Aquatic Mitts – Why Use Them?

Aquatic Mitts – Why Use Them?

Many people coming to the pool for the first time are amazed to see the participants wearing aquatic mitts in the water. “Why do you need them?” is the first question we get, and the answer is simple. Aquatic Mitts can assist every participant get the best out of their water workout.

Using the arms properly to support balance and posture can provide effective training for all exercise goals whether cardiovascular, strengthening, stretching, agility, coordination and so on. Learning to utilize the hands properly will allow each client to become successful and go home fitter.

In any fitness environment, safety for the participants should be the number one priority especially in the water. The Aquatic mitt is primarily a safety feature, worn to assist the wearer with balance and stability. On land, the air mass around participants is unlikely to knock anyone over, whereas in the pool, water mass surrounds the participant and exerts buoyancy and water currents created with every movement . This combination will lift and move the body and can unexpectedly sweep the participant off their feet if they are not sufficiently skilled to maintain balance. The extra surface area of a mitt helps to maximize vertical balance in water for good postural training. Correct sculling techniques with the mitt stabilize body alignment, whether at rest or in motion. The mitt can assists travel to provide efficient movement. In other words: the mitt helps to maintain posture, balance and stability (which is fundamental to any aquatic fitness class).

Sculling should be the first skill trained in the pool to show how the extra surface area provides water support. Using the regular flat figure eight scull to push the palm of the hand against buoyancy the participant will feel the buoyancy push back. Mitts help a client to secure lower body stability. To train balance, stand on one foot and scull the arms. Feel the weight aligning over the supporting hip. To progress balance training, lift both feet off the bottom. Participants will need to have good sculling skills and comfort in water to suspend or have both feet off the pool bottom. This is key for non impact training with or without a belt or noodle. Working non bottom contact allows the client to achieve more core strength as well as less vertical stress on the joint.

Another arm pattern that needs to be trained is a propeller type of scull. This movement is important to assist travel through the water. This hand technique uses the hands in a “thumbs up” or supinated wrist position as the back of the hand of the lead hand and the palm of the trail hand to push against the water. Pushing left provides travel and assistance to the right. To intensify the workload (or conversely in a reversed push-pull pattern) , push left and travel left to resist or add work into the travel movement.

Mitts can be used in a warm up to assist with basic movement and prepare the muscles and joints for the upcoming workout. For example when walking forward using the “serve the platter” movement to open up the chest and set-up the shoulder area for good posture. Use backward shoulder rolls to assist scooping for backward travel. When walking to the side, pull the arms down to the sides to feel buoyancy or introduce the propeller scull to warm up the wrist and forearms.

Additionally, the mitt can be used to resistance-train specific muscle groups in the upper body by alternately “webbing” towards the target muscles and “slicing” to rest on the return phase of the movement.

Example of showing Slicing Arms

All clients should master the movement with a slicing hand positions This is a triceps extension exercise. Start with the arms in front of the body with the elbows tight to body. Extend the elbow and push forcefully down – being sure to no lock the elbow.

Example for Clenched Arm position

This is a posterior deltoid exercise. Start with the arms reaching out in front with a clenched arm positions. Power and pull the arms down keeping the arms close to the sides of the body. Relax and streamline the hands on the ascent or back to the start position.

Example of Webbed Hands

Start with the hands in front of the body crossed for full range of motion. Notice that the Thumbs Up breast stroke position. Powerfully press the water with the back of the hands until there is a crease in the middle back or pull back and squeeze the shoulder blades together to target the rhomboids and middle trapeziums muscles.

Always warm up the body with a simple slicing action. Progressing to a fist hand position to provide more intensity. Provide more athletic types the webbed hand position ( with the fingers spread in the mitts) to create the widest surface area possible.. Offering three intensity progressions for upper body muscle targeting really helps to program a class with many levels of fitness. Instructors may have the new people slice the hands back and forth ( to work at a beginner intensity). Those participants able to do more challenge will work harder while the less skilled and fit people will streamline. Everyone may choose to work at an intensity they feel comfortable and skilled with.

For targeting the latissimus dorsi and lower trapeziums muscles start with the arms at shoulder height to the side (as learned in the side walk warm up). Power down and pull the palms of the hands to the sides or pat on the buttocks and slice back to the start position. Try to pull the arms down as the legs go out to a squat so that the shoulders are submerged and protected as well as there is more water to pull down for added resistance. The lats are a large upper body muscle group -so using only the hands will not yield enough resistance for most people to benefit with the strengthening of those muscles. Mitt positions may be sliced down and up (beginner level), Fist down and slice up (intermediate level) and web down and slice up (advanced level ).

In lower body muscular target training, the mitts help provide balance, stability, and good posture for more effective movement. For example when training the skateboard movements to target the hamstrings and gluteus maximus muscles, a flat scull will assist the abdominal core muscles to kick in to help maintain a vertical body position.

In deep water, using a bicycle movement and maintaining a recumbent body position, adding a sculling hand position with a mitt to the upper body helps to balance the surface area of the upper body to the lower body. In doing so, the body position may be more easily maintained so that the core is trained most effectively in a functional posture. Often, people in deep water pike at the waist and do not maintain the shoulders over the hips. This chair position alignment helps the participant to work on body positions that are necessary to train. In other words their core become stronger so that they can sit in a car or at a desk without as much pain because the core muscles are stronger from the water exercise).

Mitts may also be utilized in deep water to either assist or resist travel. This is especially useful to travel the body through the water or to counter balance the arms to the legs with more powerful muscular strengthening. The arms can pull forcefully back with a webbed hand position breast stroke movement while the legs pull down and back with a bicycle movement. The assisting of the arms to the legs makes for easier coordination and balance and will travel the movement forward. To make these exercises more intense and negate travel, the arm may be utilized in opposition. The arms may push forward with a chest press movement while the legs pull back in a recumbent cycling motion.

As with exercises in the water one size of mitts does not fit all that is why each person should own their own mitts as well as try them first to chose their best fit for comfort.

There are several styles of aquatic mitts to choose from:

For the average person the WaterART slip on neoprene mitts provides good support and fit snuggly at the wrist. These can be worn or either hand. These tend to last the longest because there is no zipper to or black grip pads to deteriorate. Sizes are small, medium and large.

The zippered neoprene mitts will be easier to put on especially for anyone with arthritic fingers, or movement disorders where the hands move constantly or conversely cannot move easily. Sizes are small, medium, large and X-large.

Speedo provides a mitt that opens at the wrist and is held in place with Velcro. These mitts have neoprene on the back and a rubberize material on the front. People with wrist issues find extra support with the higher wrist band or Velcro strap. Sizes are small, medium, large and X-large. WaterART has two sizes medium (green) and large (purple).

WaterART does custom order mitts. We have even put names on them and done many patterns and sizing. We can match any outfit. Allow 4-6 weeks delivery on all custom mitt orders.

There are also Polyester mitts available. These have limited or no resistance value however they are effective to support and maintain balance. These are suitable for anyone with shoulder or arm problems or for conditions such as osteoporosis where the upper bone structure may be extremely weak. Sizes are small, medium, large and X-large.

All mitts should be properly rinsed out after use. The neoprene mitts can last an average 1-2 years – depending on how often in the pool. Costs retail between $14.00 for slip on or zipped mitts and $30.00 to $40.00 for Speedo and custom print mitts ( less with your WP member discount).

Tips with the Aquatic Mitt

  1. Never force anyone to use an aquatic mitts
  2. Train sculling and show clients the three levels of intensity ( i.e. slice – fist -web)
  3. Keep the wrist neutral position. Never push the water with a hyper-extended wrist (with or without a mitt). We always suggest punch or scull with the mitt
  4. When sculling teach people to hold the arms at hip height and dust a table top, spread some icing on a cake or draw a number 8 in the sand. Push down gently with the hands so that the body pulls up.
  5. Mitts may be taken off if using noodles for upper body resistance especially closed cell or super noodles as mitts make it difficult to maintain a safe hold.

Added Bonus of Mitts Tips for the Instructor

  • As an instructor you may clap with the mitts. Often yelling is hard on your vocal cords and clients don’t hear properly with the poor acoustics of a pool. Clapping with a mitt amplifies the sound and will gain you instant attention. This makes for a stronger communication tool for your classes.
  • For the Instructor without the benefit of a pool mat to work on – Kneeling on the mitts when showing a kneeling body position on deck; it will save your knees and sitting on them on the side of the pool can save your bathing suit.