Assistive equipment is something commonly found around most poolsides. They are traditionally closed cell foam or filled with air (examples pictured below). Assistive equipment interacts with buoyancy. When working out with assistive gear, muscle forces are primarily eccentric in nature due to the need to control the upward force, however they can be concentric when using certain gear and performing certain exercises, for example using a kick-board to perform a push/pull exercise. Assistive gear is often used to assist with passive flexibility and improve stability.
Whilst assistive gear is generally affordable, it does not tend to be as durable as resistance equipment and can often need replacing on a regular basis which can become time consuming and expensive. Generally the more porous the equipment, the shorter it's lifespan.
Drag resistance equipment is increasing in popularity and used by many clients of all ages and abilities to improve strength, balance, mobility, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, endurance and injury recovery. Drag equipment utilizes the properties of water and increases the drag forces already provided making for an exceptional workout that the user can control. Essentially the harder they push, the harder the water is going to push back, meaning exercises can easily be progressed, or regressed depending on the level of your client.
Unlike assistive equipment, muscle contractions are primarily concentric in nature, but you can get slight eccentric upon reversal of movement. The goal when working with drag equipment is to maximize muscle fibre recruitment with each movement. Resistive equipment, such as that sold by Aquastrength and Aqualogix have unique 3D design features which ensures equal resistance is provided in all planes of motion when performing an exercise. This helps build balanced muscle groups and also helps reduce the risk of injury.
Resistive equipment can be used in one on one sessions as well as in Group Fitness classes. It tends to attract a wider audience and is certainly doing it's part in changing the age-old perception that Aquatic exercise is only for the elderly or injured. It often isn't until you get a client in the water with some resistive equipment that they truly appreciate the power of the water and what you can achieve. Professional athletes, sports teams and seasoned veterans have been using this method of training for years now and raving about the benefits. With new and exciting products now entering the market, such as the Aquastrength Barbell it won't be long before everyone else catches up and takes their workout to the water too!
When deciding on what range of equipment should be used with clients, it is important to consider you clients age, level of fitness and goals. Equally, it is important to consider your facilities budget, storage facilities and business goals. Sadly, pools are often the most under-utilized resource in gyms and health clubs and can therefore be overlooked when it comes to budget allocation, however when you look at the fact that you can have up to 30 people working out in the water with Aquatic resistance equipment for less than the price of one treadmill, the investment really is a no-brainer.