Fit Tip: Understanding Buoyancy Equipment

Adding equipment to your workout can be a great benefit to your participants.  Equipment provides an opportunity to add variety to your program to challenge the workout, or to allow participants to enjoy the workout with a child’s enthusiasm, and it can be used as a means to attract new participants to your class. However having equipment at poolside does not mean that it is suitable for all participants and all classes.

Most aquatic classes contain a variety of participants of varying age groups, skill levels and personal goals.  Instructors must choose appropriate movements to target the intended purpose and goals of the clientele.  Making sure that you have a good balanced program is as important in water as it is on land.  It is also essential that you do not just “drop” land movements into the pool.  All movements should be evaluated for safety, effectiveness and exercise objective. All components of your program/class  should promote a healthy, injury free body that works all the components of fitness.

Physical fitness incorporates a combination of flexibility, cardio respiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, agility, balance and coordination.  Well-conditioned muscles allow movement that will improve aerobic capacity.  Improved aerobic conditioning allows people more efficient mobility for daily activities.

In water, it is normal for the upper body muscles to fatigue quicker than those in the legs, especially in the untrained person.  A participant with a strong cardiovascular system on land may not have sufficient muscular strength for sustained muscular activity in the water making it difficult to get good cardiovascular training. The multidirectional resistance of water makes it simple to train for strength throughout a workout. As the muscles become stronger overload, using equipment, can be added to the program to develop every component of fitness.

Therefore it is important to train participants the correct movement both for basic cardio movement and muscle targeting and stretching prior to adding equipment to a program, and most importantly pace themselves through this learning process and throughout a total workout

Coaching Tips for using Equipment :

Know if your participants have any injury or “problem” areas. 

    • Do not overload and/or use advanced equipment until participants can perform exercise without equipment pain-free
    • If clients have injuries or localized discomfort stop using equipment and review basic posture, technique and body mechanics
    • Doing the exercise correct will make a big difference!Quality versus Quantity of exericise
    • Cue or teach both visually and verbally how to safely utilize the equipment. Most people are off balance in water so they need to start with easiest exercise then gradually progress to advanced exercises.
    • When teaching the exercise explain “why” the exercise is of importance and “how” the exercise will benefit their daily lives
    • Try to utilize full ROM (Range of Motion) however, buoyancy of the water, the equipment and a person’s body may take the joint beyond pain-free range so be sure that the client has strength to stop the ascent and handle the specific  joint action.
    • Simulate approximate movement speed for water.
    • Know what component of fitness you are training with the equipment (CV, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, strength, function, weight bearing).  State the exercise objective as you start a new exercise so that the client may focus on the exercise goal.
    • Allow participants an opportunity to adjust speed without sacrificing range of motione especially if they are moving their lower body with a light cardio movement and upper body with a controlled strength movement. Skill, strength and lever length will vary with different clients.
    • For muscular strengthening sets or exercise – perform the power phase faster and the recovery phase slower for the return to the start position (do not push and pull the water in both directions as this is harmful to the joints and ligaments).
    • Use a variety of exercises for each muscle group as well as a variety of different angles of pull, body positions, joint actions, equipment, water depths
    • Provide a longer “ Warm Up ” for preparation. Do not utilize advanced equipment for strengthening exericse in the warm up. Fully prepare the joints & muscles for the exercises to come in the workout.
    • Be sure to take the appropriate time to  “warm down”  relax and re-stretch the tight musculature at the end of a program.  Active stretching and recovery may need to be added through out the program to recover; therefore, equipment use may not be used for only strength the entire program. Take time to add some filler and fun in between muscle sets.
    • Encourage each participant to move and train at their own pace, especially if they have not been working out in a while or are new to exercise.

Check out Some  Buoyancy Equipment:

  1. Happy Hand Weights (two sizes and three hand positions) easier to use than dumbbells
  2. Intermediate Noodles (closed cell) Excellent for those super buoyant or with hand, shoulder, neck issues
  3. Super Striped Noodles (closed cell) Excellent for the average fitness level. Great for strength and assisting suspended moves
  4. Super Dooper Noodles (very advanced) Great for athletes and those who sink more readily. Advanced strength required.
  5. Dumbbells/Foam Weights (two sizes 5 inch and 6 inch). Those who are more buoyant should use 5 inch so that they may submerge the equipment and protect the shoulder and neck joints.
  6. Buoyancy Belts should fit on the waist snugly and not ride up. There are several styles of belts for either floaters or sinkers. Be sure strap is on the outside of the belt to secure the foam close to the body and belt buckle doesn’t slide (flip inside out to secure). Most people comfortable or normal body compositions  will not require both belt and noodle when exercising or they may be too buoyant (or efficient).

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