Saturday, January 30, 2010

The dive tank workouts

Jenna wanted to know what exactly I do in the dive tank. Thank you for asking.

I started doing all this stuff a while ago because I had a weak and flabby belly and I'm still working on it. Once upon a time I tried a pilates class but nearly puked after. Seriously. I fully recognize that it's good for me, but it damn near killed me. I need a pre-beginner pilates class.

The idea with my exercises is to take some of the yoga and pilates moves, and translate them into water since I was at the pool anyway. Some are to build strength, and some are to develop mobility. I figure it's much harder to hurt myself in water, and I can control how much effort goes into it. These can be done in any order and I usually mix them up to keep from working the same muscles too much at once. I try to do all these slowly, feeling the water resistance and how my muscles are working. I do variable numbers of these depending on how I'm feeling, or how long I want to take. I don't think I've ever done all of them in the same session.

Most of the pools here come with a little lip at the top of the vertical tank wall, then a bit of a slope to the actual gutter. The lip is just big enough to hook your fingers on, but not enough to get a real grip on. Here's a not to scale cross section drawing to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.

With your back to the wall, stretch your arms out along the lip, and hang on with your fingers. I usually have my elbows in the water, not on the lip. Heels against the wall. Keep your legs straight and slowly lift your toes out of the water in front of you. Leave as much of your back against the wall as possible. Do not use your arms; your fingers should be relaxed. Try to pull your legs back down to the wall while keeping your back against the wall.

Same pose, lift legs to 90 degrees from wall, so you're in an L position. Rotate your legs to touch the wall, first one side, then the other. I try to keep my shoulders flat against the wall, and again, keep your fingers relaxed. Make your core do the work. I'll usually let my hip slide along the wall a bit to keep my spine straight. If I'm feeling really strong, I'll get my toes out of the water, and then swing them to each side in turn. Slowly. Very slowly.

Same pose, now draw small circles with your toes, legs together, then gradually make the circles bigger till your toes are out of the water at the top, and nearly touching the wall at the bottom, then gradually make the circles smaller again. Then go the other way. Slowly. Breathe.

Same pose, starting with your heels against the wall. Slide your legs apart moving your heels up the wall. When they won't go any further, let them go away from the wall out in front of you, keeping them as high as possible. They should meet in front of you near or above the water surface. Go back the same way. Keep your tailbone against the wall.

Same pose, tuck your heels under your butt, and bring your knees up to your chest, slowly, while keeping your tailbone against the wall. Do not let your knees float up by letting your back curl. If I'm feeling ambitious, when my knees are tucked up, I'll straighten my legs then tuck, and lower my knees again. Do this one very slowly. Keep those knees under control.

Hook one arm over the wall, and dangle your body straight down against the wall. You are looking along the edge of the pool. Move the leg closest to the centre of the pool backwards, then around outward as wide and high as possible, then around to the front and back down again doing a big circle. Keep the leg straight and point your toes. Keep the other hip against the wall. Repeat as often as desired, then go the other way. Then swap arms, and do the other leg.

While one arm is hooked over the wall, slowly pedal the leg closest to the centre of the pool as if the bike was 10 x too big for you. Lift your knee up high, then leg forward, then down, and and then reach back. Then do it backwards. Then swap arms and do the other leg. I just started doing this one and almost always get a cramp somewhere.

While one arm is hooked over the wall, push the leg furthest from the wall out sideways and up toward the surface as hard as you can, using the muscles on the outside of your thigh. Use your other leg to anchor against the pool wall. Pull back in, working the inner thigh muscles. Repeat. Then swap arms and do the other leg. You should see a little swirl of water on the surface.

For this one, I hang onto the gutter so my elbow is just over the lip of the pool with my arm straight. I'm hanging down with maybe a foot between the wall and my armpit, facing along the side of the pool, body angled toward the wall, with the outside edge of my foot touching the pool wall. Then I move my hip out toward the centre of the pool, while moving my feet up the wall. My legs are kept straight. I'm arching my body sideways, with my arm relaxed, using the muscles in the side of my body. Then I move my hip in to touch the pool wall, and slide my feet down the wall a bit. Repeat. Do both sides. Its sort of like side plank touching your hip to the mat, but there shouldn't be any stress on your arm.

Face the pool wall with your chin on the side of the pool, arrange your arms comfortably. I rest my chin on my wrists. Body straight down, toes touching the wall. Now slowly move the toes of one foot along the wall up toward the surface of the water as high as they will go, then back down. Do the other leg. Make sure your hips stay against the pool wall, not necessarily touching, but don't let your butt poke out. Keep the other side of your body straight, you shouldn't be doing anything weird with your hips. Do nothing with your arms. Then move both legs together out to each side, toes sliding along the wall. Keep your butt in, and your hips centered vertically under your shoulders! This one is really hard to do without getting your arms involved.

Same position, bend one leg at the knee so the shin is horizontal. The other points straight down along the wall. Push the toes of the bent leg toward the centre of the pool, sliding your shin horizontally away from the wall. Use your butt.

Same position, bend one leg as much as it will go, as if you were going to reach back to pull the foot for a quad stretch. Now move the knee away from the wall. Carefully, or this will be cramp city.

Face the pool wall at arms length, arms along the surface of the water, toes against the wall, almost in a push up position. Move the toes of both legs vertically up the wall as far as you can with your legs straight, then back down again. Fold your body at the hips, almost like a diver's pike position. Make your core do the work. Keep your arms still.

Same position, only this time, move your toes sideways out along the wall, and up the wall toward the surface. Keep your arms at the surface and keep them relaxed. If you've got the core strength to curl your butt under while keeping your legs straight, go for it. Use core muscles only to move your legs. Your toes will draw a semicircle along the pool wall.

One arm pushup position, similar to above, elbow out to the side. Do the push up movement as fast as you can push against the water. Then move the elbow so it goes down instead of out, and keep going. Swap arms. I'm doing this one to build strength and mobility in the arm I broke last year. Sometimes it takes a bit of fidgeting to get the positioning right so you're not rotating around.


  1. I love this! Sounds like you have devised a great core workout that's easier on the back too. Always key.

    Well, we have bitten the bullet and decided that paying a little more for groceries - while supporting local farmers and organic sources - is a good idea. If we all put half as much time and planning into our food, that we put into our workouts, we'd be golden. We eat at home a lot, we cook from scratch (read: I cook from scratch) a lot so 'changes' aren't that drastic. We do grab the occasional pizza or favorite carry out but I'm going to stick with that as our 'treats.' Otherwise, I'll lose my mind. HOWEVER, my delivery of grass fed beef, naturally raised chicken, eggs and pork are on their way today.

    If I can't identify it or pronounce it, I'm not buying it!

  2. These workouts sound dirty. Are you sure they are done in the pool and not your bedroom?

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  4. Boy do I feel special that I got all these in an email months ago!! ;) Thanks, Keith-I have yet to try them because my new pool doesn't have a dive tank and when I swam at my old one it was before school so I was always rushing out of there to get to work on time. But, one day I will!

  5. Interesting workout you got going there - I can see how that would be most helpful to gain strength. Thanks


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