Cutting Edge

Co written with Tim O’Connell

As aqua instructors, the ability to be versatile with little or no equipment is to be commended. In recent years, however, aquatic tools like dumbbells, noodles, buoyancy belts and tubing have gained popularity in aqua classes all over Australia, which makes our job slightly easier to continually provide innovative and effective workouts.

OKEO is an Italian company that has recently developed aqua tools that use unique hydrodynamic principles. Following is a preview of four of their new tools and their role and effectiveness with different movement patterns.

Hydro diamond dumbbells

Unlike the traditional dumbbell with two circular foam sections on either end of a short bar, the hydro diamond dumbbell is an angular foam dumbbell with a bar that is completely surrounded by foam. This makes it unique because of the manoeuvrability it has in the water. The traditional dumbbell is limiting, as it is unable to be rotated through the water safely. The hydro diamond dumbbell has the ability to enable a wider range of exercise options. Movements like figure 8s are possible, which is ideal for strengthening rotator cuff muscles. And rather than only being able to push through the water either vertically or horizontally, the hydro diamond dumbbell could be pushed through the water at any angle that is comfortable.

This manoeuvrability in the water allows participants to modify the intensity of their workout by changing the angle of movement. Consistent with hydrodynamic principles, changing the angle and hence the surface area of the dumbbell moving through the water, results in changes to the level of drag. The hydro diamond dumbbell can therefore be successfully used by participants with varying degrees of upper body strength.

The hydro diamond dumbbell allows for concentric contractions in all directions, unlike the ‘smiley face’, which is only effective if the palm is pushed in the appropriate direction. The hydro diamond dumbbell is also an effective flotation aid, which means that the equipment can be used effectively for a wide variety of exercises.

Most participants can quickly master hydro diamond dumbbells because of their previous experience with ordinary dumbbells. The ergonomic design also means that participants do not need to grip the handles as tightly, thus reducing the risk of fatigued hands and fingers during use.

Storage of Hydro Diamond dumbbells can be simple, without consuming too much space, as they can stack easily.

Boxing gloves

This is an interesting piece of aqua equipment, because it is most effective when used with the fist or back of the hand leading through the water. Using boxing gloves in the water also challenges the upper body muscles. Punching type activities and faster type of movements are best for this tool. Consider martial arts movements for both the upper and lower body, but do not be limited by this. Experimentation in the pool is a must for this device, as most hand and arm movements need to be modified to be effective. Avoid implementing the glove into your class before trying out everything yourself.

Putting on the glove takes practice as most participants will initially put the glove on incorrectly. Ask your class to float the boxing glove on the water with the logo facing up (logo should be read upright, not upside down). Your hand then must go through the first gap from the top. Pass the finger under the logo and grip the front section of foam. The logo will now be showing on the back of the hand. When teaching participants how to use the boxing glove, indicate that the hand must be in a “fist grip” inside the glove. This is to prevent the boxing glove from flapping against the back of the hand and the inside of the wrist.

Verbal and non verbal cues are essential when teaching use of the glove. Appropriate cues for use of the ‘back of hand’ or fist need to be applied to get the most from each exercise.
The glove is not an effective flotation aid, as it is not big or buoyant enough, though it is useful with people who find dumbbells too demanding for upper body conditioning. Because the glove is not very buoyant, participants who have shoulder, elbow or wrist problems will find it easier to manage.

Smile hands

The smile hand is similar to a paddle, but it has a much larger surface area. By the nature of their design, the flat surface of the smile hand needs to be used during movements, as any movements with the side of the tool tends to result in a loss of power and effectiveness. This requires participants to ensure that they turn the palm in the direction of travel, thus advantageously providing a balanced workout of the upper body and arm muscles.

This equipment is an excellent tool for any sculling movements, as it encourages rotation with the hands. Simply holding it in the water will also allow the participant to float effectively – great for those who have trouble floating, and this is also great for stabilising the body while performing suspended movements.

Circular movements where the palms can rotate, like breast stroke, figure of 8s and forward and backward pulls, can be more challenging because of the amount of drag and turbulence that can be created. The smile hand is thus a piece of equipment that can allow participants to effectively develop upper body strength with regular use.

Because of the powerful movement that can be created with the smile hand, the muscles in the fingers, forearms and shoulders can fatigue very quickly. Make sure to allow for finger releases, which can be done by pulling the thumb out of the gripping hole and resting the hand on top of the smile hand, while performing a movement with the lower body to maintain heart rate.

This equipment generally requires some instruction to participants before use, in order to explain and practice the technique of turning the palm into the direction of travel.

Hydro ankle

Traditionally most instructors have focused on buoyancy aids being held by the upper body. The hydro ankle adds both resistance and buoyancy to the legs, and allows the body to become suspended while the arms are free to move. This is a great tool for intermediate to advanced participants who need the added resistance to their lower bodies to achieve higher levels of intensity. Exercises like forward kicks are more challenging as the glutes have to activate more strongly to bring the leg down through the water.

The hydro ankle can be used on its own or with another piece of equipment to provide the ultimate challenge for both upper and lower body conditioning. The Hydro Ankle also challenges stability in the water because the natural reaction is to let the legs float to the surface. The core stabilizers need to work much harder to keep the legs down under the water to keep the body upright.

This piece of equipment must be fitted prior to entering the pool, as this is a difficult activity to perform in the water. Also the Hydro Ankle needs to be fitted firmly to avoid sliding up and down the ankle while the legs are moving in the water. This device is easy to implement into a class format, as most standard exercises are appropriate. Participants can put on the floats if they want to work harder and do the same class as everyone else.

From a choreography and moves aspect, the Hydro Ankle provides a wide range of exercise options. Most standard impact, suspended and deep water exercises are appropriate. Contraindications: Adding a resistance and flotation tool to the lower extremity can place considerably more stress on the core stabilisers and on muscles surrounding the lower back, pelvis and hips. Depending on the injury and activity, the lower limbs can be either supported or stressed.

Equipment

Legs

Arms

Warm Up

No Equipment

If You Could Read My Mind

  1. Stationary legs
  2. Stationary legs
  3. Pendulum
  4. Cossack kick
  5. Rocking horse
  1. Alternating figure of 8 arms
  2. Hands together, figure of 8 arms
  3. Hands together, figure of 8 arms
  4. Alternating scooping
  5. Open and close scooping arms

Boxing Gloves

Shake Your Groove Thing & Vogue

  1. Feet apart
  2. Feet apart
  3. Single leg donkey kick
  4. Feet apart
  5. Feet apart
  6. Kick to front and side, R & L
  7. Combination kick, front, side and 2x donkey kick
  1. Alternating figure of 8 arms
  2. Punching arms in front
  3. Double punching arms in front
  4. Straight arms scooping fwd and bwd
  5. Straight arms scooping across body
  6. Alternating policeman arms
  7. Combining, 2x alternating policeman arms and 2x double punches to front

Boxing Gloves

That’s The Way I Like It & Groove Is In The Heart

  1. Wide jog
  2. Narrow jog

  3. Single leg front kick
  1. Arms moving in and out in a wide semi circle
  2. Chorus combination: Punch R arm fwd, punch L arm fwd, pull both arms back (supinated), and semi circle
  3. Punching arms

Hydro Ankle

Alright Okay You Win & You Should Be Dancing

  1. Suspended horizontal straight leg jack
  2. Suspended horizontal alternating single leg jack
  3. Combination of above, 2x straight leg jack and alternating single leg jack
  4. Big M jack touching bottom of pool
  5. Combination, 2x Big M jacks and 2x suspended Big M jacks
  6. 1x suspended Big M jack and flip over into rock n roll
  1. Arms scooping in and out
  2. Same arm as leg, scooping in opposite direction to leg
  3. Combination of above, 2x scooping arm in and out and single arm scooping in opposite direction to leg
  4. Scooping arms across body
  5. Scooping arms across body
  6. Scooping arms across body and reach fwd as legs go back

Hydro Ankle

I Love Being Here With You & Disco Inferno

  1. Alternating side to side kick
  2. Side rock n roll lift to either side
  3. Pendulum
  4. Combination, 2x alternating side to side kick and 1x side rock n roll lift
  5. Combination, 2x alternating side to side kick, 1x side rock n roll lift, and 4x pendulum
  1. Arms pushing across body without turning head
  2. Both arms reaching across body
  3. Scooping arms across torso in opposite direction to legs
  4. Arms pushing across body without turning head
  5. Arms pushing across body without turning head and 4x scoops across torso with pendulum legs

Hydro Ankle

Happy Feet

  1. Baby crawl
  2. Suspended double leg kick
  3. Suspended jog in and out
  4. Wide stance, knee tuck
  1. Alternating reverse scoop arms
  2. Sculling action to sides
  3. Alternating jogging arms
  4. Arms out to side and pulling in under knees

Hydro Ankle

Zorba & Gimme Some Lovin

  1. Slow twisting jog
  2. Small fast straight leg kicks
  3. Big straight leg kicks
  4. Single leg ‘Can Can’ kick
  5. Single leg side kick
  6. Combination kick to front and side
  1. Arms twisting across body
  2. Punching arms
  3. Alternating arms
  4. Punching arms
  5. Arms pushing across body
  6. Alternating arms to front and side

Smile Hands

Alright Okay You Win & Gimme Some Lovin

  1. Hurdler
  2. R leg knee repeater (L leg simply floats)
  3. L leg knee repeater (R leg simply floats)
  4. Rock n roll fwds and bwds
  1. Hands sculling at either side of body
  2. R arm pulls back to hip as knee pulls up, L arm pressed down in water
  3. L arm pulls back to hip as knee pulls up, R arm pressed down in water
  4. Arms travelling in opposite direction

Smile Hands

I Love Being Here With You & You Should Be Dancing

  1. Jogging with knees twisting across
  2. Double knee twist tuck
  3. Pendulum
  4. Front kicks
  5. Mermaid
  1. Arms twisting across body
  2. Arms twisting in opposite direction to legs
  3. Arms scooping across in opposite direction to legs
  4. Alternating arms fwd and bwds with rotating hands
  5. Arms pushing back through water as legs come up and kick into water.

Smile Hands

Happy Feet & Disco Inferno

  1. Feet stationary
  2. Feet stationary

  3. Straight leg kick to back
  4. Donkey kick
  1. Single arm rotating bicep curl to shoulder (lateral)
  2. Double arm rotating bicep curl to shoulder (lateral)
  3. Circular action in front “Wax on, wax off”
  4. Reverse breast stroke arms

Smile Hands

Zorba & Disco Inferno

  1. Wide jog
  2. Suspended, R kick to front, side, back and front & L kick to front, side, back and front
  3. Suspended combination, R kick to front, side, back, front and 4x seated alternating kicks to front
  4. Suspended, criss cross legs
  5. Combination, R kick to front, side, back, front and criss cross legs 2x, repeat on L
  1. Arms pushing out to either side
  2. Arms pushing down into water to stabilise body
  3. Arms pushing down into water to stabilise body
  4. Optional arms criss cross arms
  5. Arms pushing down into water and with criss cross legs, optional criss cross arms

Cool Down

No Equipment

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

  1. Stand next to your partner, alternating “Can Can” kick
  2. Face each other
  3. Face each other

  4. Stand side by side
  5. Stand side by side
  6. Stand side by side
  1. Arms on shoulders
  2. Use the right arm and place it on the outside of the shoulder. Rotate .
  3. One partner crosses over hands. Other partner holds hands and pulls in opposite direction.
  4. Alternating kick, front to back
  5. Hold one leg in front and stretch hamstrings
  6. Lift one leg behind and stretch hip