Webinar Recap: Biomechanical Alterations in the Water

Webinar Recap: Biomechanical Alterations in the Water

Recently, HydroWorx sponsored a webinar presented by Nick Held, M.Hk, CSCS, Research and Development Manager at Hydrathletics located in Kingston, ON. In this webinar, he focused on the biomechanical alterations during running while immersed in water compared to land-based running.

Watch the full webinar on-demand now>>

Nick has extensive experience with aquatic therapy and has done a lot of research related to aquatic therapy, underwater treadmills and biomechanics. He broke down a lot of information regarding running biomechanics, particularly in light of the millions of runners in the US alone and the high level of injuries, often brought on by high training loads and mechanics.

What are reasons to use water running?

  1. Cross training – during a high load week a runner may use underwater running to decrease physical load while maintaining physiological benefits of running.
  2. Rehabilitation – used to off-load joints and start running earlier in the process to work on energy system development.

The three main types of water running are:

  1. Deep water running – run in place with floatation belt and feet not touching the ground
    • dramatically different in lower body kinematics compared to land running
  2. Shallow water running – running in a pool between hip and xyphoid process, making contact with the floor while running
    • more similar to land than deep water running, but because of the frontal resistance that the water produces, there is a different strategy of locomotion than land.
  3. Aquatic treadmill running – running in place with a built-in underwater treadmill. This produces the most similar gait pattern to land. The treadmill eliminates the frontal motion through the water.

Literature on land biomechanics are much more abundant than those underwater, but Nick details some of the biomechanical alterations underwater:

  • Kinematic variables
    • Frontal plane
    • Sagittal plane
    • Stride index
    • Overstride angle
    • Knee contact angle
  • Kinetic variables
    • Vertical ground reaction forces
  • Spatio-temporal
    • Stride cycle
    • Stride frequency
  • Muscle activation

Lastly, Nick shared how he uses the pool. He shared his return to run program, breaking down by phases. Importantly during  a return to run program he focuses on a few key goals with water therapy:

  • Movement skills development
  • Energy system development
  • Increase load and speed – progressively increase load with repetition and creativity to reduce risk of injury
  • Return to sport and/or running

Watch the research webinar here>>

After the information-packed webinar, Nick took a few questions:

Do you know if there have been studies done regarding aquatic treadmill running to return to jumping?

  • I have not seen any specific to triple jump, but am currently reviewing one on plyometrics and benefits for cross training because of training and forces.

Do you know of any specific nutrition/hydration for before/during/after training in the water?

  • There is not anything specific out there. I treat it similar in the water to land. Water is not an easy workout. The intensity of the exercise will determine the macro nutrients needed. After exercising in water, you need more water and you’re urinating more often which is common.

In return to land progressions, how long is each phase and what measure do you use to determine moving to the next phase?

  • It is always different depending on the individual and injury. Typically focus on progress from a heavy walking program to a more heavily running program. I use pain response as an indication of time to move forward, along with monitoring soreness, limping or joint effusion after sessions.


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