The inspiration for this workout came as I was practicing the recently posted Ai Chi Yoga workout. Originally, I had planned on making the yoga routine a full-length workout. The plan was to alternate gentle Ai Chi movements with yoga poses and then add in a “warming” power move to make the workout doable in cooler pools. After several attempts, the project went flat because I just couldn’t get the trio of movement to a point that made me satisfied. And it has been cold here in Florida and I did not enjoy doing yoga poses throughout a 50-minute workout in an outdoor pool. Instead, I decided to split the routine into two 15-minute workouts. The “power moves” evolved into a 15-minute upper body training that progressed traditional Ai Chi movements into strong arm patterns. The Ai Chi Yoga workout was then downsized into 15 minutes of stretch and relaxation. Problem solved!
What is Ai Chi
Based on elements of Qigong and Tai Chi, Ai Chi is specifically designed for the water and is characterized by slow movement that is coordinated with deep breathing. Developed in 1993 by Jun Konno in Yokohama, Japan, Ai Chi was initially intended for more specific therapeutic applications, but eventually became more mainstream within the aquatic fitness industry. Ai Chi consists of 19 movements or katas, performed with deep breathing in a flowing series.
Progressing traditional Ai Chi arm movements into powerful arm patterns turned out to be a very effective way to train upper body muscle groups. The ultimate outcome depends on the force and velocity applied against the water’s resistance during the stronger arm patterns. However, adding webbed gloves creates more drag resistance by increasing the surface area of the hands. Webbed gloves are simply the most effective water fitness tool you can own because they can be inserted in ANY water workout to add more resistance to the upper body muscle groups. And they are cheap, typically costing less than $15.00 for a pair. Anyone who has a passion for exercising in water should own a pair of webbed gloves.
Owning the Workout
Not all exercises are appropriate for everyone. It is important for exercise participants to use common sense and avoid movements that cause pain or discomfort. Anyone who participates in exercise activities has to listen to their body and own the workout. Just because a fitness leader is doing an exercise doesn’t mean you should be too. Owning the workout by avoiding painful or uncomfortable movement is crucial. Understanding how hand positions in water exercise impact upper body extremities and musculoskeletal issues is a must.
The concept of hand positions has been addressed in several videos and blogs, but some things are so important they bear repetition. If your students are performing movements in Ai Chi Arms that are causing pain or discomfort in their shoulders, then they need to learn how to decrease surface area in their hands to limit the interaction with the water’s resistance. Surface area is decreased by positioning the hand in a “sliced” position when moving arms in and out, or up and down in the water. This sliced position presents the least surface area to the water’s resistance. WATCH Mark demonstrate hand positions.
The 15-minute videos that have been posting recently are intended to be utilized as add-ons to your classes on those days when you want to include extra stretching, core training or muscle conditioning. Add some Ai Chi Armed Forces on those days you want to include extra toning for the upper body. As always, if you have content suggestions, please let us know.
Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.