Low-Impact Super Combo for Core Training

Saturday, January 18 2020

Explore a super combo that can be added to cardio or used to reinvent the last 15 minutes of your aqua class with a spectacular core finale.  Learn how to reduce impact and overload the abs and the arms by performing grounded, neutral and suspended moves. 

AEA Aquatic Training Specialist, Jackie Lebeau became inspired to create low-impact choreography after she started noticing some aches and pains in her body. Starting her aquatic fitness at the amazingly young age of 17, Jackie says she failed to heed deck-teaching recommendations and instead demonstrated high-impact options on deck for many years.  “Over the last decade, I've noticed that my careless younger days has caught up to me and so I am learning how to give my participants high intensity movements while protecting myself on deck at the same time.”  Jackie is now convinced that low impact movement variations provide just as good of a workout as bounded moves and that they can give a class a fresh look.

Exercising in water automatically reduces joint impact, but the fact remains that many traditional aquatic base moves do cause a fair amount of impact when performed in shallow water. Two-footed jumping moves such as jacks, skis, hops and moguls, are particularly higher in impact.  Joint impact can be reduced or completely removed in water exercise in three ways. 

Impact is removed when base moves are grounded.  Grounding a move involves keeping one or both feet anchored to the pool floor when performing exercises.  Intensity is created with large and forceful arm movements.  All base moves can be grounded and every class should include a healthy blend of anchored movement.  Grounded moves are especially useful in pools with exceptionally shallow depths.  

Impact can also be reduced by performing base moves lowered in the water in neutral (Level II) position, which occurs through flexion of the hips and knees.  Lowering the shoulders to the water’s surface submerges most of the body, removing gravity and thus eliminating impact.  Instructors should not only include planned neutral movement variations in their programming; they should also cue and remind students to go neutral at any time in a class when they are discomforted by impact.  

Lastly, impact is completely eliminated when base moves are performed suspended (Level III) in zero gravity with feet completely off the pool floor.   Suspended options provide a class with a unique aquatic imprint that cannot be recreated in any land class.  Incorporating these water-specific exercises will spare the joints and provide creativity and challenge in your water fitness programming.

As the title implies, Aqua Arms & Abs does have a core focus.  The core/abs become engaged thanks to the low-impact movement variations.  Exercises performed in neutral position not only flex the hip and knees, they slightly flex the spine and engage the core muscles with both isotonic and isometric contractions.  Level III exercises in shallow water force the core to work harder by either keeping the torso upright or by holding the body in a position suspended off the pool floor.  Even grounded moves overload the core by stabilizing in an anchored position against the forces of drag and turbulence. 

Low-impact movement variations can also cause more overload in the arms.  As described above, grounded moves maintain their intensity with aggressive arm patterning.  However, the arms also get worked harder in neutral position because the fulcrum of the working lever, the shoulder joint, is submerged in the resistance of water.  Simply put, submerging the shoulders puts much more resistance on the arms.  The arms are also overloaded when performing suspended moves because they have to skull to keep the torso upright and to hover the body off the pool floor. 

The common belief is that equipment must be used if you want to target the muscles.  The fact is water IS equipment and Fitmotivation strives to educate instructors on how to use this powerful resistance, rather than just fall back on arming students with hand buoys or noodles.  It has been said in previous blogs and I will say it again – instructors should know HOW to use the resistance of water before attempting to use equipment.  The students should also be reminded that water IS resistance and that they don’t need equipment to work their muscles.   

The two combinations featured in Abs & Arms can be added into the regular cardio portion of a class or used at the end of class as a core finale.  Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Jackie for returning to Florida for a third time to film.  Check out Jackie's other videos. If you want to host Jackie's CEC Workshops you can contact her through her website - JLA Fiitness.  Stay tuned for a deep water video from Jackie posting next month. 

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.