Upper Body Training with Pool Noodle

Wednesday, September 09 2020

It’s not just for floating.  Fitmotivation is featuring the iconic pool noodle in September 2020 with three water workouts targeting upper, lower & total body.  The Pool Noodle Upper Body Workout recreates a gym experience with several circuits that target upper body, cardio and core.  Filmed and designed for shallow water, this workout can also be performed in deep water with modifications. 

Pool noodles are used by kids and for recreation, but they are also popular for water exercise activities because of their availability, affordability and versatility.  Pool noodles can be used for resistance training, flotation, core work, balance, deep-water fitness and more.  The Pool Noodle Upper Body Workout features hand-held noodle resistance exercises that are performed with both cardio and planking for an ideal blend of aerobics, muscular endurance and core training. 

Noodle Size
Choosing the correct noodle is hugely important for fitness results and safety considerations.  Noodles can vary greatly in size, density and sturdiness.  Older, waterlogged noodles will lack the sturdiness required for resistance activities.  Likewise, most store-bought noodles have a hole in the middle, which makes them less sturdy.  Solid core noodles do not have a hole in the middle and are better for resistance activities. Solid core noodles are hard to find in stores, but can be purchased in the PoolFit Marketplacelower density and higher density.  Thicker, denser noodles have become more popular in recent years.  Some of these denser noodles are extremely rigid when new and would be challenging to use with the “chest flye” exercise that requires “arching” the noodle.  

Buoyant Resistance
Keep in mind, pushing a denser noodle downwards, against the upwards forces of buoyancy requires much greater strength.  Buoyancy is the opposite of gravity.  Exercises performed on land are gravity resisted as they are performed UPWARDS with weighted equipment.  Exercises performed in water are buoyancy resisted as they are performed DOWNWARDS with buoyant equipment such as noodles and foam dumbbells.  Pushing a larger noodle downwards would be equivalent to lifting a larger weight upwards.  In other words, you need to be stronger to move greater resistance.  Hand size is also an important consideration.  Someone with small hands may have trouble grasping onto a larger pool noodle.  Fitmotivation recommends starting with a less dense noodle and working up to a denser one.  WATCH Mark explain pool noodle size and buoyant resistance. 


Upper Body Resistance
The goal in this workout is to train the major muscle groups of the upper body with pool noodles.   The bench press is a popular exercise in the gym and targets chest, anterior deltoids and triceps. The same muscle groups can be targeted with a noodle bench press in the water.  The difference is that a bench press in water is performed by pushing the noodle in a downward trajectory to resist the upward forces of buoyancy.  When exercising vertically in a studio, upper body resistance training with weighted equipment would favor biceps and shoulders due to arms moving upward to interact with gravity. When exercising vertically in water, upper body resistance training with buoyant equipment will typically favor triceps and latissimus due to arms moving downward to interact with buoyancy. For this reason, water workouts should be varied and include a mixture of formats that utilize different types of equipment or no equipment at all.   

Planking:  Upper Body & Core
Planking is utilized in this workout to better position the body in a downward trajectory to more effectively interact the noodle with the upward forces of buoyancy.  It would be the same thing as positioning yourself in a studio on your back so that you can push upwards in the downward force of gravity.  The planking exercises in this workout also provide additional benefits by improving core strength.  WATCH Mark provide a short tutorial on planking.

Cardio Hand Breaks
If you have ever taken a muscle conditioning group fitness class in the studio, you probably noticed that you don’t hold on to weights the entire time.   Activities are frequently changed so that the weights can be set down, giving the hands a break from gripping.  The same premise would apply to water exercise.  Foam dumbbells or noodles should not be held the entire time.  In this workout, hand breaks are factored in by performing cardio activities with the hands resting on the noodle, rather than gripping.  These hand breaks are essential.   Please make sure to avoid grasping onto the pool noodle during these planned breaks. 

Modifying for Deep Water
The Pool Noodle Upper Body Workout was designed for shallow water, however I tried doing the workout in deep water (with a flotation belt) and was able to do the majority of the workout without modifying.  Minor adjustments may need to be made to eliminate awkwardness of movements if alignment or stability is more challenging in deep water. The planking exercises can be performed simply by angling the body in a diagonal position. 

I hope you enjoy using the pool noodle for upper body training.  Stay tuned.  Next week, the Pool Noodle Lower Body Workout will post. 

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.