If pushing yourself through a hot sweaty workout in your local gym doesn’t appeal, why not supplement your walking plans and home workouts with a visit to your local pool.
Swimming is one of the best total body activities if you are a good swimmer. However, if swimming is not your forte and you just tend to doggy-paddle your breaststroke whilst trying not to get your hair wet, then perhaps there might be other options to consider.
The problem with advising swimming as an effective exercise poses a few problems explains celebrity trainer and fitness author, Matt Lawrence. ‘Doctors will often advise swimming as an excellent way to get fit,’ says Matt, ‘that’s fine if you have a great swimming technique as your body will be aligned and your breathing will be consistent.
The problem starts, when your technique is not good as you will probably be over extending your back whilst trying not to get your hair wet and this can aggravate back pain over time.’ He continues, ‘instead of swimming, why not combine aqua jogging with some water exercises or even try an aqua class.’
Aqua jogging is simply to jog from one foot to the other across the pool. You can choose how deep you want to work in sloping pools and just jog widths or for same depth pools just jog up and down the length.
Alternately for a more intense workout try aqua jogging in deep water, so that you are floating but cross the pool width ways in a modified running/treading water action. The buoyancy effects of water mean that less stress is placed on the bones and joints and so exercising in the water is excellent for the overweight or obese or for anyone with muscular, joint or spinal injuries.
‘If you still enjoy your swim but your technique means you tire quickly,’ Matt advises ‘why not swim for one length and then ‘aqua jog’ back and repeat for 20-30 lengths to add variation and intensity to your workout?’ But in addition to jogging in the pool you could also add some conditioning exercises.
The advantage being that you can work as hard or easy as you want. Performing any movement in water causes resistance from the water as you move through it – the faster you try and move, the greater the resistance.
Also the surface area will affect the resistance, for example slicing through the water with an open hand is much easier than with a clenched fist or if you cupped your palm, with fingers together. The larger the surface area, the harder it will be to move that object through the water. In addition movements with straight arms or legs will also be harder due to the increased lever length used.
Maintaining your balance can sometimes be difficult depending on where you store fat. Men tend to store more fat around their waists and upper body whereas women tend to be more pear-shaped and often store more fat on the legs and buttocks and around their hips and this can affect your body position when moving in the water.
Upper body fat stores can cause the legs to sink when in a horizontal position, yet those who store fat on their legs and hips often struggle to maintain a vertical position, especially in deeper water.
Certain equipment can be used in aquatic exercise to aid buoyancy, improve your grip to the pool floor and make movements harder by increasing the surface area you are moving.
– ‘Gravity’/Buoyancy Vests
Buoyancy vests help you stay afloat in deep water. They are worn around the chest and make it easier to perform deep-water exercises without having to worry about sinking.
– Aqua Dumbbells or Floats
These foam or polystyrene floats often shaped like a dumbbell can be pushed through or under the water to increase the intensity of the movement due to the increased surface volume.
– Aqua Shoes
Aqua shoes provide excellent traction on the pool floor, giving you a better grip and are especially useful when you change direction of movement or need to stop quickly.
Following are the best water exercises to get in shape:
- Stand in the water at between waist and chest height, with one foot raised in front of you with your weight on your rear leg.
- Push off your front leg to ‘hop’ back onto your rear foot, raising your front knee as you land.
- Continue this rocking action and gradually increase your range of movement as you ‘rock’ back and forth.
- After 15-20 ‘rocks’, change your leg position so that your front and rear legs are reversed and repeat.
Single Arm Punches
- Stand in water at chest or shoulder height and hold an aqua dumbbell under the water, in your right hand next to your right shoulder.
- Keeping the float under the water, brace your abdominal and extend your arm in a punching action.
- At full extension, pull it back towards your shoulder and repeat.
- Initially keep the movement slow but build up pace to increase the intensity and find the most comfortable stance to assist your balance.
- Allow movement from your torso but keep this minimal, being careful not to over-rotate.
- Perform 15-30 ‘punches’ making sure not to lock the arm before swapping hands and repeating with your left arm.
- Stand as before, in water at shoulder level holding an aqua dumbbell or float.
- Hold the float at arms’ length in your right hand with the float on the surface of the water, then keeping your abdominal braced and your torso upright pull the float down toward your waist in an arc movement with your arm slightly bent.
- Then return the arm back to the surface at speed. If performed slowly the buoyancy effect will make part this easy, yet when performed at speed, the surface area of the float will provide resistance and the frontal shoulder muscles are forced to work as well as the back, arm and abdominal muscles for the other direction.
- Aim for 10-20 repetitions before changing hands and repeating with the float in your left hand.
Alternate Bear Hugs
- Stand in water at chest height with arms out to the side but in the water.
- With abdominal braced sweep your right arm inwards in a large arc to cross the center of your body using your chest muscles forcefully at speed, pushing the water across your body to the front.
- Then slowly lower the arm and allow it to move slowly back out to the start position with much less force as you perform the same forceful hugging movement with your left arm.
- Repeat these alternating hugging movements in large sweeping actions, keeping your torso upright and without twisting.
- Perform 20-30 hugs in total, ensuring your arms are slightly bent as you perform the hugging movement.
- Stand with water at chest height with both feet together and arms by your sides.
- Jump up, separating your legs to land with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and bringing your arms extended out to the sides at shoulder height.
- Then jump up again, this time returning your arms to your sides and legs together as you land.
- Repeat these jumping jacks for 20-30 repetitions.
- Stand in the water at chest or shoulder level with your hands clasped together, outstretched in front of you with abdominal braced.
- Rotate through your waist, maintaining an upright posture, turning to your left side with your arms outstretched forcing your arms through the water.
- On reaching full rotation, turn back the other way to your right to full rotation.
- Perform 15-20 double arm trunk rotations beginning slowly and increase in pace for increased intensity.
Deep Water Twist-Ups
- Use floats or a buoyancy vest to help you stay afloat in deep water.
- Pull your knees in towards your chest, twisting slightly so that you pull your knees up and to one side before lowering and repeating to the other side.
- Initially begin at a moderate pace and increase according to ability and fitness level.
- Perform 20-30 twist-ups, but be careful not to twist from your lower back or tilt the pelvis excessively.
- Roll forwards to the front with your legs outstretched behind you, facing the water surface in a near horizontal position.
- Use your arms in a ‘sculling’ action to maintain your position.
- Then pull your knees in to your chest and rapidly sweep your arms together in an arc to give you the propulsion necessary to rock yourself onto your back, facing upwards.
- Extend the legs out to the front with your toes up and arms by your side, sculling to help you stay afloat.
- Then pull your knees up and tip forwards to rock onto your front again and extend your legs out behind you.
- Aim to change positions 10-20 times maintain control of movement throughout
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