I often find that clubs and gyms that offer water aerobics classes buy pool equipment without having any idea if it is the correct equipment for their clientele. This is especially true of retirement facilities (where it’s especially important to have the correct equipment). There is definitely a variety of aqua equipment out there, so appropriate selection is key.

For example, all noodles are not created equal. You’ve got your thin, inexpensive Target noodle, your larger “Monster Noodle”, and your more buoyant (often too buoyant for someone with shoulder issues) white Hydro-Fit noodle. When suspended (feet off the ground) with a noodle behind your back, under the shoulders, the shoulders should be level and away from the ears and the student’s body should not be sinking too much. I find that students with decent shoulder and core strength should use a Monster Noodle. Someone with shoulder issues should use a smaller, thin noodle. As an instructor, it is imperative to monitor your students’ alignment and stability. It will also depend on their body composition and buoyancy factor.

I personally do not recommend straddling a pool noodle unless your students are more advanced and are working to improve core stability and balance. If you can be in the water with a small group, it is much easier to monitor for safety in case they fall off their noodle. Yes, this happens! Be mindful of your non-swimmers.

 Take the time to find out which noodles and buoyancy equipment are denser or have more foam, which typically means they are more challenging on the shoulders. When talking about suspended core work (like you can see in my video here) the stiffer, or the denser and thicker the noodle, the more challenging it will be on the shoulders. The type of noodle when performing our core work (when noodle is behind your back while suspending) really has little to do with how challenging the actual exercise will be, but more about how the alignment, posture and the movement of your participant will be.

 That being said, when performing standing core work or work with the noodle when you are asking your students to push the equipment down or back and forth, that is when the type of noodle will make a tremendous difference as far as the challenge of the move.  

You will see that video next time!

 Once you know which noodle works best for which exercise, you can offer options/modifications to those with shoulder issues, arthritis, or any health consideration. 

Questions to ask yourself are:
-Is the student shrugging their shoulders or are the shoulders too close to their ears?
-Is the student tensing or is there unevenness of the shoulders? -Is the student gripping equipment too hard?
-Can the student perform the full range of motion that you are asking them to do?

Always start slow, error on the side of caution, re-evaluate the situation as needed. Feel free to reach out to me with specific questions at janice@fitnessfest.org

Janice has been teaching water aerobics since 1985 when she was asked to teach at the Mesa YMCA. She has worked with all populations (athletes, older adults, special populations) at health clubs and resorts since that time. Janice has also managed and trained hundreds of aqua instructors over the past 20 years. She is the creator and presenter of Aqua Progressions, a training designed for new and veteran water aerobics instructors to learn choreography tools, review safety and contraindications for all populations, and understand the principles and properties of water for a safe, effective workout.