// Floating Feet

by Marietta Mehanni

As an aqua instructor, I have pushed, pulled, held and let go of the dumbbell in so many ways that I don’t know if I can do anything new with it, and the same applies to the noodle. They are both fantastic tools with numerous uses, but after years of creativity you need to try something new, particularly with intermediate to advanced level participants. Enter the Hydro Ankle.

Hydro Ankle

The Hydro Ankle increases both resistance and buoyancy and allows the body to become suspended in water, leaving the arms free to move. By adding resistance to the lower body, it achieves higher levels of intensity. The focus on an exercise can completely change when adding resistance and buoyancy to the lower extremities.

For example, a front kick without the Hydro Ankle requires effort to kick the leg up, whilst with the Hydro Ankle greater effort is required to bring the leg back down through the water. This emphasises gluteal and hamstring action rather than quadriceps and illopsoas. Another example is a big M jumping jack. Effort is still required to pull the legs up explosively, but the abductors and adductors have to work harder to push the legs down in the direction required.

The Hydro Ankle also allows shallow water exercises and suspended moves to be combined, for example, 4x alternating kick to either side followed by 2x double leg side kicks (completely suspended). The sequence can then be repeated with the feet in contact with the pool floor.

Another example would be 2x big M jumping jacks with feet rebounding from the bottom of the pool, followed by 2x suspended jacks with the legs in the horizontal position.

Floating feet

As it is a buoyancy tool, effort is required to bring the Hydro Ankle down through the water. When placed directly beneath the centre of gravity, however, it displays Bougier’s principle of stability and balance and acts like an anchor, helping to keep the leg stationary and the foot down, especially in exercises like the suspended single knee repeater.

The Hydro Ankle causes instability when the legs move from under the body to the front, side or behind.

The body naturally allows the legs to float to the surface and the head to sink to the bottom, but as this is an undesirable movement the body recruits its core stabilisers as it attempts to equalise the movement. This constant ‘trying to equalise’ provides a very effective core workout.

A contraindication exists here for those without good core strength or the ability to engage their core muscles.

Some participants have difficulty floating, either because of their BMI or because they are unfamiliar with how to stay afloat. In the case of those for whom a buoyancy belt is not sufficient to keep them afloat, adding the Hydro Ankle can help provide enough buoyancy for them to continue participating in a class.

The Hydro Ankle is also an excellent personal training tool and can be used in circuits, rehabilitation, school groups and sporting groups. The following exercises demonstrate the versatility of this addition to the aqua instructor’s toolbox.

Exercise 1. Lateral leg swings

This can be performed in shallow or deep water. Greater core control is required in deeper water as the hanging leg must be stabilised.

This exercise also challenges the abductors and adductors of the leg.

a) Start with knee flexed at the hip and arms to the side of the body (photo 1).

b) As the knee swings to the side, push the water in the opposite direction with the arms. This allows the body to maintain stability in the water and also encourages use of the core stabilisers (photo 2).

c) Return back to the starting position by swinging the knee back to the front of the body and the arms to the side of the body in the opposite direction.

d) Option 2. To increase the intensity of the exercise, extend the knee, so that the leg is straight and parallel to the bottom of the pool. This exercise could be contraindicated for pregnant women, and participants with sciatica and other back problems, so it is best to provide the initial option before moving onto the advanced choice (photos 3 and 4).

Exercise 2. Knee repeaters

This can be performed in shallow or deep water.

Option 3 can only be performed in deep water from a suspended position. This exercise works the hip flexors, quadriceps, hip extensors-gluteals and hamstrings. It is also very cardiovascular and an effective core conditioning exercise, especially in deep water.

a) Start with knee flexed at the hip with arms sculling to the side (photo 5).

b) Press foot down towards the bottom of the pool. Continue sculling with the arms (photo 6).

c) Return to the starting position by bringing the knee back up towards the hip.

d) Option 2. This requires more coordination and in deep water, more core stability. As the knee is lifted and lowered, add an alternating arm swing. Ensure the opposite arm is extended forward as the knee is lifted (photos 7 and 8).

e) Option 3. This can only be performed in deep water and requires more control and coordination. As the knee is lifted, extend the opposite leg behind the body, keeping it straight (photo 9). As the knee is pushed down, bring the opposite leg forward, keeping it straight (photo 10), so it will appear that one is bending and lifting at the knee, while the opposite leg is swinging back and forward maintaining an extended position.

Exercise 3. Knee extensions

This exercise is suspended, so can be performed at any depth. It works the quadriceps, hip flexors and hamstrings. The core muscles are used to stabilise the body while the leg performs powerful kicks.

a) Start with one leg bent below the hip, so that the foot is slightly behind the body. The other leg is flexed at the hip and knee. The ankle floats make this position very stable due to the distribution of buoyancy (photo 11).

b) Extend the knee forward with a strong kicking action. Maintain stability by keeping the opposite knee bent below the hip and using the arms and hands in a sculling action (photo 12).

c) Return to the starting position by curling the foot forcefully back towards the hip. Continue using the arms and hands in a sculling action.

d) Option 2. Using both legs, extend and flex the knees. Maintain stability by using the arms and hands in a sculling action throughout (photos 13 and 14).

Exercise 4. Kicking combination

This exercise can be performed in both shallow and deep water. It is a compound exercise that involves a full body movement to perform the 270 degree kicks, consequently working most of the muscles in the body. It is very important to keep changing the body position to compliment the kicking leg action, so that the body is always in alignment.

a) Start with one leg kicking forward. Initially take the arms forward to give the movement a starting position (photo 15).

b) Bring the knee into the chest and withdraw the arms back into the body ready to change position in the water (photo 16).

c) Extend the knee and abduct the leg to the side of the body. Extend the arms across the body in the opposite direction, allowing the body to drop to the side to maintain alignment (photo 17).

d) Bring the knee into the chest and withdraw the arms again.

e) Extend the knee and the hip behind the body. Extend the arms to the front of the chest. It is important to drop the chest and head forward (photo 18); it is common for participants to flick the head back as the leg is kicked behind, and this causes hyperextension in the spine.

f) Bring the knee into the chest and then bring forward to kick the knee forward. At the same time, pull the arms from the front of the body to behind the body in a powerful pulling action (photo 19).

g) Repeat the same exercise on the opposite leg.

In deep water the non-working leg is suspended with a slight bend in the knee to bring the ankle float under the body. This makes the movement much more controlled.

Marietta Mehanni
Marietta is an award winning instructor and presenter with over seventeen years of teaching experience in both land and water based group
exercise. Recently qualified for international accreditation (AFAA and ACE), she presents regularly at national and international conventions. Marietta is also a course coordinator, lecturer and examiner for Certificate III in group exercise and aqua exercise leadership.