You don't have to be a swimmer to get into the water for exercise,
you can be any age, a former athlete or someone who just want to get off
the couch. All you need is the desire to do some exercise in pleasant
surroundings and come home with that "I want to go back" feeling.
in the water is unique as compared to regular land exercise because of
water depth, the movement of the water and the consistency of a buoyancy
and resistance that affects every exercise. For most people shallow
water training is the place to start.
For a successful
work out everyone needs to find a place in the pool where they can stand
tall and feel comfortable. The ideal depth for shallow water training
is to work at waist to chest depth with the feet firmly on the pool
floor. Some people (especially nervous non-swimmers) may need to start a
bit shallower but remember it is important to keep the hip bones
(iliac crest) covered with water for best back protection. Once everyone
gets more acclimatized and confident finding the best depth will
become second nature.
One big difference between land
and water training is the body's position for balance. On land, the
centre of balance is at the pelvis whereas in water the feet provide
the stable balance for support. As soon as several people start moving
through the water some other properties of water will "kick in" to
challenge balance and core strength. Turbulence and/or inertia currents
can lift the feet off the pool floor therefore balance skills need to be
trained right at the start of the program.
sculling (using a figure 8 movement with the hands) to support the
upper body in good posture, then check for the best balanced position at
foot level. Try a one foot lift while sculling, now take one hand out -
then both. If balance becomes a problem go back to "square one" and
start over. Don't forget to challenge balance on each leg. Most people
have a predominantly stronger leg. Another way to train balance is to
offer oppositional movement such as oppositional arm to leg movement -
swinging the right arm forward as the left leg steps ahead and vice
versa - as when walking (correctly) on land. This can be trained with an
easy cross-country movement in a stationary position.
water offers natural healing powers because it is simple to eliminate
joint stress by surrounding or submerging them for protection during a
workout. This is the reason you need to train the shallow water working
positions which offer both protection and challenge to every workout.
The "Neutral" working position
places the water at neck depth to keep the shoulders submerged. But do
not cheat and go to deeper water! Learn to bend the knees in a
forward/back lunge or side to side squat position or use the cross
country sliding motion. This will engage and challenge abdominal
strength to stay submerged as the core will be fighting both buoyancy
from the water and any "built in" body composition. The arms can be
used for upper body strength training or to balance leg movement.
For anyone who has to fight buoyancy, or has lower joint problems the best working position to use is the "modified rebound"
whereby the squat downward to submerge the shoulders is alternated with
standing to return to waist/chest depth, and more gravity, to relieve
any discomfort. This position can be used stationary or travelled in
any direction using a variety of arm movements to focus on upper body
strengthening and improved postural alignment.
The regular "rebound" working position
can be added to most basic moves to overload the legs to add challenge
for the more athletic participant . Here the emphasis is to power the
body up out of the water then landing in a soft bent-knee position to
power up again. The action is to propel the body upwards with
sufficient force to lift the waist line out of the water - no bobbing
allowed!. This can provide up to 25 - 50% vertical stress or impact on
the joints when landing back on the pool floor, therefore aggressive
rebounding is NOT for everyone. A downside to using rebounding is there
is less work, resistance or protection provided for the upper body as
it is in air 50% of the time. To test if you are using the rebound
move for best effect - you should feel tired after 30 secs of
The shallow water "suspended" working position
is designed to keep the feet off the pool floor for the entire time of
the exercise. This requires superior abdominal strength to both hold
correct body position and the head above water. Arms and hands can be
used for assistive sculling or work in opposition to balance the
movement. For those people who lose good alignment or cannot keep the
feet off the floor for the entire exercise they can return to the
neutral working position to slide the feet, maintain ROM and good form.
to add suspended exercise to shallow water training is to use a noodle
or belt to modify and assist suspension. Either method allows the body
to be trained without impact in unique positions through a variety of
lever lengths resulting in stronger muscles.
The noodle provides options to target the same muscle groups or basic move in different body positions and buoyancy levels.
the noodle around the waist can offer side lying or vertical positions
where the buoyancy assistance is equally divided between the top and
bottom halves of the body. Changing to a straddle (noodle "bike"
.position) or sitting in swing position lifts the body upward so more
anchoring is required to work downwards in the water. Kneeling on the
noodle has all buoyancy under the weight of the body to cause an
unbalanced situation requiring good core strength and oppositional arm
assistance to maintain the kneeling position.
anyone who cannot at first control suspended noodle buoyancy try using
the "around the waist" or "straddle" position for basic moves with the
feet contacting the pool floor. This will train for ROM and the
"lifting" feeling of buoyancy with the knowledge that the feet can touch
the floor for support at any time.
What is the best way to put your shallow water participants on the fast track for success?
#1 Always take time to introduce skills - Sculling - oppositional moves
#2 Work with the properties of water - buoyancy- resistance - inertia - turbulence
#3 Allow everyone to "feel" the action provided by the movement
#4 Make it FUNctional.
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