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Effective Aquatic Fitness Stretching

Effective stretching is key for the efficacy of a balanced fitness program.
Range of motion and stretching exercises will
release muscular tension and stress with a variety of light-hearted and mindful movements or stretches.

Flexibility gains are safest and most effective when the muscle temperature is 104 Fdegrees.
Water temperature needs to be greater than 83 degrees F or 28 C so that muscles may relax and stretch yet maintain thermal regulation.
Combining active ROM with other activities throughout the program (and not just at the end) will help to improve overall flexibility gains. 


Stretching at the beginning of a program as part of the warm-up is to prepare the muscles to utilize oxygen for a beneficial workout. 
A more flexible muscle will warm up and become efficient faster. 
Therefore, it is important to encourage participants to move as soon as they enter the water to allow the large muscle groups to maintain and generate heat. 

Walking patterns are one of the best exercises to actively warm up and prepare the muscles for the exercise or workout to come.

Dynamic or active stretching is performed within the inner 90 percent of the joint range of motion.
Avoid the extreme end of joint range to prevent  buoyancy taking the joint beyond its normal range.


Every joint action is unique and every person has different abilities based on health history or their body structure.
A common mistake is to offer people the same stretches for the same body parts or assume everyone  has the same ability.

Like cardiovascular or muscular strengthen exercises, flexibility exercises need to be modified or progressed to help the participant move at a safe yet effective range of motion.


The instructor should know the joint action or the biomechanics of the joint action as well as the normal and functional range of motion. 
The knee joint flexes and extends but doesn�t rotate (or if you do there is torque on the knee).
The shoulder joint is very mobile yet internally rotating and abducting the shoulder, or pulling the water in a traditional breast stroke movement like swimming, will impinge the shoulder.


Simple modifications such as "serving a platter" or upright breaststroke where the shoulders are not internally rotated when pulling the water will create a much more safe and functional posture and movement.


Therefore, always, make sure the surrounding joints are in a comfortable position and approach the end of range of movement slowly during a static stretch.
A good idea is to ask the students where they "feel" the muscle is being lengthened or stretched.


Inserting active stretching between conditioning segments of the class is the best way to improve overall flexibility.
Often this helps to actively recover the muscles to dissipate the blood lactate or by product of the anaerobic work naturally yielded with water training.
Additionally, strengthening the weak muscle naturally stretches the tight muscle partner in the water with active patterns - if the exercise is performed with proper speed (not too fast), technique and range of motion.


Stretching during the warm-down (we don't say cool down)  helps maintain good range of motion as well as provide relaxation and prevent muscle soreness at the end of a class.

This is the best time to improve a person's flexibility or range of motion.  


Stretching at the end of a class will  promote gradual reduction in cardiovascular function while maintaining thermal regulation for comfort.

If water temperature is too cold, omit any static positions since counter-productive or do them on deck or in shower.


Emphasize stretching tighter musculature such as the erector spinae (low back),hamstrings, calves, adductors, ilipsoas, gluteaus maximus, pectorals, anteriordeltoid, biceps and sternocleidomastoid (neck).

Taking long strides (forwards,sideways and backwards) g and looking in or away from the direction of travel will facilitate this - however, there are many interesting  ways to facilitate stretching.


Always making sure the participants stay warm throughout the entire program time  is key to their success and satisfaction of a water program. In other words, they should not leave a program early because they are cold.

An instructor may  need to  insert light activity between stretches at the end program or suggest that a person moves more (or wearsmore thermal gear).

Staying warm to the end of the class will help to complete a balanced program.

If a person gets chilled they may feel more pain and discomfort and if they fail to stretch properly they may not completely balance their muscles for injury prevention and better posture. 


Music should be chosen to help relax the class and using more relaxing music for a specific stretching segment is key to add a sense of joy yet calm.

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