Friday, February 27, 2009

Water Fitness Barbells and Dryland Weights Work Different Muscles

I stumbled into a water fitness class once when I didn’t know the open-swim schedule at the gym (and actually came back the next day because it was a blast!) . I remember it being more of a workout than I had anticipated. It looks like a lot of jumping and playing with pool toys, but if done correctly, water fitness can be an intense form of exercise.

However, I do remember a little red flag going up during the barbell curls. And nothing against the instructor, because she was really fun and energetic, but she was giving the fitness class some incorrect information.

In this article, I want to draw some attention to the difference between dryland and water fitness exercises that resemble the same movement but actually work opposite muscle groups. Let’s take a look at the Tricep Extension.

dryland tricep extension with weight

Notice for the Dryland Tricep Extension with a traditional dumbell, the force of gravity is pulling the weight straight down (obviously). The direction of motion is shown as an arrow, and the direction of contraction is moving with the direction of motion and against the direction of the force caused by gravity.

This is known as a concentric contraction, when the direction of movement and the force produced by the muscle are aligned in the same direction causing a shortening of the muscle during contraction. I’ve highlighted the triceps in this picture to illustrate the muscles contracting during this exercise. Now let’s see what happens underwater with a floating barbell.

aquatic tricep extension with floating barbell

Underwater, notice how the force produced by the floating barbell is basically opposite to that force produced by the dryland weight. This is because the floating barbell floats (duh) and is causing a force aiming straight up to the surface of the water.

If you did the exact same movement as in the previous picture, the weight would not only be a lot easier to lift–the weight would be lifting itself and your arm would have to contract to slow it down. In fact, this is precisely what is happening with the underwater tricep extension movement. In this case the force produced by the ‘weight’ and the motion are in the same direction. And this time, the direction of motion and the direction of contraction are in opposite directions.

When this happens, your triceps aren’t even contracting (and if they are, it’s with very little force). Because the float weight is lifting itself to the surface, your biceps are contracting in the opposite direction while they are slowly getting longer. This is called an eccentric contraction, a contraction in the opposite direction of motion that causes the muscle to get longer while producing force.

Here’s another way to think about it: For this example the lead weight will still be a lead weight, but the floating barbell will be a balloon filled with helium. To lift the lead weight, you produce force upward in the direction of the motion (force up + movement up = concentric). To slowly lift the helium balloon, all you have to do is decrease the amount of force you are already using to hold the string (force down + movement up = eccentric).

In summary, whenever you are using floating weights in aquatic fitness classes, be aware of the direction of force produced by whatever it is you are holding. If it has a natural tendency to move upward, lifting it will not be the same as lifting a dumbell on land. Your tricep extensions may not be working your triceps at all!

Friday, February 27, 2009

GoSwim Backstroke with Aaron Peirsol

Check out this trailer for GoSwim Backstroke featuring Aaron Peirsol!

This DVD has a lot of great underwater shots and slow motion captures to show you Aaron’s technique from all angles. Great for swimmers looking to improve their stroke, or any Aaron Peirsol fan!

For more GoSwim trailers, visit our Facebook Page.

Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 Diving Grand Prix Comes to Rostock, Germany

synchro diving team from china at 2008 grand prixThe 15th Annual Grand Prix of Diving begins the second meet of seven today in Rostock, Germany. Rostock is located on the northern shore of Germany on the estuary of the Warnow River, near the Baltic Sea.

Similar to the Grand Prix of Swimming, divers have an opportunity to win cash prizes for their performance in the series. The top three individual divers in each event, and the top three synchro teams in each event will receive prizes in the range of $1,000 to $5,000 U.S. dollars at the conclusion of the Grand Prix series (source). For the meet at Rostock alone, winners of each event can expect 1,000 EURO along with a “special prize.” Second and third place receive 500 and 250 EURO respectively (meet info PDF).

According to the meet website, the Grand Prix meet in Rostock corresponds to the 54th Internationaler Springertag, or International Diver’s Day. Divers from 19 countries are in attendance, with the largest teams representing host Germany followed by diving world power China.

It looks as though 2008 Olympic champion He Chong (CHN) and silver medalist Alex Despartie (CAN) will once again not be in attendance at this Grand Prix event.

Source:, Springertag Rostock

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Indoor Water Park Resorts and the Staycation

water parks and indoor waterpark reports that, “one of the two top segments of waterpark-industry growth is that of the indoor waterpark hotel.” I’m no economic analyst, but I’m going to venture a guess that the economic recession might actually have a less severe impact on the attendance rates of water parks, amuzement parks, and hotel resorts. If you have one nearby, the waterpark hotel is the perfect destination for a staycation.

Definition: staycation: a dream vacation right at your doorstep (Urban Dictionary) When the price of gas and travel is too high, some look for local options to “get away” without really leaving.

Future Vacations says that “staycations do not necessarily mean stay-at-home, but rather it may mean that families can travel and stay in their home states.”

Will you still spend money on a staycation? Yes. But imagine how much money you would save going to an indoor water park hotel in Michigan, rather than driving or flying to Florida. With a simulated tropical (or other theme) environment, you can get the escape from winter weather that you desperately need without breaking the bank.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Video: First Looping Water Slide in Germany

Gizmodo introduced me to this amazing video: a German water slide that does an upside down loop! Ok, so when you watch the video you’ll see that the loop is sort of slumped to the side. But remember, water doesn’t flow uphill, so that’s pretty impressive.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Video: Synchro Swimming Goldfish

I found this video on Blogfish (…guess what their blog is about). Four goldfish that are trained to swim in synchronized patterns, under the direction of a trainer using hand gestures to guide them. One comment on the YouTube video suggested the fish were fed iron and controlled with a magnet. Who knows!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Love The Morning Swim Show Newsroom

morning swim show side by side

The Morning Swim Show, a daily swimming news brief produced by Swimming World Magazine, has a very professional look these days. Host Peter Busch is in coat and tie, and the newsroom set is only outclassed by Peter’s I just got out of the pool meets business professional hair.

Watch archived episodes HERE, and tune in daily at 10:30am MST

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obscure Olympic Results

I just picked up a copy of An Approved History of the Olympic Games, that includes results from every Olympics through 1984. It reminds me of the sports almanac in Back To The Future II — if I could take this book back in time, I’d have the best Olympic predictions blog around; but no computer.

When I opened it up, I was hit by a wave of that old book smell that you don’t (at least you shouldn’t) get with computers these days.

The 1896 Olympics in Athens only has 4 swimming events listed. And the most obscure medal goes to: 100m Free Style between Sailors. The host nation, Greece, went on to win the gold and silver. There are no reported times for the event, but I’d imagine they’d be around the 1:22.2 gold medal time in the regular 100m Free clocked in by Alfred Hajos of Hungary.

The event was not repeated in the next Olympics. Any idea why sailors had their own category?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mesa State College Adds Men’s Swimming and Diving

mesa state college ads men's swimming and divingThis news could definitely serve as an up-beat response to my post last week about NCAA program cuts in Olympic sports. In a press release February 18th, Mesa State College (Grand Junction, CO) announced the addition of men’s golf and men’s swimming and diving to their university’s athletic program.

A women’s swim team was added in 2005, and with participation and success on their part (along with a new aquatics facility) a men’s team was justified. Women’s head coach Brian Pearson will oversee the men

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

3D Sidewalk Art Makes a City Street into a Pool

3d sidewalk artJulian Beever has been making forced-perspective sidewalk art for years. The images appear 3D from a certain spot, but at the wrong angle just look like extended blobs of color. Click the image in the thumbnail to see that it is actually close to 50 feet long, and relies on the sidewalk’s natural vanishing point.

Check out Beever’s gallery of sidewalk art, and remember it’s all drawn on a flat surface. Pretty amazing! You can go high-diving and whitewater rafting on the city sidewalk with a little imagination.

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