Webinar Discussing Aquatic Training Programs for Healthy Athletes Available On Demand
Last month, we hosted a webinar titled, “Aquatic Training Programs for Healthy Athletes.” In this webinar, Murphy Grant, MS, LAT, PES, Assistant Athletic Director- Sports Medicine and Head Football Athletic Trainer at University of Kansas, located in Lawrence, KS presented about how he utilizes aquatics whenever he can to boost the abilities of his healthy athletes as well as those recovering from injury.
In this webinar, now accessible on-demand, Grant shared some of his expertise on creating aquatic training programs that build strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. Such attributes help athletes involved in all disciplines, from football to golf to baseball. As he notes, his colleagues in Lawrence, Kansas, consider aquatics to be a valuable piece of their overall philosophy of using innovation to foster physical achievement and improvement.
Why Aquatics for Athletes Makes Sense
The NCAA estimates that there are approximately 460,000 student athletes in the United States. Those that are fortunate enough to train in the water with athletic trainers, such as Murphy, can enjoy several advantages such as:
- The water temperature encourages athletes’ bodies to burn more calories during each session.
- Water is about 1,000 times denser than air. It presses against the athlete all the time, through hydrostatic pressure, forcing them or her to develop posture, balance and stability.
- There is resistance in every direction when an athlete is in the pool. This causes a well-balanced workout for all the muscle groups.
- In a therapy pool, water may be pushed away from the body, but it will eventually hit the pool wall and bounce back. This creates additional resistance before the exercising even begins.
Planning an Aquatic Workout for Student Athletes
Of course, the real benefits of aquatic exercise and conditioning come from a well-prepared workout regimen, and Murphy shared his favorite routines during this presentation.
- Traditional knee hug. This prepares the body to propel itself forward. On a moving underwater treadmill, a traditional knee hug works the body’s stability from the knee to the ankle joint.
- Heel-to-butt stretch. This quad stretch can be done while standing still (static) or on a moving treadmill. To add to the stretch and increase the stability challenge, the athlete can add an overhead reach with his or her available arm.
- Heel-to-hip stretch. The hips need to be loose to improve performance, and when this stretch is done on an underwater treadmill at a pace of 1.2-1.6MPH, it promotes stabilization and core strength.
- A-March and A-Skip. These are progressive arm and leg movements and force the body to drive the knee upward against the resistance of the water.
- Side-to-side and front-to-back leg swings. This is another example of hip extension. If the athlete or patient gets on tiptoes, other parts of the body will also be activated.
- Straight leg march. This can be done with or without the underwater treadmill in motion and can be the first step to a straight-legged kick-step.
Strength Training with Water Dumbbells
- Squat to press. By pressing out against the water, rather than pressing upwards, the upper body gets a workout, as does the core.
- Squat to curl to press. This exercise works core stability as well. The water moves the person in every single direction at once.
Strength Training Exercises
- Front-to-back lunge. Being in the water makes it tougher for the athlete to create momentum.
- Front-to-lateral lunge. This works both concentric and eccentric movements and really promotes incorporation of mind and body.
Reactive Training Exercises (focusing on powerful movements followed by explosive movements)
- Butt kicks, hops and jumps with stabilization. These enhance muscle spindle and neuromuscular activity.
- Single leg hop. When done on the underwater treadmill, the result can be incredibly challenging. The hands even have to work to keep the body in balance.
- Lateral single leg hop on a moving treadmill. Even at a 0.9-1.0MPH underwater treadmill pace, transitioning from the right to the left foot isn’t easy, even for very strong athletes.
Speed Training Exercises (e.g., starting speed, acceleration speed, top speed, change of direction speed)
- Straight legs shuffle. Because all sports are multi-directional, straight leg shuffling in water can push athletes in all directions simultaneously.
- Butt kickers. This exercise promotes proper mechanics, including posture, arm action and leg action.
- Crossover to shuffling. Once you cross over and have your feet planted, you need the core stability and balance to make the movement work.
- Lateral shuffle. Having to shuffle, stop, load and shuffle in the other direction while going against the resistance of the water isn’t easy for athletes, making it an excellent exercise for speed training.
- Carioca/Tapioca. These steps offer variance to your athletes’ training program.
- Skipping, bounding, sprinting. Sprinting can be done to the front, and then cut to the sides while the underwater treadmill is running. Resistance jets can add force. Cranking up the intensity is a fast way to significant cardiovascular improvement.
Q&A with Murphy:
How well do you find you’re able to maintain the same fitness levels as on land?
“We can keep our levels up pretty high. If fitness and conditioning is what you want, we do a couple of things, like a steady run for a specific amount of time… I know the individuals with Oregon Project do a lot of training with their runners with good results. We have had good results, too.”
Do you do these types of programs in-season, off-season or both?
“It’s a case-by-case basis. We don’t necessarily want to pound athletes after practice, so they may come in and get fitness work done in the pool. In the off-season, we will create an entire program for them to keep their conditioning up.”
Do you use the water for recovery with athletes as well?
“The last time I was in the UK in Manchester City, we discussed recovery things that they like to use with athletes there. We are really trying to get a lot of flush and muscular activation [in recovery].”
Do you require all athletes to use the water?
“It’s a huge part and major part of our philosophy at KU [in Lawrence, KS.] Every injured athlete gets in the water, pretty much. I believe there is some comfort for them that they are moving again. From a performance standpoint, if there’s someone we don’t want pounding at practice, we’ll exercise in the water instead of on the field or court.”
Do you try to correct foot/knee alignment for injured players?
“Absolutely. I want to break down uninjured players’ mechanics, too. I’m a biomechanical person. I’m always on them about angles of knees, ankles, hips. I’m a big-time stickler. I try to correct it on everyone.”
Watch the entire webinar on-demand and see these exercises performed and find out all the ways you can help your student athletes (healthy or injured) using aquatics,