If you ask children to show you a muscle 99% of the time they will bend the elbow to proudly show the biceps because they "pop up" when the elbow is bent. Most everyone has clearly defined biceps because of daily activities which require them to activate every time we pick up any object up against gravity. But what about the other side of the muscle pair?
The triceps are the opposing muscle group which are utilized daily with the assistance of gravity. This muscle typically has little or no definition in the upper arm (unless worked). In fact, the triceps are often described as the muscles that "wave goodbye". The good news is the triceps may be easily trained in water with progressive exercises. This will provide muscular balance and strength with the biceps as well as will give a boost to anyone who likes to go sleeveless.
The Triceps are a group of three muscles at the back of the upper arm. Their primary function is to extend the elbow and assist with shoulder extension to allow for a longer reach and more mobility. They are important for daily use to provide strength to lift and place an object onto a high shelf and even more strength to take an object off the shelf and bring it down safely. The triceps are also important for many sports activities such as when pitching or coming to bat in baseball, bowling or serving a tennis ball.
Triceps Extension when Walking (assisted travel). This exercise may also start in athletic stance position. Aquatic mitts can be used for this learning process.
Start without equipment: The most important point when strengthening the triceps in the water is to recognize the difference between land and water training. On land, the triceps must be lifted against gravity for effective strengthening whereas in water every time the elbow is extended down into the water it meets with buoyant resistance to strengthen the muscle with every move.
Realize when training any muscle group in the water, it is important to train without equipment first to learn to work out using good body alignment to prevent injury. This is easily done with the triceps. First start stationary and be sure to cue to submerge the shoulders for protection in an athletic stance. Start with the hands in front of the body and then bend the elbows keeping the elbows close to the body through elbow extension. Power the back of the hands down through the water to straighten the elbow and the triceps get to work against buoyancy. Slice the hands back to the start position or streamline on the return phase ready for the next repetition (so that the biceps are not engaged).
Once the correct "water" biomechanical move is learned it is simple to add more buoyancy in the form of a noodle to provide progressions for superior training and even more successful results.
Start with a simple noodle dip: Stand in a squat or athletic stance position holding the noodle across the chest with elbows bent, now press the noodle firmly down into the water to straighten the elbow - feel the resistance of buoyancy and hold the position momentarily. Resist against buoyancy on the upward return to start over. Perform at least 8-25 repetitions, then relax the arms and maybe move the legs to generate recovery and then repeat for a second set. For best results start with an intermediate weight noodle (less dense noodle then move to a super noodle or more dense resistance).
Now you are ready to progress to train in a different position. Add a triceps dip behind the back. A good cue to is to slide the noodle down as if planning to sit on it. Make sure the shoulder are submerged and body weight is on the heels. To double check for correct alignment, go ahead and sit on it. Be sure to work slowly against buoyancy to return to the start point.
Noodle Jump rope: Add some fun and function to the program with the noodle jump rope exercise. Start by holding the noodle about shoulder width apart, press down and lift the knees to "tuck" into the chest at the same time. The jump can be both forward and backwards so requires good timing, agility and a certain amount of shoulder flexibility. This exercise can be done in either the shallow or deep part of the pool. An added bonus is that core strength is worked 100% of the time. One word of caution: Always cue to let go of the noodle should the legs become entangled. Training to "disentangle" must be part of noodle skill training and shown prior to any noodle exercises.
Advanced Exercise - single arm dip with Side Ski: To train one arm at the time use a
single arm dip by leaning to one side and pressing the noodle down to
submerge the shoulder - be sure to maintain a level shoulder pattern on
the return phase. Check to make sure the shoulder does not lift as the
elbow bends. A side leg lift will balance this move and work the
adductors on that leg as the leg return to the upright position. Another
option would be to take the opposite leg to the back in a staggered
stance and bend both knees in a lunge squat as for the noodle dip. Don't
forget to change sides to target the muscles in both arms. A good idea
here is to insert a short cardio break to relax and move the legs to
maintain muscle warmth.
Stretch throughout the Program: Remember to take time to stretch between muscular sets and reps. Hold the elbow and circle in the water for an active mobility stretch especially beneficial for those who can not lift the shoulder over the head. Progress to gently taking the elbow up over the head with the assistance of the other arm. The advanced stretch is taking the arm over the head and adding a gentle spinal lateral flexion for stretching both the triceps and the latissimus dorsi muscles. Be sure to lightly hold the elbow and press the elbow towards the ceiling. Low impact lower body movements may be easily combined with all upper body stretching to help maintain thermal regulation as well as provide more active recovery.
Start warm and stay warm: To help maintain warmth and use "water time" to its best advantage, try combining
some cardio with specific muscle training. Add a modified suspended "prone jogging" pattern to the triceps double arm dip. This move can be used to create inertia by having the class all travel in one direction then turn against the current and jog back. Make sure to cue to bring the knees towards the chest to maintain the prone position and keep the neck and low back in line to avoid any hyperextension.
Or a Push Up Plank with a Jog to Generate heat or to travel against resistance.
Take time to work through these "fun"ctional exercises. Functional exercise is helping people to maintain their independence and well being. Training functionally will provide balanced upper body strength to assist with good posture and provide a "feel good" look for the upper arms.
Types of Noodles