Tuesday, July 02 2019

The above preview is for 360 Degrees for Balance & Core, which was posted 4/27/16

What is functional movement?  Why is it important and how do you include it in your existing aqua class?  UK Aqua Expert, Steph Toogood, has just shared a masterful workout with Fitmotivation video subscribers.  The video, 360 Degree Angles for Balance & Core is chockfull of ideas for including arm and leg exercises and combinations that move 360 degrees at the hip and shoulder joints for maximal muscle balance and joint integrity.  And good news!  An optional CEC quiz and 8-page educational handout are included with this educational gem of a video.  (Extra cost required)

The first functional goal an instructor has is to include movements from all three planes in a workout so that the major muscle groups are recruited in pairs and balanced around joints.  The movement planes are as follows:
Sagittal (forwards and backwards) – flexion & extension
Frontal (side to side) – abduction and adduction, lateral flexion
Transverse (rotational) – transverse abduction and adduction, rotation

The second functional goal an instructor has is to get the heck out of those linear planes of movement.  Movements and activities in daily life do not occur strictly forwards & backwards, side-to-side and rotational.   Instead, our daily movements are multi-planar, which is officially defined as combining two or more planes.  The theory is that the human body will be better adapted and trained for real life when multi-planar movements are added into an exercise plan.

Combining the two goals above can deliver profound results to aging bodies, as well as youthful bodies that want to age better.  These results include better muscle balance and joint integrity, along with overall improved strength, balance and posture.  But the big bonus in taking a more functional approach to fitness is the reduced risk of injury and musculoskeletal pain.  Over time, reduced range of movement in a joint decreases mobility and synovial fluid (joint lubrication) and sentences a person to a lifetime of pain and limited mobility.

What does multi-planar movement look like and how do you add it into an existing aqua classes?  Movement becomes multi-planar when you include individual moves that combine planes or you create combinations of movement that include these moves.  Multi-planar movements include those that move diagonally, circularly and in spirals – or in other words have the capability of moving 360 degrees. 

Multi-planar movements occur primarily in the legs and arms because only two joints have the capability of moving 360 degrees - the ball & socket joints of the hip and the shoulder.   The 360 Degree Angles workout includes multi-planar movements of the arms moving at the shoulder joint, performed in circles, figure 8’s, wave, clover, infinity and diagonal patterns – all designed to keep muscles balanced, synovial fluid flowing and mobility intact. 

The leg movements in the workout, performed from the hip joint, include circular, spiral and diagonal movements that along with the arm movements are designed to mimic and enhance activities of daily living (ADLs).  The real fun begins when you progress single movements into more complex patterns.  As Steph so aptly wrote in the CEC handout, “The less complex movements are attempted, the less stimulation for growth.  The less stimulation for growth, the faster you age.”

Key point:  Balance
Balance is trained both statically and dynamically in this workout.  Progressions in static stance combined with asymmetrical and turbulent arm patterning provide a perfect, non-impact recipe for balance training and fall prevention.

Key point:  Core
A recent article in the Washington Post by Gabriella Boston attributes a host of aches and pains from a weak core.  “It can be low back pain, IT Band and knee issues; or it can be shoulder injuries,” says Pete McCall, spokesman for the American Council on Exercise.  The basic principle behind these injuries McCall says, is that when one link is weak, other muscle groups try but fail to take over, leading to breaks or tears.  The exercises in this workout train the core from a point of stability and isometric loading.  Much emphasis is placed on the importance of stabilizing the body and core before engaging in multi-planar movements of the legs and the arms.

Key Point – Flexuous vs. Rigid
The dictionary definition of the word flexuous is “full of bends and curves.”  According to Steph, flexuous movement is softer and more organic.  It offers an opportunity to contrast and to progress to more rigid movement, which features more muscle tension and forceful effort.  In this era of work and recovery, video viewers will love the overall theme of flexuous and rigid movement in this workout.

What I learned?
Recently, I have been going to physical therapy due to a leg injury and have been soaking up all the knowledge of my very accomplished therapist.  I am learning a lot about the chronic injuries that I have incurred over three decades of fitness, which I simply attributed to wear and tear and aging.  Thanks to my therapist, I now understand that this ‘wear and tear’ has less to do with aging and more to do with HOW I have trained over 30 years – or to be more exact – how I have NOT trained.  Three decades of moving in the same linear patterns with little or no functional, multi-planar movement in my exercise routine has put me at a much greater risk of musculoskeletal injuries – acute and chronic.  Can I reverse this?  My therapist says “Hell yeah” and I am on a mission to do just that.

Becoming a better instructor A teacher never stops learning and I am beyond grateful to my colleagues, Laurie Denomme and Steph Toogood, for making functional fitness a passion and for educating the rest of us instructors on the importance of it.  I AM SOLD!  Choreography truly can be purposeful and deliver results.  My students are reaping the benefits from all that I am learning from my Fitmotivation Fitness Friends.  My next video, H20 HIIT Hi/Lo will be posting in May and the choreography in this workout will be positively FUN-ctional!

On behalf of Fitmotivation, I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to Steph Toogood for sharing two amazing workouts with video subscribers – Hand Buoy ABCs and 360 Degrees for Balance and Core.  Simply stated:  You inspire me!

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.