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Want the benefits of plyometric training but hate how it makes your joints feel? Try taking your workout under water. Aquatic plyometric training offers athletes the opportunity for an explosive workout for a longer period of time and with less risk of injury than dry land workouts. Plus, the water offers a new and different training environment, which works as a motivational stimulus for athletes and increases their potential to improve their performance quickly. (See how aquatic training will improve your performance.)
It's hard to imagine traditional plyometric exercises like bounding across a field, leaping over cones and hurdles, and jumping on, off, and over boxes being performed in a pool. But that may soon change, as aquatic plyometrics continues to grow in popularity among athletes.
Exercising underwater confers enormous benefits by challenging the body in ways that cannot be replicated on dry land. Working out in water produces a higher level of exhaustion, because it takes more effort to move against the constant resistance of the water.
According to world champion surfer and radical fitness expert Laird Hamilton, "Water is 800 times as dense as air, so it creates pressure on your body, which increases your blood flow. This can be deceptive, because you will not be nearly as sore but very fatigued due to oxygen restriction and changing your breathing patterns"
Water's density and buoyancy counteract gravity, thus reducing impact on the body. Aquatic plyometrics allow athletes with joint, muscle or tendon injuries, who cannot take the pounding on hard surfaces, to participate without causing more harm. Even those who can effectively perform dry-land plyometrics can benefit from aquatic plyos, because they help prevent pain in the joints and reduce recovery time. Also, pool work provides a nice change of pace and adds variety to workouts.
Pros & Cons
One drawback to performing plyometric exercises in the pool is the lower intensity of movements, because impact forces are greatly reduced. However, one of its great advantages is that athletes can progress more quickly to higher volume training intensity.
Most aquatic plyometric programs focus on the lower half of the body, but upper-body movements, such as angled Push-Ups with hands on the wall, can be also be performed in the pool. For core strengthening, floating on your back or chest engages the core muscles to keep you in the correct posture.
- Tread for 10 seconds holding right hand out of the water; repeat with left hand out
- Tread for 10 seconds holding right ankle behind you; repeat with left ankle
- Hold a 10-pound weight out of the water with your right hand and side-stroke to the other end of the pool. Repeat with the left.
- Hold a 10-pound dumbbell between your thighs and hold your legs out in front so your body forms a "V"
- Use your arms to keep from sinking while you move your body across the length of the pool
- Hold a 10-pound weight to your chest and swim from one end of the pool to the other
Source: Laird Hamilton, "Do it in the Deep End: Mind & Body," retrieved from Men's Journal, August 2012