain the difference between Circuit and Obstacle. 

Adapt Movement Patterns to Available Pool Space
Jackie had to make MAJOR adjustments to the movement patterns and travel directions to accommodate a small, weirdly shaped, back yard pool that had a deep well in the middle.   All instructors will have to make the same adjustments to adapt the patterns to their own pool shape and available space.  In addition to the crazy movement patterns Jackie had to concoct for the video shoot, below are some other movement patterns to consider. 
 - Circular or horseshoe                        
 - Serpentine or zig-zag
 - Diamond or square
 - Figure 8

Utilize a Variety of Equipment – Get Creative!
The Aqua Obstacle video includes noodles, kickboards, Frisbees and Aqualogix drag equipment.  Instructors should NOT feel discouraged if they do not have that particular equipment.  If you do not have Frisbees, consider using kickboards, Happy Flowers, foam discs, pull buoys or other types of equipment.  If you do not have kickboards, use hand buoys instead.  If you do not have Aqualogix equipment, just perform the boxing moves without equipment or substitute hand buoy exercises in place of boxing exercises.   Think outside the box and have fun creating your own Obstacle workouts. 

The video includes three mini-workouts.  Below, Jackie describes each.  Reminder:  movements patterns WILL need to be adjusted to fit your pool space. 

At station 1 in our Field Day workout, grab a partner, link arms and run to the other side, making two or three loop-de-loops on the way down. At station 2: grab a Frisbee and run wide armed with the Frisbee in the right hand.  Once you reach the other side, put the Frisbee in the left hand and run back wide armed for major drag resistance.  Run back to station 1 – there could be participants at other stations in the way, so you may need to swing wide or dodge these obstacles to get back as quickly as possible.

Workout number 2 mimics triathlon training – swimming, running & biking. 

1) grab a noodle and bike with it (sitting on the noodle like a bicycle) in a horseshoe pattern where you'll drop it off.

2) then, grab a kickboard and either kick/swim with it horizontally or run with it and push it out in front to create drag - horseshoe pattern.

3) grab a partner and a noodle (one noodle per pair) and do a chariot run. 

From here, the whole patterns reverse.  There will be lots of "obstacle" dodging as participants move about.

3) SWITCH so that the original runner is now the drag and the drag participant is the runner - put noodle back on wall and move to the kickboard

2) kickboard run vertically or kick horizontally

1) bike with noodle 

REPEAT starting with the bike, swim, run, run, swim, bike....

Our final workout is called Boxing Circuit.

One sets of participants perform the first triangular boxing circuit while the others perform wall exercises.

1) Grab a set of uppers and complete 10-12 jumping jacks, 10-12 boxing upper cuts, and 10-12 jab/cross combinations

2) Grab a buddy to drag run the length of the pool (both reach arms out wide for largest surface area possible)

3) Perform wall exercises while the other partners drag run to the triangular boxing circuit.   

Grab a partner, drag run back and let’s repeat! This time, we’ll have a new boxing pattern!


Host the Party.  Avoid standing on deck idly as participants move through the course. The instructor should be the master of ceremonies and the clear leader of the session. Be useful and organize the equipment as it is tossed on deck. Offer reminders and instruction if you notice confusion. Get close to your participants and provide personalized feedback and high-fives as they pass by.

Create a Team Atmosphere. Adopt a coach’s attitude rather than a drill sergeant.  “Go team!” may work better than “Is that all you have got?” Coaching encourages them to work together towards a goal that they all benefit from. 

Games, Themes, Incentives. Love them or hate them, themes like “winter sports,” “partner drills” or “triathlon training” can be effective modes of designing boot camp or circuit workouts.  Plan your music, movements, and even your outfit to match your theme.  Holidays and special occasions are a great time to incorporate games that go along with your theme.  For example, the week of Memorial Day, play songs that mention summer, the beach, and the laidback feeling of the season. Use beach balls or sports specific equipment designed for the pool like basketball hoops and volleyball nets.  Incorporate a ball game or inner tube relay races. Have fun with it!

Leave them wanting more. Important! Don’t feel pressured to pull out every new idea at once. Even the smallest of changes will make a class feel brand new.

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Jackie for returning to Florida for a third time to film.  Check out Jackie's other videos. If you want to host Jackie's CEC Workshops you can contact her through her website - JLA Fiitness.  Stay tuned for more videos with Jackie posting in the next two months. 

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.