Balance is Key!

Photo by Leslie Hassler

I often write about the importance of incorporating flexibility and core training into your fitness routine. Now as we kick off the month of August with a Workout Wednesday, I wanted to touch on what should be another important component in everyone’s fitness regimen regardless of your fitness level: balance training.

Balance is the ability to sustain or return the body’s center of mass or line of gravity over its base of support. Basically, that means whether you’re walking down a staircase in stilettos or setting up to make a jump shot on the basketball court, balance is a key component to all functional movements.

From an anatomical perspective, The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) explains the purpose of balance training is to improve dynamic joint stabilization, which is the ability of the body to stabilize of keep the joints in proper alignment during movement. (One example: stabilization of the hip during a squat by the gluteus medius and adductor complex.)

Maintaining proper alignment or form while working out is one of the ways to protect yourself against exercise-related injuries. In fact, countless studies have been done which show a direct correlation between balance training and injury prevention. I’d like to think we all agree anything that can help decrease our risk of injury is worth spending some time on.

So how do you do it? The idea is to perform exercises that constantly stress a person’s balance threshold. This is the limit a person can perform an exercise without losing control of his or her center of gravity. In “big-word terminology,” the idea is to push that threshold in a proprioceptively enriched environment. This is an environment that challenges the internal balance and stabilization mechanisms of the body.

Photo by Lauren Bachner

In simple terms, balance training is typically performed on a single-leg and/or on unstable surfaces such as a half-foam roll, Airex pad or Dyna disc. Some examples:

One of my all-time favorite balance exercises is a single-leg bicep curl. It not offers proprioceptive challenge, but you can feel your core engaging to keep your body stable while working the arms. (Make sure to switch legs between sets.) As always, if you have a favorite balance training exercise, I’d love to hear about it!

I found this link very helpful in describing the purpose for balance training along with this one from the Mayo Clinic featuring examples of exercises. At the end of the day, balance training can be a challenging part of your exercise program and just one more way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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About LauraLovesFitness

After spending more than 10 years in the communications industry, this lifetime fitness lover and newly certified fitness professional wants to share my passion for health and well-being with others.

Posted on August 1, 2012, in Fitness, Health and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Absolutley Luv balance training and so do my clients it’s fun and a great challenge! Just like you some of my favorite are single leg sqaut and single leg bicep curl into a press! These and many more provide just another component too your fitness routine too put your body in a perfect balance!!!

    • Good morning, John! Ooo – love the single leg bicep curl to press, too – thanks for reminding me about that one! I’m also a big fan of the single leg lift and chop. Amazing all the ways we can challenge our bodies but have fun at the same time. Happy Workout Wednesday! 🙂

  2. At the beach I used to go jogging at there was a place with playground “exercise” equipment so you can do stretches, chin-ups and so on. There was a rickety balance beam, only a few inches off the ground and maybe 3 or 4″ wide, that zig-zagged for a total length of 15′ or so. I would just walk across this a couple times, and you really feel your muscles working to stabilize you! Funny how such a plain looking thing can really help you work on balance!

    • LOVE that you use the playground for a “big kid” workout! (Why don’t they market those jungle-gym like set-ups for grown ups?) And yes, amazing how you can feel your body working to stabilize in what seems like “simple” activity. Glad you enjoyed your Workout Wednesday!

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