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The no-sweat workout: make waves and add excitement to your workout with BenchAquatix.

What's your D & B rating? Not Dun and Bradstreet, but the instructor's nightmare, Dull and Boring! As professionals we attend workshops, read articles about health and fitness, exercise science and nutrition, spend hours in the studio working on new choreography and are always looking for new ideas to keep our programs fresh and exciting for both participants and instructors.

The latest trend to hit the industry is the step-training concept. Known for years as the Harvard Step Test for cardiorespiratory endurance and as a rehabilitation modality for problem knees, step-training to music was a natural evolution as creative choreographers began looking for new ways to attract participants to the studio. But everyone is not a candidate for the aerobics room with its mirrors and hardworking denizens. So another fitness trend is toward a softer, cooler workout in water with built-in resistance and cushioning. As a crosstraining medium, water workouts are ideal--intensity need not be sacrificed for safety, yet the frailest person can still exercise in relative comfort. Aqua aerobics classes have existed for years as the perfect exercise for seniors who feel invigorated without the fatigue often associated with traditional strength and aerobic conditioning programs. Olympic athletes have also included water training as a method of maintaining their training schedules while avoiding or recovering from injuries.

Bench Aquatix evolved from the step-training concept and combines both the resistance and cushioning of the water with the vertical displacement of stepping up and down. The same steps and tempo used in your step classes will translate well to the water, but are performed half-time in chest-deep water. The addition of water-or air-filled weights, Spenco weights or buoyancy bells, can add stability and intensity to the workout. Unlike land classes, rebound movements can be performed in safety in addition to moves usually unsafe on land--jumping jacks from the bench or jump-turns over the top.

When beginning a Bench Aquatix program find an appropriate bench or step. It must be waterproof, light enough to get in and out of the pool easily yet heavy enough to stay on the bottom in turbulent water, must be without rough or sharp edges, stable enough to remain upright if kicked accidentally and easily stored (many pool facilities have limited storage space) or carried by participants to and from class. To date, only two products have been tested that meet these criteria--the BenchStep 2000, created and marketed by BenchAerobix, Inc., a one-piece, stackable bench made of high-impact plastic and the CardioStep, made by CardioStep, a smaller product made of wire-reinforced fiberglass.

The Step, marketed by Reebok, tends to float, but you may be able to modify it slightly to make it sink. Bricks and cinder blocks, while heavy enough to stay down, are difficult to place in the water safely and could damage the bottom as well as desintegrate and clog the pool filters. Their sharp, abrasive edges could also cut a bare leg or scrape sensitive feet. Wooden benches have the disadvantage of warping if alternately soaked and dried. Marine plywood, while treated for use in water, was designed to remain in water for long periods of time and may still break down from repeated intermittent immersion. Using milk crates, plastic tables or stools is not recommended as they are unstable in turbulent water and could easily be kicked over and become entangled in legs. If your pool has built-in steps, most of the stepping and rebounding patterns can be performed safely without any concerns other than how many participants can step at the same time.

Shoes made for water exercise, such as Reef Warriors by Omega, Aqua Sock Two by Nike or Kahunas by Reebok will provide traction and stability as well as protection from a rough pool bottom. Some instructors prefer to have a pair of aerobics shoes to wear exclusively in the water, feeling they receive better protection and support. The advantage of an aqua sock is not only are they designed for the water, but won't take days to dry.

Once in the water, all standards and guidelines for a safe and effective exercise class are in force. Always include a warm-up, stretching each major muscle group, a cool-down and be sure participants use good form and maintain proper alignment. There should be enough distance between each bench to allow participants to move without colliding with each other. Only one person should use each bench, and the total number of participants will need to be limited to those who can be safely accommodated. (This number will vary according to the size of your facility and the amount of space available for your class.) Water depth should be no more than approximately chest deep so the whole foot can be solidly on the bottom when descending from the bench. This allows vertical movement between chest and waist-deep water, and maximizes the use of the arms for stability and resistance. Shorter participants will be in shallower water while taller individuals can place their benches deeper according to their height. Be sure to check the amount of slope at any given depth--some pools have a sharp drop-off and should be roped off to avoid accidents. Shallower depths are good for a more intense leg workout, and allow for more creative arm work.

As in any water exercise class, a certified lifeguard should be present in addition to the instructor. Even though many facilities require instructors be lifeguard trained, an instructor's first duty is to teach the class. Whether you are demonstrating from the pool or the deck, you cannot see everything as well as a trained guard in an elevated chair who has the primary task of spotting individuals in potential danger. However, if you have not yet received rescue training, it is still advisable to obtain it, as your best defense in any emergency is to be thoroughly prepared.

Introduce stepping movements gradually, beginning with simple patterns and staying with them so participants can become accustomed to the turbulence they create. Intersperse stepping patterns with steps from your traditional aqua classes to allow for some mental and physical recovery--those new to BenchAquatix may experience some muscle soreness the next day due to the eccentric muscle contractions now possible with this class format. Emphasize the need to place the whole foot in the center of the platform when stepping up, and to step down softly onto the ball of the foot through the heel with knees slightly soft to absorb body weight when descending. Body weight should be held slightly forward, with abdominals contracted at all times to keep the torso stabilized and the center of buoyancy over the foot that steps up. By using the arms in an assisting manner, participants can anticipate the directional changes of stepping up and down. Stronger participants may be able to use the arms to resist those changes, making it more difficult and thereby increasing their intensity level.

When introducing rebounding movements, be aware of your participants' abilities or limitations and be prepared to offer alternatives--every rebound step has a non-rebounding variation that can be performed in its place. Be careful if you decide to include steps in which both feet jump off simultaneously, such as jumping jacks. While safer in water than on land, these moves are still risky. Practicing your choreography ahead of time to the music you intend to use will help you decide which moves you can safely show your classes.

Bench Aquatix is an exciting way to attract new participants to water exercise classes and will keep regulars coming back for more. Give yourself a fresh start this spring with the nosweat workout!

For more information on BenchAquatix, or to arrange for an instructor training workshop at your facility, contact the reConstruction project at P.O. Box 18259, Baltimore, MD 21227-8259.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:workouts in the water
Author:Nicht, Sandra K.; Tilden, Helen
Publication:American Fitness
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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