Tuesday, July 02 2019

The above preview is for Hand Buoy ABCs, posted on 3/25/16 

They go by many names - hand buoys, foam dumbbells, hand bars, aqua bells – whatever you call them.  Evolved from its ancestor, the plastic water jug - hand buoys are second only to noodles as the most popular and widely used type of aquatic fitness equipment.  Fitmotivation video subscribers have been requesting video content with hand buoys.  Ask and you shall receive!

Hand Buoy ABCs was recently posted and it features a class routine that targets aerobic training, balance challenges and core strengthening – the essential ABCs of fitness. This program, presented by Steph Toogood, U.K Aqua Expert, uses a single hand buoy for focus, resistance and buoyancy to provide functional training for all populations.  Fitmotivation video subscribers will take away the full choreography notes and ideas for using hand buoys in the warm-up, cardio, strength and cool down portions of an aqua class.

The hand buoy (foam dumbbell) is available in almost all pools and is widely used by many aquatic fitness instructors.  However, since the addition of foam equipment radically changes the outcome of muscle actions and poses additional safety concerns, this video includes an optional 8 page educational handout and AEA CEC quiz (separate fee).

The Hand Buoy ABCs video and the additional CEC handout provides valuable education and training ideas for the aquatic fitness professional. Below is a sampling of what is covered.   And be sure to check out the Fitmotivation Video Interview with Steph where she talks about Hand Buoy ABCs.

Hand Buoy Selection There are a wide range of Hand Buoys to choose from.  What is important?   Grip and foam size.  A small bar can cause excessive flexion of the hand and fingers.  Gripping a hard surface can also be uncomfortable, if not painful.  The ideal bar would have a larger girth so that hand remains more open and a softer material to grip.

Buoyant Resistance
Buoyancy is an upward force and thus resisted movement is downwards.  Understanding muscle actions with buoyant equipment is essential for the aquatic fitness professional. The 8-page CEC handout and to some degree, the video, review the concepts of resisted and assisted movement, as well as concentric and eccentric muscle contractions.   Using foam dumbbells is one way to introduce assisted movement and eccentric muscle contractions into an aqua fitness class.   If drag or no equipment is used, all movements are resisted and all muscle contractions are concentric.  Some fitness pundits believe that eccentric muscle actions are essential for overall muscle strength and greater flexibility.  There is also the belief that eccentric training can help repair injured muscle tissue and help prevent muscular injuries. 

Safety Considerations
The CEC handout also provides in-depth information regarding safety considerations when using hand buoys.  This includes determining appropriate foam size for use in aerobic and strength conditioning.  Among other things, using foam that is too dense causes an elevated shoulder girdle, which can pinch off nerves and create micro tears from coming in contact with the bony structure of the scapula.  Understanding safety considerations using the hand buoys is essential because the fact is too many older adults use them incorrectly and ultimately incur injuries to their shoulder over time.  From the grip, to the foam size, to the wrist alignment, the scapular depression and the rules regarding flotation – it is important to understand the do’s and don’ts of hand buoy use.

 Benefits of Using a Single Hand Buoy

In the Hand Buoy ABCs workout, a single hand buoy is used.  Using just one hand buoy instead of traditional paired use provides different exercise opportunities, outcomes and benefits.

·      Using just one hand buoy allows for the hands to rest and the fingers to extend, by either switching the working hand or by placing both hands on the end of the single buoy, with fingers open and extended

·      The use of a single buoy challenges core alignment and stability with asymmetrical and unilateral movements

·      Single buoy use allows for creativity in exercise selection.  Different movements can be utilized that would not be possible with traditional paired use.

·      Less equipment is needed which can be helpful for reducing equipment costs

 ABCs- 3 segments in video

Aerobic:  For the aerobic segment the smaller hand buoy will produce optimal work with the use of tempo changes and frequent grip changes.  The aerobic challenge can use any base moves or combination of base moves.  This segment is mostly level I using acceleration, action and reaction, lever length variants, surface area changes and working unilateral and bilateral. 

Balance:  Balance training using a single hand buoy can be manipulated to be progressive by using off center movement and variations in the base of support. The narrower the base of support, the greater the balance challenge. Progressing from a wide squat, to a lunge, to narrow tandem and ultimately to single leg stances while performing hand buoy exercises will challenge core stability and balance. 

Core:  The buoy is utilized as a destabilizing tool once stability has been established and the core engaged, gradually increasing the distance from the body’s center of gravity and center of buoyancy. Placing a single hand buoy between the thighs challenges the core by changing the relationship between the center of gravity and center of buoyancy, allowing for a multi-planar medley of movement with the body alternating level III (suspended) moves with some grounded exercises.

This triple phased, choreographed workout was designed to show that the addition of a single hand buoy should always be with a focus, a purpose and a training goal. The foam dumbbell can provide exceptional uses for cardio training, muscular endurance work, range of motion improvements, balance challenges and core strengthening. 

Fitmotivation extends a BIG thank you to Steph Toogood for an outstanding hand buoy video and educational opportunity for aquatic fitness professionals.


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.