Hooray, a new aquatic tool to add variety to our aqua classes. As an aqua instructor, I have pushed, pulled, held and let go of the dumbbell in so many ways that I don’t know if I can do anything new with it. The same applies to the noodle. They are both fantastic tools that have numerous uses, but what happens after fifteen years of being creative – you need to try something new. Okeo have created a number of new pieces of aquatic equipment, one of which I have chosen to write about: The Hydro Ankle.
The Hydro Ankle increases both resistance and buoyancy and allows for the body to become suspended in the water whilst the arms are free to move. This is a great tool for an intermediate to advanced level participant. The added resistance to their lower bodies will achieve higher levels of intensity.
The focus on an exercise can completely change when adding resistance and buoyancy to the lower extremities . For example, a front kick without the Hydro Ankle requires effort to kick the leg up, whilst with the Hydro Ankle greater effort is required to bring the leg back down through the water. This emphasises Gluteal and Hamstring action rather than Quadriceps and Illopsoas. Another example is a big M jumping jack. There is still effort required to pull the legs up explosively but the Abductors and Adductors have to work harder to push the legs down in the direction required.
One of the best things about the Hydro Ankle is that it allows for shallow water exercises and suspended moves to be combined. For example, 4x alternating kick to either side followed by 2x double leg side kicks (completely suspended). Repeat the sequence with the feet back down in contact with the bottom of the pool. Another example would be, 2x big M jumping jacks with feet rebounding from the bottom of the pool, followed by 2x suspended jacks with the legs in the horizontal position.
The Hydro Ankle is a buoyancy tool – it has a tendency to float, therefore, effort is required to bring it down through the water. It does, however, produce an unusual effect when it is placed directly beneath the centre of gravity – it begins to act like an anchor, helping to keep the leg stationary, and the foot down, especially in exercise such as a suspended single knee repeater. This is as an example of the Hydro Ankle using Bougier’s principle of stability and balance.
The Hydro Ankle, will cause instability whenever the legs move from underneath the body to the front, side or behind. The natural reaction is to allow the legs to float to the surface and for the head to sink to the bottom. As this is an undesirable movement, the participant will try to equalise the movement. The core stabilisers are recruited as the body attempts to stabilise. This constant “trying to equalise” provides a very effective core workout. There is a contraindication here for those who do not have very good core strength or ability to engage their core muscles.
The Hydro Ankle is not recommended for participants who have back problems, a disability or are pregnant. Also, be careful with beginners and perhaps older adults who do low proprioception in the water.
Some participants are not able to float well – this may be due to either BMI or they simply may be unfamiliar with how to stay afloat. For some people, even the use of a buoyancy belt may not be enough to keep them afloat. In these cases, adding the Hydro Ankle can assist in providing enough buoyancy for these participants to continue participation in a the class.
The Hydro Ankle is easy to store. A rope through the middle of the Hydro Ankle and will ensure easy transportation. Light and portable, it is also an excellent personal training tool and can be used in circuits, rehabilitation, school groups and sporting groups.
Exercise 1. Lateral Leg Swings
This can be performed in shallow water, or in deep water. In deeper water, there is more core control required as you must try to stabilise the hanging leg. This exercise also challenges the Abductors and Adductors of the leg.
- Start with knee flexed at the hip and arms to the side of the body
- As the knee swings to the side, push the water with the arms in the opposite direction. This is so that the body can maintain stability in the water, but also to encourage use of the core stabilisers.
- Return back to the starting position by swinging the knee back to the front of the body and the arms to the side of the body in the opposite direction.
- Option 2.To increase the intensity of the exercise, extend the knee, so that the leg is straight and parallel to the bottom of the pool. This exercise could be contraindicated for pregnant women, and participants with sciatica and other back problems. So it is best to provide the initial option before moving onto the more advance choice.
Exercise 2. Knee Repeaters
This can be performed in shallow water or in deep water. Option 3 can only be performed in deep water from a suspended position. This exercise works the Hip Flexors, Quadriceps, Hip Extensors – Gluteals and Hamstrings. It is also very cardiovascular and an effective core conditioning exercise, especially in deep water.
- Start with knee flexed at the hip with arms sculling to the side
- Press foot down towards the bottom of the pool. Continue sculling with the arms
- Return back to the starting position by bringing the knee back up towards the hip
- Option 2. This requires more coordination and in deep water, more core stability. As the knee is lifted and lowered, add an alternating arm swing. Ensure that the opposite arm is extended forward as the knee is lifted.
- Option 3. This can only be performed in deep water and requires more control and coordination. As the knee is lifted, extend the opposite leg behind the body, keeping it straight. As the knee is pushed down, bring the opposite leg forward, keeping it straight. So it will appear that one is bending and lifting at the knee, while the opposite leg is swinging back and forward maintaining an extended position.
Exercise 3. Knee Extensions
This exercise is suspended, so you can perform it in any depth. The muscles worked are, Quadriceps, Hip Flexors and Hamstrings. The core muscles are used to stabilise the body while the leg performs powerful kicks.
- Start with one leg bent below the hip, so that the foot is slightly behind the body. The other leg is flexed at the hip and knee. This position is very stable with the ankle floats because the distribution of buoyancy.
- Extend the knee forward with a strong kicking action. Maintain stability by keeping the opposite knee bent below the hip and using the arms and hands in a sculling action.
- Return back to the starting position by curling the foot forcefully back towards the hip. Continuing using the arms and hands in a sculling action.
- Option 2. Using both legs, extend and flex the knees. Maintain stability by using the arms and hands in a sculling action throughout.
Exercise 4. Kicking Combination
This exercise can be performed in both shallow and deep water. It works most of the muscles in the body, as it is a compound exercise that involves a full body movement to perform the 270 degree kicks. It is very important to keep changing the body position to compliment the kicking leg action, so that the body is always in alignment.
- Start with one leg kicking forward. Initially take the arms forward, but this is only so that the movement has a starting position.
- Bring the knee into the chest and withdraw the arms back into the body ready to change position in the water.
- Extend the knee and abduct the leg to the side of the body. Extend the arms across the body in the opposite direction, allowing the body to drop to the side to maintain alignment.
- Bring the knee into the chest and withdraw the arms again.
- Extend the knee and the hip behind the body. Extend the arms to front of the chest. It is important to drop the chest and head forward. It is common for participants to flick the head back as the leg is kicked behind, and this caused hyperextension in the spine.
- Bring the knee into the chest and then bring forward to kick the knee forward. At the same time, pull the arms from the front of the body to behind the body in a powerful pulling action.
- Repeat the same exercise on the opposite leg.
In deep water, the non working leg, is suspended with a slight bend in the knee to bring the ankle float under the body. This makes the movement much more controlled.