Balance training

Balance is a specific kind of training. It encompasses both being able to support the body on one limb or on an unstable surface, as well as proprioception - knowing where the body and the limbs are in space. It is very important for ensuring correct mechanics with exercises, especially those on one limb, and while exercising on uneven surfaces. It also helps with injury prevention.

Balance can be trained in a very simple way but it is a process and has to be trained so as to ensure that balance is improved slowly and not as to overwhelm the body.

To start balance should be trained on two feet with the eyes open. Standing with the feet together, or close together, arms out from the sides or on the hips, keep the eyes open, focused on an actual place on the wall ahead of you. Having an actual place to look at is important for focus. If the balance is particularly bad, you can lower your gaze to the ground and focus on a specific place and this will make the initial stage easier. Hold this position for 30 seconds. The purpose of holding the position is not to not move, but instead to be able to recover your position if lost and not fall. As you become better at this exercise, you can increase the time to 60 seconds.

From here, progress to the same exercise with both feet on the floor eyes closed, then one leg at a time eyes open and finally one leg at a time eyes closed. Ensure that you train balance on both legs. Usually people have one leg that is better when it comes to balance. This can be the non-dominant leg, the one you do not use predominantly to kick a ball, because you stand on it while you kick. Or it can be the dominant leg as it performs more actions.

Once the balance is good on a stable surface, or if you try the exercises above and they are easy, then you can go through the same process on an uneven surface. This can be a couch cushion, a trampoline, a wobbleboard, an inflated cushion (air mattress) or something similar. It is important to train on uneven surfaces as they imitate the uneven surface of the ground we often train on when exercising outside.

Balance is also often trained with one leg exercises, such as one leg squats, one leg Romanian deadlift, Bulgarian split squats, etc. While these exercises challenge balance, it is important to know that balance is not the main purpose of the exercise, strength training is. As such, if your balance is not good enough for you to maintain proper technique or positioning during the exercise, you should use a stick or chair for balance while doing the exercise. As you train your balance and it improves, you can start to do the exercises with less or no support.

Balance should be trained at least twice a week. It should be done closer to the beginning of a workout when muscles and attention are still sharp. It can be done prior to aerobic/cardio training that requires less attention.

Remember that all training needs to be individualized to your program and body. Try the exercises above, find where your balance stands right now and then work out a training program to improve it. Once it is where it is easy to do all of the exercises listed, then work on a maintenance program to maintain it.

Please feel free to submit comments and your own strategies for training balance. Share this blog post on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to get our weekly blogs delivered directly to your email address.

Thanks for reading!

THP The Healing Path

Thanks for this instructional primer on developing balance! Since this is a tutorial, it would be a great post for the #tutorials board.