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Water Strength Training
Want to try something new for your workout routine? Get into that swimsuit and hit the water. The American Council on Exercise states that water workouts are one of the best low impact exercises around. The natural properties of water create an environment that protects muscles and joints by decreasing the effects of gravity on the body and creates resistance as your body moves through it.
Lower-body exercises easily transition to the water environment. Standing in waist deep water allows you to perform squats, lunges and calf raises with greater resistance than if performed on land. You can further increase the resistance by using handheld weights or a weighted vest. If you want to work in a little cardio and maximize your strength-training sessions, try taking a jog in the pool or doing a little cycling by holding to the side of the pool and mimicking cycling motions. If you have access to a deep-water environment, where you are suspended in the water, you can work on deep-water running and four-way hip kicks. Keeping your knee straight, kick your leg forward, backward, to the side and across your body. Strap on water weights to your legs to further increase resistance for all exercises.
To maximize the strength benefits for the upper body, exercises should be performed in water that immerses the arms. You can use water weights and work your biceps by bending and straightening your elbow, your chest and triceps by doing pushups against the pool wall and your shoulder by doing shoulder raises in front and out to the side. You can sneak in a little extra upper-body workout by cupping your hands to increase the resistance and pumping your arms during your lower-body exercises.
Abdominal muscles can get quite a workout in the pool, too. Hang on to the side of the pool and bring your knees to chest and then extend your legs until you are straight up and down. To make it a little harder, keep your knees straight and raise your legs together to waist height and lower them back down. To work your obliques, bring your knees to your chest and rotate your legs from side to side.
For any exercise program, you should check with your physician prior to starting. Monitor your activity and tolerance level. If you have any episodes of dizziness, chest pain or severe shortness of breath, stop and contact your health care provider immediately. Keep in mind that your heart rate is blunted when exercising in the water. It is an average of 17 beats per minute lower than on land, so your body is working harder than your heart rate will tell you.
Mary Tolley Rhodes has been a practicing physical therapist since 2000, working in various settings across the southeastern United States. She serves as the chairwoman of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association's Education Committee. Rhodes holds a master's degree in physical therapy from West Virginia University.