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Coordinated Response

Coordinated Response

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Regardless of our age or ability, the most essential physical skills we need are balance and coordination. Balance is the basic skill necessary for walking, running and virtually all sports. Coordination refers to the harmonious functioning of our muscles when we engage in complex physical tasks. More precisely, it is the interconnection between the cycle of muscular contraction and relaxation that facilitates physical movement.

The degree of success we experience in performing everything from the basic activities of daily living to highly complex physical tasks is fundamentally dependent on the combination of these two skills.

In our previous article, “Saving Grace” (Aquatics International, February 2010), we discussed the importance of balance training and examined a progression of exercises designed to improve stability and agility in the shallow water. In this article, we’ll take these concepts further and examine the guidelines for improving coordination in the buoyant environment of deep water.

The purpose behind coordination training is to teach the brain how to quickly activate the right muscles at the right time to keep the body upright and moving in the right direction. Muscle synergy and motor coordination are the key elements. Exercises designed to improve coordination will activate and challenge the integration of processes occurring between the muscular system, the skeletal system and the brain.

The two deep-water exercises illustrated here use a familiar and simple physical activity, bicycling, and make it more complex by involving multiple muscle synergies in varying proportions. The first level of synergy involves a bicycling motion with a single leg while maintaining the alternate leg firm and stable. The next level of synergy involves directionality — the single-leg bicycle action is performed in reverse direction.

In both exercises the arms perform a bilateral pattern, sweeping forward or backward to assist movement while the legs continue to perform a unilateral bicycle pattern. All of this is coordinated while maintaining the body in an upright position and moving through the water — a very complex set of moves.

To add a third level of synergy, try having students perform the exercises using three different speeds — slow, medium and fast. By using these simple, functional exercises in deep-water workouts, you’ll help your students improve their balance and coordination.


Bicycle Forward/Breaststroke Pull

Establish vertical body position and dynamic leg action by jogging in place and sculling with the arms.

Exercise Action: With shoulders aligned over hips and pelvis in neutral, extend left leg straight down. Bicycle forward with right leg only as you breaststroke pull with arms to assist travel forward through water. Engage abdominals and lengthen through spine. Keep chest open and sternum lifted. Maintain left leg firm and straight in vertical position, hips stable and pelvis in neutral. After 8-16 repetitions, repeat coordinated exercise action with right leg held straight and left leg bicycling forward.


Bicycle Backward/Sweep Front

Establish vertical body position and dynamic leg action by jogging in place and sculling with the arms.

Exercise Action: With shoulders aligned over hips and pelvis in neutral, extend left leg straight down. Bicycle backward with right leg only as you extend both arms straight out to sides and sweep forward and in front of chest. Pull arms directly in toward chest to recover and repeat the sweeping arm action to assist travel backward through water. Engage abdominals and lengthen through spine. Make sure wrists are held in neutral position with thumbs facing up. Maintain left leg firm and straight in vertical position, hips stable and pelvis in neutral. After 8-16 repetitions, repeat coordinated exercise action with right leg held straight and left leg bicycling backward.