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New Moves: Popcorns!

As Seen in Self Magazine, July/August 2005
Slo-Mo-Balls available from:

·        Popcorns – submerge, pop up, catch in the air! Add a jog forward as you submerge, release and catch the pop!

1. Shoulders down and back. Submerge ball. Keep abs tight.

1. Shoulders down and back. Submerge ball. Keep abs tight.

3.Catch it in the air!

Train To The Core... Functional Trunk Training
by Mary E, Sanders, Ph.D & Mary C. Curry

In 1986, Joe Montana injured his back while playing a regular season game.  During rehabilitation, his health care providers put him on a new training regime that included exercises targeting spinal stabilization. This type of exercise teaches one to locate and maintain neutral lumbar spine position, a stance that can be defined as the “most stable, least painful position of the spine for the sport or activity at hand” (Morgan, 1988). According to Montana’s health care providers, the objective was to keep him in shape and prepare him as quickly as possible to resume functional activity (Levin, 1991). As a result, he was able to resume his normal physical activities and return to the playing field. 

Montana is only one of millions of individuals who, through physical stress or injury, have experienced moderate to intense back pain. It is estimated that about 80% of the general population will suffer back pain during their life and that one-half will have recurrences (Hughes, 1992).  Since participation in recreational and competitive sports has increased over the years, sports medicine professionals are responding to an increased incidence in back injuries. Therefore, it is essential that professional and recreational athletes alike take measures to prevent back injury-including regular trunk stabilization exercises. 

Combining water exercise with traditional land based sports drills can offer athletes a unique working environment in which various patterns of movement train the trunk stabilizers to better support the body. Moving long “levers” through the water, such as the arms or legs, is an effective way to create overload to strengthen the trunk corset muscles.  That means football players can use the properties of water to mimic and improve their body alignment for safe blocking. Tennis players can use water to practice and strengthen their racquet swings while building protection for the spine (Kolovou, 1998). 

To better understand the benefits of stabilization training, look at the body from the inside out: Consider that the primary muscles that stabilizing the “core” or center of the trunk, also support and protect the spine from stressful movement. need to be strengthened include: Abdominals, Obliques, Spinal Extensors and Trapezius. Muscles that control pelvic positions also play a key role in stabilization, such as the Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Hip Flexors, and Calf.. Muscles that need to be kept flexible include: Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Hip Flexors be kept flexible for stabilization include: Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Hip Flexors, Calf, Hip Rotators and Abductors (outer thigh). 

Targeting all three types of muscle groups is beneficial to any individual who is physically active. The muscles that require flexibility impact the spine’s ability to achieve the most biomechanically correct neutral position from which stabilization training can begin (Coleetal, 1992). The core muscle groups work in concert, lengthening and strengthening to reduce stress on the spine during motion.  The result is an ability to better control movements during motion.  The result is an ability to better control movements during all activities, athletic or otherwise. Let’s examine some exercise progressions that target “inside-out” training for core stabilization.

References: Available upon request.

Let's examine some exercise progressions that target "inside-out" training for core stabilization.

Note: Consult a physician prior to starting any new workout regimen. Make sure to warm up prior to beginning work, then monitor intensity during workout. Use perceived exertion, heart rate monitor, or the "talk" test to check intensity. Remember, heart rates are variable and measure only a portion of the intensity story.

1. Stabilize, with shoulders down and back in either a wide or lunged stance (one foot in front).  Choose your overload by using webbed gloves, a paddle or a Power Buoys. Begin the progression.
  • Contract abdominals and swim your equipment away from your body, making an “S” pattern.  Hold steady.
  • Increase the upper body speed, away and into the trunk. 
  • Increase the size of the pattern, making it rounder.
  • Stand taller, with feet under the shoulders in a more functional stance.
  • Maintain size and speed and stand on 1 leg. Swim out to diagonal planes, working the pattern to each side. 

2. Using a kickboard, submerge your arms and create a brace with shoulders pulled down and back.  Tighten abdominals, keeping the hips in neutral alignment.  Check the neck position and gaze downward to prevent hyperextension.  Begin the progression.

  • Stabilize the body, without rolling side to side as you kick.
  • Increase the speed of the kick. Increase the size of the kick.
  • Change the position of the board, by progressively bringing it a little closer to the surface.
  • Increase the size and speed of the kicks again.

3. By using a tennis racket or linking together the Speedo Power Buoys, you can create a long lever that, when moved in diagonal patterns across the body will place load the core groups, as you try to maintain neutral posture.  

  • Keep shoulders facing forward and prevent upper body rotation by contracting the abdominals and stabilizing with the obliques and the lower back. 
  • Stabilize in a lunge position.
  • Perform diagonal tennis or kayaking movements without equipment.
  • Begin working with a tennis racquet or Power Buoys, repeating the pattern.
  • Increase size of the move.
  • Increase speed.
  • Stand tall with feet in line with shoulders.
  • Increase size and speed again.
  • Try the move while standing on one leg.

Mary E. Sanders, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, School of Medicine, Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health, University of Nevada, Reno and Director of WaterFitÒ/Golden Wavesâ; Affiliated Faculty, Sanford Center for Aging University of Nevada; Associate Editor of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal for the American College of Sports Medicine; Advisory board member for International Council on Active Aging; columnist The Journal of Active Aging; Faculty member, Thera-Band® Advisory Board & Research Advisory Committee, TRAC Academy, Editor/co-author of YMCA Water Fitness for Health and developer of WaterFit Ò and the SpeedoÒ Aquatic Fitness Systems.  Mary has been active for 20 years conducting research in exercise sciences & leadership, training instructors globally and as an international presenter and author. She can be contacted at www.waterfit.com .

Current Research Projects:

  • Program Evaluation: Determining the Impact of a Water-based, Cross-cultural Exercise Program for Women Aged 50 Years and Older to Improve or Maintain Functional Activities of Daily Living on Land (Includes data from programs conducted in the USA, Japan and Spain)

  • Efficacy of the Thera-Band®, First Step for Active Health Program Among Participants in a Medical-Based Weight Loss Program

  • Understanding How A Water Exercise Program Motivates Older Adults to Be Physically Active

  • Program Evaluation: Integrating Water Exercise into Current Physical Education Programs in Hong Kong Middles & Secondary Schools


  • IDEA, Health & Fitness Association, Instructor of the Year, 1997

  • Aquatic Exercise Association, Global Award, Lifetime Achievement in Aquatic Fitness, 2000

  • Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association’s, Fitness Educator of the Year, 2001

  • Sanford Center for Aging, University of Nevada, Reno, 2002, Senior Star Tribute

  • Aerobic Fitness & Health Association, Republic of China, 10 Years of Industry Contributions, 2004 presented at the International Health Promotion & Aerobic Convention, Taipei, Taiwan

Mary is certified as a Health & Fitness Instructor by ACE and ACSM and a continuing education provider for a number of certification organizations.

Contact Mary Sanders via email.

! Consumer Magazines featuring Water Fitness:!

Good HouseKeeping- July
Truly Yours Magazine- August 
Cooking Light - August

! Professional Website Links !

American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM's Health &
Fitness Journal:

Aquatic Exercise Association: http://www.aeawave.com

IDEA, The Health & Fitness Source: http://www.ideafit.com

YMCA of the USA: http://www.YMCA.net

! Consumer Links !

Web MD: http://www.webmd.com
Venus Sports: http://www.VenusSports.com