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ARTICLE - Cuffs are Tough

Buoyancy Cuffs are unique as aquatic equipment because they provide a three-in-one exercise gym for the water. They may be used as buoyancy cuffs around the ankles, or  arms or hand held cuffs, or  joined together cuffs form an easily adjusted buoyancy waist belt. There are two cuffs or sections sold in a pair.  A unique feature is the zippered, three pocket design on each cuff will provide a system to adjust intensity. Each pocket contains two pieces of buoyant foam. WaterART Fitness recommends starting with less foam and then adding more foam especially when utilizing the cuffs on the lower body. Half of the foam in the cuffs would be lighter intensity (easier) and therefore suitable for a  beginner or someone with excessive body fat so that the exercises are easier.  When more buoyancy can be handled the other section of foam may be easily added. A person  should  “masters the exercise” at a lesser intensity prior to progressing to advanced intensities and exercises.  Cuffs can be used to reproduce all the popular land based exercises including: cardiovascular. strength , flexibility, posture, balance, agility and functional exercises  for a complete sports conditioning program. Cuffs allow unique body positions not possible on land or with gravity. This is an added advantage for all athletes (intensity without impact or joint stress!).


 Get to Know Your Buoyancy Cuffs


Ankle Cuffs: The cuffs are fastened around the ankle and held in place with an adjustable strap that runs beneath the instep. Both the ankle and foot strap need to hold the cuff firmly in place and feel comfortable before entering the water. With cuffs on the ankles, shoes are recommended.  Cuffs on the anklesare generally recommended for the advanced exerciser as, although they are relatively simple and safe to use, they do require some instruction before allowing a participant to jump into the pool. Added more buoyancy may easily take any joint beyond normal range of motion –so proper technique and balance is key prior to progression.  A key consideration is to understand what a client can and cannot do. Even professional runner’s may have injuries that are aggravated by too much -too soon programs. Therefore, we recommend doing a few exercises and gradually progressing a program for both duration and intensity. Assume that there is certain amount of skill and confidence is required for cuff management. If there is a group program an instructor may have anyone who is not skilled nor comfortable with ankle cuffs using the cuffs as a buoyancy  belt. Note: anyone new to water training should never start a program with cuffs on the ankles. Learning the moves with a belt and maintaining posture and balance is 100% recommended. Cuff programs may be designed a complete workout. Allow for a longer warm up to prepare the athlete for advanced intensity and take time at the end of a program to relax, stretch and bring them gradually back to weight bearing ( walk in the shallow water).


Once in the water the feet will become extremely buoyant and advanced skills and strength of the core is required to keep the body in a vertical position. The fastest way to get the feet down in the water is to use a back bicycle movement to press down to vertical with a simultaneous scoop of the arms. All athletes need to learn this recovery exercise prior to moving into deep water. Practice walking in shallow water or utilizing a suspended ski with short levers.  Once the body is in a comfortable vertical position the Cuffs can become an underwater treadmill or Stairmaster.  Simple moves will provide intensity increase and a jog movement is much easier than a ski movement. Cycling is one of the best cardiovascular moves (either forwards or backwards). Try specific lower body strengthening exercises to challenge the lower body muscles. Walking sideways in shallow water or a suspended jax with a tuck is an excellent hip abductor strengthening exercise. 


Use hand held or cuffs on the wrist: The cuffs can be placed around the wrist and  the strap held lightly with the hand ( ideally place  between finger and thumb with the “instep” strap and this is an excellent option for those people with carpal tunnel issues or hand and grip issues. In this position, cuffs may used for all the same exercises as foam weights or dumbbells. Lat pull-downs are best exercises with cuffs because there is significant overload or work for the latissimus dorsi muscles of the back. Often, mitts or bare hands or soggy noodles do not provide enough resistance (work) or surface area and drag resistance to overload the muscles effectively.  


Use as a Cuff belt:  The two cuffs can be clipped together to use as a buoyancy belt for deep water or suspended non bottom contact exercise. The design of the cuff belt allows for adjustment both front and back with the buoyancy (more to the sides of the body) as opposed to all of the buoyancy at the back of the body like many typical belts.    Many people (who already have built in front and back buoyancy i.e. body fat) prefer this belt positioning.   When used as a belt  both arms and legs are free to be used as a unit for cardiovascular challenge or separated for specific muscle targeting. All the same deep water body positions and exercise inventory may be used as with a regular buoyancy belt.

Cuff Management

Cuff exercises provide the source of stability as well as resistance to a functional pattern of movement, typically by pushing or pulling against a movement that the user is making. Stability and resistance is attained with the user in a functional seated or standing position with the buoyancy of the cuffs. In a seated position, the athlete must perform a resisted movement such as hip abduction and adduction as the contra lateral limb is challenged to stabilize the force of the body’s urge to rotate from this lower-extremity movement. Thus, bilateral hip stabilizers are being called upon to either move the limb or stabilize the opposite limb. This process enhances muscle activity to recruit the inactive muscle into the functional movement pattern.


Lumbar stabilization can be challenged in an aquatic environment for advanced core strengthening. The premise of using to cuffs is to maintain a “neutral” spine. This means that the normal spine curvature is maintained during exercise, while the user’s arms and legs provide the lever arm to increase core stabilization control.

Cuffs require little adjustment, from person to person. Resistance levels are determined by the speed of motion a user engages as well as the lever length along with the surface area used. Slight increases in speed of motion dramatically increase the resistance level due to the water’s physical property of viscosity. Vertical hand positioning also changes resistance due to lever arm principles.


Tips for Buoyancy Cuff Workout

  • All buoyancy equipment must be on very tight prior to entering the water.

  • Always, get out of the water to put on the buoyancy cuffs on the feet.

  • Do not get the Velcro wet ( otherwise the strap doesn’t secure properly).

  • Wear shoes to keep cuffs on the feet and put the strap under the foot securely.

  • Squeeze the foam tightly to fasten the buckle (especially when new) so that the cuffs or buoyancy are very snug.

  • When cuffs are used on the ankles a person  may need to add a belt especially (if they are a sinker or very muscular) .

  • Conversely, if a person has a lot of body fat or consider themselves a floater –don’t add extra buoyancy. Too much buoyancy is not easy to balance or beneficial.

  • Learn safety and recovery skills in shallow and then progress to deep Water

  • Add movements gradually – the most intense workout is performing same movement then adding travel, range of motion and  variations.

  • Always check and maintain body alignment for optimal posture and abdominal and core training.

  • Perform interval style workouts or sets of CV mixing movement such as ski & jax then  forward bicycle and backward bicycle and then recover into easy movement or change the training objective.

  • For optimal strength perform  at least 2-3 sets of 8-35 repetitions for each major muscular group. Ideally, work about 4-5 muscles groups each training workout.  

  • Balance strength training with flexibility exercises.

  • Utilize and change posture positions (kneeling, seated, vertical) for stability or core training.

  • Drink water throughout the program.

 For more information on Cuffs

For More details email us

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