Water is the one of the essential elements we can find in our planet. Training in water can be a very important resource for sport people from the every level and age. There are many ways, motivations and strategies to use the work in water: surgery, disability, muscle and joint recovery, muscular strengthening. In different times I used the swimming pool to differentiate the stimulus to my athletes, which appreciating the utility and having back from them positive feedback.

The scientific research is getting more and more focused on articles and studies about the benefits of water to the rehabilitative, wellness and performance sides.

A very close friend of mine, a professional of Sport Science and specialized in this topic, is gonna describing the qualities, the charactheristics and potentials of water, basing on his formation and large exeperience.

With big pleasure, I publish “Functional H2O”, by Andrea Fiorin.



Functional H2O


Over the past few years, where everything is functional and highly specialized, leading to excess, it is worthwhile to revise and put in order the principles and means that characterize the training methodology. In the world of wellness and performance, as well as the course of psycho – physical wellbeing or preparation, we can include also the water: natural element that must be considered as one of the training elements. But in which way the training in water is functional? Is it just an analgesic therapy? Why tapering in water can be preferred therapy instead of easier dry land training? In order to find the answers to those questions let’s start with the knowledge of water environment and the possibilities that can provide specialists both physical therapist and physical trainer.

The physical quality of water has a positive impact on musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, nervous and respiratory systems. It benefits to recharge, reabsorptions of potential edema, relaxation as well as muscular activation and resistance opposite to body movements.

Water is often used for the purpose of rehabilitation kinesiology but based on the amount of water that is used for body immerse and exercise intensity, water can be used also as physical training of a more general nature. Obviously it is not a sport specific type of physical preparation, except in the case of water sport.

In which case the work program in water is advised? Water in a specific way is recommended in the early stages of all recovery programs after surgical operations, trauma or injuries, conservative treatments, correct recovery due to spontaneous or sport movements. The training in water can be linked also to  a dry work protocol or used as a unique program; in this case it is required to perform exercises in total or partial discharge, in order to perform movements that would be impossible or nearly impossible to realize out of the water – in the environment conditioned by gravity. In water, depending on the problem to be treated and the ongoing phase, the movement performed by a subject can be active assisted or totally active. Voluntary movement is a conscious activity, a result of neuromuscular coordination, realized to recover actively the defective motor skills. Actively assisted movement provides manual support (movements led by the healthy limb in the exercises for the shoulders), instrumental (pulley, 1% stick, floating) or for hydrostatic push (with or without floating). This type of movement is used mostly at early stage where the priority is mobilization in discharge (mobilization in unloading) or joint recovery with pain control as well as in warm up. Instead totally active moments expect the performance of voluntary muscular contractions with a goal to maintain ROM, recover strength and resistance, neuro-muscular coordination and proprioceptive sensibility.

Physical principles of water:

  • Floating hydrostatic push
  • Hydrostatic pressure
  • Viscosity (or hydrodynamic resistance)
  • Temperature
  • Depth

Archimedes’ principle states that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces and acts in the upward direction at the center of mass of the displaced fluid. Thus, if immersed in water up to the belly button, the weight will be reduced by about 50%, and up to 90% if immersed up to the neck.

This floating hydrostatic push in antigravity environment allows the movements precociously regain rehabilitation (de-ambulation), lightening the weight on the compromised joints and improving the spraying of the cartilaginous tissue.

The pressure of the body immersed in the liquid is directly proportional to the specific weight of the liquid and to the depth at which the body is situated. This hydrostatic pressure is exerted perpendicularly at each point of the body surface, improving balance and proprioception; by increasing the depth it has an impact on the circulatory system, in particular on the venous circulation, and on the lymphatic one, thus favoring the re-absorption of edema and swelling. Besides a peripheral vasoconstriction at the level of the immersed limbs, it stimulates and influences the expansion of the rib cage. The resistance that water opposes to the movement of the body moving inside it is determined by the viscosity of the liquid itself. This physical propriety allows muscle strengthening and is proportional to the speed of movement: if doubling the speed of the movement, the resistance increases four times. The resistance effect, which is sought to increase the workload, is also accentuated by the use of tools that increase the immersed surface. Also a turbulent flow increases the friction between the molecules of the liquid and, consequently, resistance to the movement.

As for the temperature, the water of modern re-educational tubs is maintained at around 32/33 degrees Celsius, to make the most of the properties of vasodilation of heat, which increases vascularization and therefore oxygenation of tissues, with muscle relaxant and analgesic effect.

It should be borne in mind that too hot water leads to early muscle fatigue, while, on the contrary, too cold water leads to an increase in muscle tone and promotes involuntary muscle contractions.

It comes naturally to think that when you want to perform prolonged aerobic exercise or medium high intensity aerobic exercise, it is advisable to have a water temperature around 28 degrees Celsius.

Depending on the purpose of the program, re-educational and/or rehabilitative, re-athleticism or conditioning, water depth is a determining factor because the water level changes the hydrostatic pressure and the load that weighs on the human body.

LOW WATER: 60-80 cm (up to the thigh)

HIGH WATER: 120-140 cm (up to the abdomen)

DEEP WATER: >180cm (up to the neck without touching the bottom of the pool)





TOTAL IMMERSION 3% of the terrestrial weight


Below are the basic principles for writing water working protocols:


Hydrotherapy: practical examples

From the basic concepts learned, we now develop, through some practical examples, a proper progression of exercises useful for re-educational therapy in water. Specifically we will cover the post-shoulder injury re-educational cycle.

The re-educational or water work cycle is often divided into three phases: each stage is obviously subject to possible changes depending on the characteristics of the person and the issues to be addressed (tendinopathy, capsulitis, injury of other nature, type of surgery, etc.), at its level of coordination and familiarity with the aquatic environment, and the goals to be achieved, be it a sedentary, a sportsman or a competitive athlete.

Keep in mind that behind every trauma or intervention there is a subject that reacts and organizes itself differently from another, and it is preferable to talk about individualized guidelines. It is also true that a competitive athlete has different needs and specific sports also in the correct approach and in the most effective proposal in pool. The images above are part of an exercise protocol for shoulder girdle: at this stage, before proposing specific exercises or with equipment and operate in an analytical manner, you need to set the organism in motion with a general activation, even with the lower limbs, useful to activate aerobic metabolism that can help in order to dispose of catabolytes and slag dates of the inflammation in place.

Specific activation is done through flexibility exercises on all floors, in the degrees of movement allowed and possibly active-assisted by the other limb. To “attend” range of movement over 60 degrees of abduction or over 90 degrees of flexion of the arm on the sagittal plane is possible with the use of floats (belts, roundabouts, etc.) make movements in the prone position called prono buoyancy commuter exercises.

In addition to many tools that can help you carry out proprioceptive and control exercises, or exercises of pure muscle “awakening”, such as chopsticks, tablet, roundludo, water bars, etc., there is the possibility to use the edge of the tub or on some occasions, if it is equipped, a stool, closed kinetic chain exercises.

Classification of stimulus by duration

Mobility, Stability and Strength: even in the aquatic environment it is important to follow this progression, and you can orient yourself through the proposal of exercises and the duration of the proposed stimulus. At an early stage, it is a good practice to perform exercises with a movement arc leading to the pain threshold, and where” favorable” conditions persist (motivated subject, with positive attitude) could be useful try to overcome the limit imposed by the pain itself. We talked about the threshold for the simple reason that pain must still be kept under control. It represents a significant factor, as, if not tolerated, it alters functions and inhibits muscle activities.

In this first phase the proposal will be limited and quantized in a few exercises and high number of repetitions to be able to check the quality of movements: 5/6 exercises 1/2 series 20/30 repetition.

In stability and proprioception exercises, the proposal is subject-dependent: when the quality expires, the proposal must be changed and reformulated. The proposed exercises must be 2/3 from 1 series of 15/20 repetitions.

In the subsequent re-educational phase, muscle strengthening exercises are equally important, significantly engaging the subject and the affected joint.

For this reason it is considered useful for proper programming of muscle-strengthening sessions, strength exercises with flexibility exercises and active stretching called complementary or compensation exercises.

In this last phase, increasingly, the subject will begin to perform 1 exercise of strength of 10 repetitions and 1 complementary exercise, up to 5 strength exercises (different from each other, in terms of proposed movements) and 1 complementary exercise. In a second step, the proposal will increase the volume of work by proposing strength exercises from 20 repetitions on different planes and axes to be alternated with active recovery exercises.

A station route, or circuit training, could be another useful method in order to better organize a work in the water, even in pairs or in groups.


Andrea Fiorin

Strength and conditioning coach Venezia FC

Fitness consultant



RIABILITAZIONE IN ACQUA Broglio – Colucci, Colucci, Edi-ermes.

PREPARAZIONE FISICA IN ACQUA Master Training, Piero Pigliapoco, Piero Benelli.

IN ACQUA PER IL CUORE Autori vari, Sport & Medicina, luglio – settembre 2017.

IN ACQUA Umberto Borino, Stefano Di Coscio, Edizioni Correre 2011.

WATSU – LA CURA E LA LIBERTA` DELL`ACQUA Watsu Italia, Xenia 2016.

FITNESS IN ACQUA FIN Federazione Italiana Nuoto, Settore Istruzione Tecnica



At the beginning of the 2017/2018 tennis season I decided to introduce a new goal during the winter training period for the players of Motonautica Pavia.

After a first time (two weeks) in September with a daily double training session made up of tennis and physical conditioning and the following routine of athletic tests, I chose one of them for starting a study of research.

I have chosen the shuttle run test 6×8 meters, common exercise of linear sprint, in total 6 sprints, with a change of direction every 8 meters. It is a very specialized test for tennis since it represents, at the maximum speed, linear run with the change of direction each 8 meters (the width of the court is exactly 8,23 meters). The Italian Tennis Federation has always valued this test with all the players that stop at the technical center of Tirrenia.

Personally I always put two cones (with a height of 30 cm) with a distance of 8 meters one another in the way I can write down with good precision the effective time of the exercise, since I don’t use photocells but a manual chrono. Every athlete must start in line with the first cone, touching it with a hand and then must touch the cones during every change of direction, also during the last sprint in the way it is quite simple to stop the chrono at the right time and also give a coordinative task during the test. see

That was my curiosity: to improve the tennis player performance in a sprint exercise that is very short, but where you must offer a massive acceleration after a hard deceleration and change of direction, is it more productive to focus on explosive components (to improve the quality of sprinting) or focus on stability (since coordination and elasticity are essential in every change of direction)?

So I decided to build up a weekly training program of 5 exercitations for lower body and 5 for the core or upper body, that could be done in both explosive or stable way.


These are the results of the best time of each player during first test in September (females are written with pink, the under 16 with green and the over 16 with black):

Player 1 13”00 Player 13 12”44
Player 2 12”18 Player 14 12”03
Player 3 12”38 Player 15 12”81
Player 4 12”01 Player 16 13”33
Player 5 11”79 Player 17 12”07
Player 6 12”04 Player 18 11”75
Player 7 12”17 Player 19 11”81
Player 8 11”97 Player 20 11”72
Player 9 11”88 Player 21 13”88
Player 10 11”76 Player 22 11”64
Player 11 12”31 Player 23 11”69
Player 12 12”59 Player 24 12”91


For 5 weeks, after the first test, half players (simply chosen by lottery) did the explosive program and the other the stability one, once per week. For the other training time they trained as my first mesocycle was planned to be for the collectivity. After that period I re-tested them to match the time tables; following that, after a month only dedicated to the group program, I inverted the programs for the two groups for the next 5 weeks in order to balance the stimulations of the two different methods.

When you decide to investigate a subject with a study of research for me is very important to force myself in not imagine any result in advance, so I can be the most impartial I can. During the 5 weeks I only focused in make every single exercise more and more effective in order to give to the players the key to feel and implement at best the concept of explosive power or stability.

These are the two programs:

3 sets: 15 single calf raise with dumbbell (8 kg for over 16 players, 6 kg for under 16, 4 kg for girls and under 14) + 10 trx pull ups, one second to go up and two seconds for the release see 3 sets: 10 eccentric calves for each foot + 10 trx pull ups, two seconds going upand one second for the release see
3 sets: 10 squat jumps + 12 legs pull ups see 3 sets: 10 eccentric squat jumps + 12 legs pull down see
3 sets: 20 horizontal consecutive jumps (distance – twice the length of the shoulders) + 10 push up see 3 sets: 20 horizontal jumps with stability landing after footwork (distance – twice the length of the shoulders) + 5 sequences (each starting hand) hands up and down across a step from a starting position of plank with hands on the floor see
3 sets: 10 alternate single leg jumps on step + 12 medicine ball smashes (4 kg for over 16, 3 kg for under 16 and girls) from athletic stance see 3 sets: 30 alternate low lateral jumps on step + 12 pullover (5 kg disc for over 16, 2,5 kg for under 16 and girls) from athletic stance see
3 sets: 10 jumps on box, 45 cm height + 20 Russian twist with 4 kg med ball see 3 sets: 5 depth jumps from box, 35 cm height + 10 dynamic lateral plank  see


You can find all these training circuits by clicking on the hyperlinks available in every cell, to learn more about the execution of the exercises.

Before I did the lottery, I divided the 24 agonistic tennis players of Motonautica Pavia (22 males and 2 females, of age between 13 and 26) in the way I could get a proportionate number of athletes under and over 16 in both groups. In this way, at the end of the 5 training weeks with the schedules, the average was not influenced by different anthropometric and hormonal values.

Exactly after 5 weeks I did the second shuttle run test 6×8 meters:

Player 1 12”64 (-0,36) Player 13 12”07 (-0,37)
Player 2 11”89 (-0,29) Player 14 11”51 (-0,52)
Player 3 12”04 (-0,34) Player 15 12”48 (-0,33)
Player 4 12”28 (+0,27) Player 16 12”64 (-0,69)
Player 5 11”75 (-0,04) Player 17 12”02 (-0,05)
Player 6 11”79 (-0,25) Player 18 11”38 (-0,37)
Player 7 11”88 (-0,29) Player 19 11”75 (-0,06)
Player 8 11”48 (-0,49) Player 20 11”43 (-0,29)
Player 9 11”63 (-0,25) Player 21 13”40 (-0,48)
Player 10 11”32 (-0,44) Player 22 11”48 (-0,16)
Player 11 12”06 (-0,25) Player 23 11”60 (-0,09)
Player 12 12”30 (-0,29) Player 24 12”71 (-0,20)


What the average told us:

  • Explosiveness schedule: improvement of 0,25 seconds
  • Stability schedule: improvement of 0,30 seconds

As study of research, I did not receive an answer about my question of which could be the best strategy to improve the shuttle run test 6×8 meters because those two numbers are pretty close one another.

According to the average every tennis player has, weekly, two physical trainings and 3 tennis trainings, one hour and a half each training; that means during the 5 weeks with the schedules the players practiced not only with stability or explosiveness inputs but in a very complete way. And that is fair, it was not my intention to influence their period of general conditioning.

Surely I can consider myself very satisfied by this research, because I had the chance to quantify and verify the important improvements gained by the players in only five weeks. The combination between legs, core and upper body workout let every athlete feel and learn at best the characteristic of the effort they were facing; they managed every training session with the maximum focus and motivation and many of them improved technical details of pushing and stabilizing (also in the upper body) that will give them lots of consciousness about their body and big benefit on court. There is only a time that was not improved during the second test; this guy simply could not train regular the previous week because of illness and school duties.

In conclusion I can assert that this experimental study gave me a further confirmation about how much it is essential to train the strength and power of a tennis player, but always carrying on inputs of stabilization and elasticity (like eccentric strength for example) overall during the puberty. Situational sports like tennis give the chance to focus on many sides of the performance and the cognitive components, and this is the reason why I think is necessary to build up a solid method also by experimenting and questioning oneself sometimes.


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