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Training the Abdominal Internal Obliques with Water Fitness

The Internal Oblique, a muscle pair and part of the abdominal group, allows for lateral flexion (side bending), minimal rotation and assists with exhalation for breathing. Training this muscle group should be part of every workout since it works closely with other muscle groups to promote core and postural support for the body.


The Internal Oblique lies below the External Oblique muscle pair and above the Transverse Abdominis. The muscle fibers run in a diagonal pattern upwards and downwards from the iliac crest on both sides of the body so that when one side is contracted (strengthened) the opposing side is expanded (stretched). The functional Range of Motion is 30 degrees from the anatomical (upright) position of zero.


The Internal Obliques literally move to crunch the waist area or create a waist. The perfect cue is to say crunch the ribs towards the hips. Be sure to keep the abdominals tight and focus on crunching sideways or laterally and do not bend the body forwards. This is a movement that is very difficult on land because people have to crunch up against gravity. Water exercise makes working obliques more comfortable because we stand vertically in the water instead of using the supine position to imitate land exercise.

The first exercise is a beginner level exercise called a Lateral Crunch with Noodle

The exercise starts by holding a noodle in a tall posture. Keep knees soft to take stress off the spine. Slide the noodle down the side of the body. The biomechanical joint action is called lateral flexion which brings the ribs towards the hips with a crunching action. The noodle provides increased drag resistance when the arm pulled down by the action of a sideways bend of the waist. For optimal strengthening benefits, stay on one side of the body and complete approximately 8-25 repetitions (depending on clientele). Ideally, perform at least 3-5 sets of a variety of oblique specific exercises so that this area is truly targeted. In between sets, try to add some light cardiovascular fun and filler movements to provide relief to the working muscles as well as to keep the body warm. Always be sure to repeat on the other side of the body. With this exercise, remember to not bend the elbow and push with the arm (which uses the triceps muscles). Instead, hold the arm straight and flex or crunch at the waist to engage the obliques. Start without a noodle and then progress through the different levels of noodles ( closed cell intermediate noodle, super noodle etc). Also try other equipment to (such as happy hand weights, flex paddles, air filled ball or dumbbell for extra resistance) feel the difference in drag resistance.

The second exercise is an intermediate level
a side to side jump-kick which may also provide more lower body intensity and loading.

This movement should remain on one side for optimal internal oblique strengthening in shallow water . Be sure to stay in a neutral working position or keep the body under the water (especially the shoulders). Laterally flex and touch the hand towards the ankle and crunch at the waist. Do not rebound nor jump out of the water. Perform at least 8-25 repetitions on each side and at least 3-5 sets in total of oblique work (to make these exercises effective.)


The third exercises is an advanced abdominal technique for suspended or deep water workouts and is called the Diamond Pendulum. This exercise has the hands sculling to support balance and posture as well as control the movement. External rotation of the hips (or putting the soles of the feet together in a diamond position) will disengage the strong hip flexors or the Iliopsoas muscles so that the obliques engage more effectively. The exercise should be started and learned going side to side ( like the photo below) to get the joint action. The movement needs to be controlled especially working down against the buoyancy of the water. In other words, be sure to control and go slow back to the 6 o'clock position rather than just using momentum to initiate the action. As the client becomes more skilled and wants to progress the exercise, keep the movement on one side then the other or the leg position should go from side to down( 3 o'clock to six o'clock OR 9 o'clock to six o'clock).


Check out our DVDs click here

DVD039  Awesome Abdominal DVD ( however, most WaterART Fitness Programs do review many ways to train posture, balance and abdominals)

Full Download PDF Article click here

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