Searching for new techniques to push a client past a training plateau? Now that the weather is hot, are clients inquiring about innovative outdoor activities? Do you have access to a pool but uncertain about advanced training options? If so, then take the plunge into aquatic personal training and reap the benefits of a wet workout!
In the fitness industry, personal training continues to move ahead – and into the water. Regardless of personal goals, options exist for training a variety of clients in the pool . . . or lake or ocean. Although this article will focus on high intensity training in shallow water, don't be limited to the confines of three to four feet of water. Take these ideas and explore the depths of water fitness.
Coaches and athletic trainers have always incorporated sports specific movements, drills and skills to promote enhanced performance. Personal trainers can follow the lead and develop specific water-related programming to assist in preseason conditioning, cross-training during season, post-season maintenance or injury recovery. Although athletes must train within the exact parameters of their sport(s), one should not ignore that a variety of training/cross training techniques are utilized in the quest for perfection. A key factor for success in many athletic skills is explosive power; when assessing lower body movements, this is probably best expressed by the vertical jump. Kraemer and Newton ("Training For Improved Vertical Jump", Sports Science Exchange, 1994) state that traditional strength training, explosive types of weight training, plyometrics and Olympic lifting are all effective methods for increasing vertical jump. Since improvements in vertical jump performance are not limited solely to jump training, the potential benefits from an aquatic program geared specifically toward the sport(s) should not be overlooked.
As cited in the AEA - ISCA/Promise Enterprises Aquatic Kickboxing Certification, the question of whether the aquatic exercise benefits will translate into benefits on land was addressed by Simmons, et al (1996) in the paper "Effectiveness of water exercise on postural mobility in the well elderly: an experimental study on balance enhancement." Although the testing group was an elderly population, this study clearly indicated that health and fitness benefits derived from water exercise do result in improved quality of life. The only group with significant gains, and the only group to continue with the prescribed program, was the water exerciser group.
Limitations in mobility, strength, balance and coordination can often be overcome through training in the buoyant and resistive environment of the water. This modality facilitates development and/or improvement in posture and balance; research indicates that balance and flexibility can show greater gains in the aquatic environment. (McGrath et al. 1993; Awbrey et al. 1994)
Sports specific, or sports oriented, workouts include cardio respiratory conditioning (both aerobic and anaerobic), muscular strength and endurance training, as well as range of motion activities. The format will be unique to the sport, but should strive to develop the major components of physical fitness as well as specific skills, agility, balance and coordination. Suzanne Nottingham indicates in "A Game Plan for Assessing Sport Skills" (IDEA Personal Trainer, January 1995), that athletic movements and sports skills are influenced by three fundamental concepts: Balance/Force, Speed, and Space.
When developing a specialized training program for the water, consider the following performance skills:
- Balance. In the aquatic environment, balance is the ability to adjust the center of gravity and center of buoyancy effectively.
- Coordination. Coordination is the ability to move with accurate form and control in a fluid manner. The three elements of coordination are balance control, timing control, and muscular control.
- Speed. The rate of movement; consider the movement of a limb at the joint.
- Power. Power is force times velocity; how fast muscle exerts force against another object or against the ground translates into power. Lynda Huey states in the WaterPower Workout Book, "Performing drills in water rather than on land makes this elusive component of fitness more easily attainable and less likely to cause injury."
- Agility. Agility involves rapid changes in movement; dexterity of the limbs. Because water is a different proprioceptive SPACE than land, aquatic training provides a unique environment for expanding movement vocabulary.
"There are many ways that the water can benefit athletes and highly active individuals in their personal quest to be the best they can be. Athletic skills can benefit from aquatic sports specific training because of the multi-directional resistance as well as the cushioned environment the water provides.
For example, sprinting drills in deep or shallow water can increase speed performance. The increased resistance of the water, combined with all out effort, can help an individual when they perform the same activity on land.
The cushioning of the water will ensure a safer environment; the buoyancy can minimize or prevent musculoskeletal injuries from overuse and impact stress. Water workouts often allow the individual to practice the same moves but with renewed enthusiasm.
The movements will be slower because of the water's resistance, allowing extra time to "feel" the process and correct the motion if needed. The slower reaction time of water drills also allows a coach/personal trainer/ training partner to analyze each motion to provide feedback." (AEA Power of Performance Continuing Education Workshop, 1999)
According to Personal Trainer and Aquatic Training Specialist, Seth Anne Snider-Copley, sport specific programs should consider the following specialized training techniques and parameters:
- What type of muscle contraction is involved (dynamic or static)?
- What are the primary and stabilizing muscles?
- What joints are involved in the movement?
- What is the velocity of the contractions?
- Is the sports performance unilateral or bilateral?
- Upper body versus lower body -- what is the primary source for oxygen demand?
Still wondering about specifics for a hard-core workout in the water??
Consider what's currently "hot" in fitness and then . . . just add water. Martial Arts. Boxing. Kick Boxing. These mind and body training options to improve performance, enhance fitness, raise self-esteem and empower the individual are all well suited for the aquatic environment.
Aquatic Kickboxing represents a high intensity, remarkably resistive, yet lowered impact, exercise option. By utilizing the unique properties of water, in particular buoyancy and drag forces, an optimum cross training program can be created for group exercise participants as well as personal training clients. The water's multidirectional resistance requires constant force production by the muscles and assists in the deceleration of punches and kicks. Increased resistance, and thus intensity, is encountered particularly during circular motions (i.e. hook or crescent kick).
Movements and positions that are extremely difficult to accomplish on land are often attainable in a buoyant situation. This can permit additional concepts to be incorporated -- such as suspended training where the feet do not touch bottom. Not only does this create a non-impact variation, but also it is extremely challenging to perform, recruits additional muscles, and draws on core stability in a low-impact environment.
Kickboxing utilizes the core muscles (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum) in a functional kinetic chain. This means the movement is initiated from the base, and power comes from sequential contraction of muscles. (ISCA - Promise Enterprises, Kickboxing Certification) Due to the added resistance of water, core muscles are challenged further with movement patterns performed in the water. Also it is imperative to maintain the center of buoyancy and center of gravity in vertical alignment for balance and control; the core muscles dynamically interact to sustain spinal integrity.
Efficient and effective training in the aquatic environment will require modifications to basic kick boxing movements. Depth of the water, as well as the depth of submersion based upon body positioning, will influence the most appropriate movement sequences employed in training.
Rebounding kicks are most successfully executed in water that is mid rib cage to mid chest deep. Punches, for maximum resistance with minimal joint stress, are most effective when the shoulder girdle is submerged. Also consider relative velocity. In the resistive environment of the pool, when speed is doubled the force increase by a factor of four, if speed is tripled then force increases by a factor of nine (squared). Yet, one must consider that the viscosity of the water necessitates movement speed (at full range of motion) be reduced. Clients will move differently in the water based upon physical size and strength, body composition, comfort in the water, understanding of the aquatic principles, motivation, as well as specific limitations.
WATER: A new frontier for personal training.
There are striking similarities to "land-based" training and there are obvious differences in techniques for optimum results, but the potential is limited only by the knowledge and creativity of the trainer.
Jump in! Get wet! Push the limits! See results! What more can you, or your client, want out of a workout?