Strength conditioning is defined as training where the power or force
of resistance generated by a muscle is progressively increased over
time. Strength conditioning results in an increase in muscle size but it
must be an ongoing process. In other words , to quote the proverbial
saying: -"If you don't use it - you lose it!"
The decline in
muscle strength associated with aging carries with it significant
consequences related to functional capacity. Sad to say, there are many
people who require assistance to perform simple daily tasks, not because
they are ill, but because they lack the strength to move around
effectively. Lower body strength is the key ingredient required for
functional movement to enjoy daily activities. The lower body can be
strengthened for support and balance while walking, to assist going up
or down stairs, to lift the body off a chair or simply to get off the
In order to maintain lower body strength and
function closed kinetic chain exercises are probably the most functional
exercises that should be added to any exercise program. These are used
to train for both muscular strength and endurance and are needed when
training for activities of daily living and function on land. They
involve weight bearing exercises where the base (the foot) is planted
squarely on the ground, such as when performing a squat.
land, squats may be difficult to perform for people who are less abled
or deconditioned, –especially those with knee issues. In the water, the
percentage of body weight and vertical load on the joints can be changed
depending upon the water depth. For example at waist depth the body is
carrying 50% less vertical load and at chest depth approximately 75%
less. Additionally, in water, hydrostatic pressure offers joint traction
and therefore more protection. For 100% less stress a noodle may be
utilized to fully unload body weight then progressively re-load as
strength is regained.
Sit to stand exercises commonly
referred to as squats involve the joint actions of both the hips and
knee and the action is flexion and extension (bending and straightening
the hips and knees). However to do this the person in the pool needs to
be in the correct depth to perform the exercise.
people go too deep and “miss” out on the lower body loading or benefits.
Waist depth in shallow water will load the quadriceps and Gluteals with
50% of body weight . This will benefit the person much more than chest
depth or 25% of the body weight . With that said, it is safer to start
slightly deeper and do less repetitions if a person has some pain in the
knees. Also, be sure that their technique is correct. Be sure that the
movement goes down and up slowly to allow the shoulders to become
submerged on the down position. Cue to sit back, maintaining weight on
the heels, and keep the hips/knees/toes aligned in a parallel or well
tracked position (facing same direction). Use the arms to pull the water
up (so that buoyant buttocks of the person squatting goes down into the
How To Do a Great Water Squat
Start with the feet shoulder width apart. As you become more skilled and stronger you may vary the squat foot position.
Keep the weigh on the heels. You don’t want the toes to go past the knees as you bend down
you sit down into the water, the hands must push up to assist the
sitting down. Because the buttocks may be buoyant (adipose fat) the arms
should be utilized to assist. A biceps curl is one of the easiest ways
to combine the arms and the legs. Start with the hands reaching behind
the body and then scoop down and through to assist the downward motion
of the lower body.
Try to think of a string pulling your
tailbone back as if you are sitting in an imaginary chair. Remember you
must stick the buttocks out to better engage the gluteus maximus
Be sure to bend at the hips NOT the waist. Folding of
the hips is key to the joint action. Keep the abdominals in tight to
help with maintaining proper posture.
On the downward movement,
try to dip the shoulders under the water. Resist buoyancy on the upward
movement so that there is control coming back to the start position.
movement ascent add a squeeze or added contraction of the Gluteals as
you stand tall. Be sure to come back to the tallest position possible
and, if you like, you can even add a balance or body check.
with one or two sets of 10-15 squats or repetitions and then add more
repetitions. Progress to using more sets using a variety of positions
and progressions. Squats are awkward at first – because most people have
been told not to stick out their bottom –but this is key to working an
effective squat. Focus on your form, and
then worry about adding reps.
you are unsure start with a demi or half squat where you only go half
way down. If you can do the above mentioned repetitions and sets – then
progress to a regular wide squat as described before.
Assume all the one sided lower body exercises such as a skateboard –
could be easily progressed to adding a squat with the supporting leg.
Unilateral movement is even more effective in terms of functional
because we walk with one leg then the other leg – we don’t hop like a
What is an Aquatic Functional Squat (PDF)
Check out our DVD Library
DVD009 - Senior Functional Fitness Program click here
DVD059 - Fun with Function click here
or NEW DVD078 ( 2 DVDs) Entry Level Program for Non-Swimmers click here
Shape Up and Water Train - DVD071 (2 Discs)
Programming for common knee problems - DVD062
Move You Way to Health -DVD079 (2 Discs)